How to Get Dark & Moody Film Scans

It's time for another episode of our brand new video series just for film photographers: Richard Photo Lab’s Film Snap! Each episode covers a bit of must-know film wisdom in just two minutes or less…

We'll be done in a snap!

In today's episode, take a quick look at the foundations for getting dark & moody film images. Richard always encourages you to test for yourself to see what works best for you!



Hey there, and welcome to another edition of Richard Photo Lab’s Film Snap—a bit of must-know film photography wisdom in two minutes or less.

We’ll be done in a snap!

Many black and white film photographers (and color photographers) love the “dark and moody” look of some film images. So, how exactly can you achieve that look by changing how you expose your film? After all, your final image after film processing is only as good as your exposed negative…

You’re going to need this nifty little tool to help you out: a handheld light meter.

Handheld light meters are always the best choice—they are much more accurate and dependable than the internal light meter in your camera.

Some photographers want to underexpose to get that dark & moody look—and while underexposure CAN yield darker, earthier tones when done correctly, it really isn’t the safest way to go.

That’s because when you underexpose, your film is not taking in much detail from a scene—so you’re literally capturing LESS information than what is actually in front of you. This also gives you less flexibility when scanning your film negatives to tweak your final look.

To maintain a high quality image, you’re going to want to meter for your highlights. This will give you lots of information in your highlights, which actually allows the lab to bring down the overall lightness level in your scanned image while maintaining the details in your shot.

You don’t need to overexpose your film to do this—go ahead and rate it at box speed.

Lastly, when you submit your rolls of film for developing with the lab, let us know that you want your scans to be “darker”. Another way to say this is “scan for highlight detail”.

Either way, your film will be scanned to emphasize it’s shadowy goodness-no blown out highlights here!

And that’s what you need to know to get that dark & moody look in your film images.

Wasn’t that a snap?

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