Film Fudging the film, development or scanning?


Super Moderator Emeritus
Nov 5, 2010
Down Under
Some advice appreciated from the more experienced film old hands out there :wink:

I'm currently shooting TMY (TMax 400) and love the richness and depth of the midtones. However one thing I noticed is that I rarely get much in the way of black or white - especially in micro-contrast. I realise these terms might be wrong so I hope to better demonstrate with two photos showing the global adjustments I usually defer to in LR3 post scan.

This is the straight scan (Epson V300 using Epson Scan @ 4800dpi with medium unsharp mask)

...and here are my preferred LR adjustments - small boost to the Blacks, Contrast and Clarity with about 20 up on the sharpness and slight S to the curve.

Like I said this is demonstrated with global adjustments for this purpose and if I were working harder I'd do more local tweaks to preserve the highlights.

But I wondered whether there is something more I could be doing during capture or development to better approximate the look (especially on the face) of the PP image straight out of the soup? Otherwise is this simply a property of the emulsion or developer, or a failure in my naive scanning abilities...Or am I simply still stuck in a rarefied digital mindset. :eek:

Shot with M2 & ZM Planar 50/2 loaded with TMax 400
Developed in Xtol 1+1 (fresh) at box speed (9:25min) with agitation every 30 seconds (as I wanted a little more contrast)

Like I said I simply love the TMY midtones, but would like to see a little more on the extremes and micro-contrast. So your advice would be greatly appreciated - as my next step is wet printing and so would like to get the negatives as right as possible.


Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
Mark, I'm sorry I can't help out're at least 5 pay grades past my understanding of any of this. I just wanted to say that I LOVE this photo. And maybe it's my poorly adjusted screen on my laptop, but I prefer the top. Obviously, personal preferences are personal......keep doing what you;re doing and I hope you find the "solution" you're looking for.


Administrator Emeritus
Jul 12, 2010
Philly, Pa
Mark, Have you calibrated your system? I mean, shutter, film and for proper ISO, light meter, developer...dilution, temp, time, agitation, fixer, same as dev...etc
Same for prints....
If you need help, I'll be glad to offer my experience. I think I would dump that developer and get something with some guts to it. FG7 or Rodinal are great and you can add things to either to get different results.
If your planning on really doing silver, you really should calibrate. It's a 35mm version of the Zone System. The variables need to be under control at all times.

Your 1st image looks to me to be almost flatlined. It has a decent tonal range but no life. Adding contrast like you did in version 2 will generally start to blow the high values out. See the left side of the fur region.
If you plan on scanning and then going into Silver Efex, it's best to go into it with a straight line. Then your adjustments are more controlled in Nik.

If your going to silver prints, you have to get the ACCUTANCE up with more snap and a more "S" shape curve. This would happen in the neg soup not the print soup.
We can chat if you like, my darkroom is still running. I have many chemicals I can send if you can't get them in OZ.
I still have about 10lbs of real Amidol.
Let me know....don


Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Can I play devil's advocate, agree with Luke, and say that isn't the first image an example of what B&W film should look like? I know literally nothing about developing and processing film though, so take that for what it's worth. The B&W treatment really seems to suit the image shown here.

Just a query, though. When you say that you have adjusted contrast , do you just mean the standard "push the histogram to the sides" contrast? I don't even know if I'm doing it wrong or right but these days I only ever adjust contrast through curve manipulation to get a nice progression towards both extremes of exposure. Recently I've revisited a few older images that I processed 18 months to 2 years ago where I did use just the contrast adjuster and felt obligated to process them again. I feel that I was way too heavy-handed with contrast the first time around.
Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
I'll chalk it up to part ignorance and part trying to mature in my processing, but I think I've always gone off the deep end in the extremes category. Lately I'm trying to swing back more towards center. Go for what you "see" Mark, but I'm with Nic here in thinking that that the first not only looks better (to me), but also looks more film-like. Maybe flatter isn't the right word, but there is definitely more info there to adjust in post and I like that neutrality (although it seems seems natural.....does that make sense?)

I don't know the languages that you and Don are speaking......and from the sound of your post, you are truly seeking out what Don is giving you. When you shoot those awesome landscapes and farm portraits the way you do, the processing is probably secondary, but looking back over my catalog from the last couple years (which are also my first couple years) there's one thing I'm pretty sure of....... I'm almost always over-processing. I know you want to get it as right as you can "in camera", but I'd be a little wary about diving into the "too contrasty" end of the pool so close to the beginning of your development cycle.

I don;t want to sound like a know-it-all..... God, if anything, I'm a no-nothing. But I do know it's easier to tweak a little more later on, but if you tweak too much in camera, you may never be able to go back.

And if everything I'm saying is nonsense, it's because (a) I'm a n00b and (b) I don't speak film and maybe the lessons I'm trying to teach don't translate and (c) I'm a n00b


p.s. I'm getting another glass of wine and continue my staring contest with that beautiful sheep. Can you share some more photos with us? Ones you like and ones you don't. They are all informative.


Jul 7, 2010
What camera, lens, and exposure are you using?

It makes a difference. A lower-contrast lens gives a "compressed" image in the negative, more to work with afterwards.

I'm a long time believer in preserving highlights and shadow detail by starting with the selection of the lens.

These are basically straight scans from an Epson 3170.

With an uncoated 1935 5cm F2 Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar wide-open on a Contax IIIa:

And one with the Summarit 5cm F1.5, wide-open on the M3.

This one is "pathological" worse-case. Most lenses would have lost the shadows and blown the highlights. Histogram shows they are on film.


Top Veteran
Dec 27, 2010
Kiev, Ukraine
Mark, I think you actually took a technically good image and made it worse (again, strictly from the technical point of view). Film works different to digital... You want a well-developed, mid-contrast negative with good detail in both shadows and highlights. If you want to increase or decrease contrast in your prints, you simply use different filters when printing on variable-contrast paper. Of course, if you're scanning, you have no other choice but to tweak contrast in PP.


Super Moderator Emeritus
Nov 5, 2010
Down Under

Thank you so much for taking the time out to provide advice and encouragement it means a lot!

Luke: brother I am humbled. Funny thing is that the more I look at this image the more I not only enjoy the content - and the memory - but also have warmed to the original film scan. It has a quality about it - a softness but not....there you go you're not the only one with all the technicalities down pat :blush:

Don: Love to try more soups and film combinations. I know that I'll find my preferred set up one day - and will enjoy the exploration in the meantime. Love to give Rodinal a whirl, it's just not the easiest thing to access here in Oz.

Nic: Mate it was a generalised contrast push - a little curves adjustment (mainly highlights and darks if I recall) and a little less on the contrast slider. Again if I were investing more heavily I'd do more targeted and localised adjustments (especially to preserve the highlights) but it was a quickie just while waiting for the scan batches to feed through.

Brian: Shot with M2 & ZM Planar 50/2 loaded with TMax 400
Developed in Xtol 1+1 (fresh) at box speed (9:25min) with agitation every 30 seconds (as I wanted a little more contrast)
I know, I have to get a little more disciplined with noting the exposure times. But if I recall correctly it was around 1/250 @ f4
I find the Zeiss glass plenty sharp, especially the Planar.

Pavel: Thanks mate, next step the darkroom and there I will learn more about contrast grading etc. Meanwhile, do you think use of a coloured filter - maybe yellow, orange or yellow/green - screwed out front of the lens at capture might have pulled a little more contrast detail?

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