Evaluating Your Negatives

We've already told you how important it is for you to be able to judge your negatives accurately by eye so you can understand and correct any errors in exposure or development, and so you can compensate for non-normal negatives when printing.

Let's review all the possibilities. We'll tie them into a single package that should be easier for you to understand and remember.

When you make an exposure, there are only three broad ranges into which a given exposure can fall — either it's a normal exposure, or it's underexposed or overexposed.

Similarly, when you develop a negative, there are only three broad ranges into which your development can fall — either it's normal or it's underdeveloped or overdeveloped.

Since the combination of exposure and development determines the density and contrast of your negative, simple arithmetic (3 x 3) tells us that there are only nine possible kinds of results. Let's look at all nine together.

Study these negatives. With each one, ask yourself why the specific exposure-development combination caused this result.

Keep this chart handy for future reference when you read your own negatives. You will find it useful.

Underexposed — Underdeveloped.

Very thin and weak; only highlights visible.

Underdeveloped Film

Normal Exposure — Underdeveloped. Thin; flat, but with detail throughout.

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Overexposed — Underdeveloped. Flat, but with full detail.

Underexposed Overdeveloped

Underexposed — Normal Development.

Thin; shadow detail weak or lacking.

Underexposed Overdeveloped

Underexposed — Overdeveloped.

Thin shadows; dense highlights; contrasty; often fog.

Normal Exposure — Normal Development.

Good density and contrast; satisfactory detail in all parts.

Normal Exposure — Overdeveloped.

Rather dense with too much contrast; detail may be blocked in highlights.

Overexposed — Normal Development.

Rather dense, especially in highlights; often somewhat flat.

Overexposed — Normal Development.

Rather dense, especially in highlights; often somewhat flat.

Overexposed — Overdeveloped.

Very black or nearly opaque; shadows far too heavy; detail lost in highlights.

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