To Overexposure or Not Overexpose, That Is the Question (for Film Photographers)

For film photographers, there are few (possibly no) other topics that are as truly misunderstood or overhyped than the topic of “overexposure.”

In this video, Kyle McDougall does an excellent job going over some of the basics of negative film and details just what happens when you meter for a different ASA than box speed. Indeed, there is a lot more to it than most might think. In a previous video, Kyle shared the results of an exposure-testing experiment for Kodak Portra 400

As you may recall from a previous article discussing specific topics in film photography, the idea of “overexposure” is very much misunderstood and, in my opinion, misused. The fact of the matter is that negative film is made in such a way that the presented box speed generally indicates the speed of the film with the widest exposure latitude. In addition, it is sometimes considered the fastest a film can be metered for while still producing desirable results. For those that really love contrast, however, they may disagree with this sentiment. Either way, intentionally metering for an ASA that differs from box speed should be done with purpose to achieve the desired results. 

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you purposefully “overexpose” your film?


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