What does it mean to overexpose vs underexpose a photo?

The perfectly-exposed photo is the ideal shot in any photographer‘s mind. It is well-lit and all the other settings are just right. However, there are two other ways to expose a frame. There‘s overexposing and underexposing a photo. Now, what‘s the difference?

Overexposed using Agfa CT Precisa 100© dida

An overexposed photo is an image that is too bright or “blown out.” This can happen when your aperture is set way too open or when your shutter speed is too slow. Both methods let more light into your lens towards your exposed film.

Underexposed using Fuji Velvia 100F © pussylove

An underexposed photo on the other hand is a photo that you can consider to be too dark. This may mean that the opposite problem has occurred – maybe your aperture is too small or your shutter speed is too fast.

Underexposed using Fuji Velvia 50 © kotsas

Both overexposure and underexposure have their own application when it comes to film photography. Perhaps your film is already expired and you need to bump up the exposure time in order to compensate for the expected drop in ISO. This is the time to overexpose your shot. Or perhaps the lighting is too harsh and you want a more subdued look in your shot. This is the time when you can underexpose your frame.

Learning the difference between the two can give you an advantage when it comes to dealing with different shooting conditions. Knowing which technique to use can save you a lot of film and frustration on your photowalks.

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