light and 'good' negatives


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Jan 18, 2008
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Anchorage, Alaska, USA
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Hi! I'm new to this forum and film photography so I have a couple of questions. I'm taking a film photography class at my college, our first assignment is an action shot without using flash with a shutter speed of 250-500. We are using Kodak Tri-x black and white film with 400 ISO and my camera is a Canon Rebel T2.

My first two rolls of film were extremly dark (so that no picture showed up) my third roll just barely showed the pictures and my fourth was slightly better, but still seems to me like it would be too dark to make a good print. I developed the first 3 rolls and tried with the fourth to add more light to make my light meter read zero, but even with an overhead light and three lamps with some mirror contraptions my light meter wouldn't go above -2. I'm not sure how to get more light to be able to get an action shot that is properly lit since I'm not supposed to use flash. If anyone has any ideas how to do this I would really appreciate it. I'm in Alaska and it's winter so there is never much natural light that I can use.

My second question is, what is a 'good' negative supposed to look like? I understand good means different things to different people, but I'm thinking about what kinds of negatives will make a clear print.

Thank you in advance!
Well, very dark negatives are caused by overexposure and/or overdevelopment, but from what you say about your light meter it sounds like you are underexposing and I wonder if the camera is faulty.

Have you shot any films with that camera that were developed by a lab? How did those negatives look?

Thank you for responding! I have not had anything developed by a lab yet, I am planning to take some color film in tomorrow to get developed. Do you think I should bring my camera to a repair shop and ask them to take a look at it?

P.S. I like your avatar! I'm a bunny freak ;)
Check the battery. It might be bad.

With ISO 400 film and a shutter speed of 250, you should be using an f-stop of about 22 for daylight if I remember correctly...

To me a good negative has a wide tonal range and has some depth to it.
with a film speed of 400 you should get a reading of about 4oo of a sec at 16 , otherwise known as the sunny 16 rule, i personal use f11 at 200, but equipment varies.

are you doing this inside?

and more importantly i would talk to your insturctor about your issues and let them lead you, rather than to listen to a lot of other voices.
Thank you everyone for responding.

Yes I am doing this inside, it hasn't stopped snowing long enough for me to go outside without fearing for my camera.

I am talking to everyone involved with my class that I can, but my instructor is impossible to get a hold of, when I see her on Monday I will most certainly talk to her.
dont worry to much about your camera.

i just shot 3 rolls of tri-x 400 in the snow :)

turned out pretty have the snow covered plains, with a high sun, and snowflakes fallin lol.

as for a "good" negative, i consider well developed{if using kodak...none of the "purple" residue}, good subject matter, white whites, black blacks, and grey greys, as well as clear.
Ann is right, rather than try to follow lots of advice here, you should take advantage of having a teacher to speak to.

If the meter is giving a lower reading than it should, you may have increased the exposure to give the highest reading you could get (-2 you said), and therefore inadvertently overexposed your film, leading to dark negatives.

The exposure ' rules of thumb' which nealjpage and ann gave would help you to work out whether the meter has a problem (which in turn could be due to a flat battery), and your teacher can help you to check that much better than we can.

well, if you cannot get your light meter past -2, they you are underexposing all your pictures. As far as i remember, with hot lights, you would be pretty hard pressed to shoot 400iso, 1/250th of a second and any Fstop short of 1.4... Inside is not very bright, and even with 2-3 100watt lights i dont think you would have enough light to shoot at a reasonable Fstop and 1/250th.
Thanks for all your help guys! like I said before, I'll talk to my teacher on monday since she only gave us a bad phone number to get in contact with her. I'll try some photos outside and see how they turn out.

Thanks again!

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