How to Get Light & Airy Film Scans

We've got a 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, let's take a quick look at the foundations for getting light & airy 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!

Because film is so great at handling highlights in a natural-looking way, many photographers use it to achieve a “light & airy” look in their images. So, how exactly can you expose your rolls of film to attain that oh-so-dreamy style in your photos? After all, your final image is only as good as your exposed negative…

Whether it’s from a high quality film or a disposable camera, photography is all about precise metering… and to do that, you’re going to need 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.

You’re going to want to meter for your shadows. By capturing lots of details in the dark areas of the image the lab can actually increase the overall lightness level while scanning your film, and still maintain the details in your shot.

You’ll also want to overexpose your film. Do this by rating it at about half the box speed. But don’t overdo it! Too much overexposure can cause colors in your image to shift during film processing.

Sometimes extreme overexposure results in a darker scan. This happens because the overall lightness of the image must be reduced to preserve the definition in the midtones. And that’s the opposite of what you want.

Lastly, when you place your film developing order with the lab, let us know that you want your scans to be “brighter”. Another way to say this is “scan for shadow detail”.

Either way, your film negatives will be scanned to look like it’s swimming in a luminous glow.

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

Wasn’t that a snap?

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