Making a Better Print


Robert Mapplethorpe, Two Men Dancing, 1984.













Underexposed negative
Too dark - use smaller aperture (higher f-number) or decrease exposure time
Overexposed negative
Too light - use wider aperture (lower f-number) or increase exposure time
Underdeveloped print
Too dark - decrease development time > 90 sec
Overdeveloped print
Too light - increase development time < 90 sec
Over and Under Exposure and Developing












under exposed
correctly exposed
over exposed
If your negatives:
are black or very opaque, no image is visible
film was exposed to light before developing
are pretty dark, but an image is visible
film was overexposed and / or overdeveloped
are pretty thin, but an image is visible
film was underexposed and / or underdeveloped
are completely clear
film did not move through the camera
have blue or pink splotches
incorrect loading of film on reel
are unevenly developed
overdeveloped or didn't fill the canister with enough developer











low contrast
correct contrast
high contrast
If your print:
is light gray or mostly white
needs longer exposure time
is mostly black with dark grays
needs shorter exposure time
is light gray overall with no clean whites or dark blacks, looks flat
needs stronger contrast, use #3 to #5 filters
is mostly black with washed out whites and no middle grays
needs less contrast, use #1.5 to #0 filters
has middle grays, velvety blacks, and clean whites
exposure time and contrast are correct











* ALWAYS print with filter #2
* when jumping to filter above #2.5, you will need to conduct an exposure test
Dirk Cloninger, 2016
raw, no filter
with #2 filter