One Negative, many interpretations

Dr. Alex Yu

All papers and graphics in these Webpages are created and copyrighted by Dr. Yu, Chong Ho (Alex).

Once I helped an architecture major to take pictures of his portfolio. Needless to say, the project was very important, and therefore he took the film to a professional lab. However, it turned out that the pictures looks very dark. I swore to him that I did nothing wrong and thus asked him to try another processing lab. Then he went to a drugstore processor and the returned pictures were much nicer.

The moral of this story: The same negative may lead to different interpretations. Don't give up your pictures at the first time if you are confident with your photography skills. Just try different photo labs.

Print films have a larger tonal range than slide prints. The tonal range represents the steps from the brightest to the darkest values. It is open to the interpretation by the darkroom technican. And so are the hue and the saturation. Some technican tends to print a warmer image but some prefers a cooler picture.

Even if the picture looks alright, you may try out different labs and then pick the one you like the best (assume that the photos are very important such as your portfolio).

All of the following pictures are printed by different labs from the same negative. Which one do you like better?

Here is another example. The following pictures are from two different labs. They are scanned and posted as are. No electronic retouching is applied to them.



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