My failed attempt at indoor photography with the Hasselblad 500 C/M

For some time, I’ve really wanted to take some photos of my cats indoors. I had recently taken a photo of one of my cats on the Hasselblad when I first got it and the photo had turned out ok so thought it would be nice to dedicate a whole roll of 120mm film to cat shots.

I decided to do it one Sunday afternoon when the sun was shining nice and brightly into my living room and set to work taking photos of them using my Hasselblad 500 C/M camera and some Rollei Retro 400 S film.

Admittedly I just used the light meter at the beginning of the first photo then was more obsessed with getting the cats attention and focus and getting them to pose in a way I was happy with and in an area of the living room where I wanted them.

Unfortunately when I got the roll of film back from the local lab it was severely under exposed.

I can only think that I hadn’t light metered it correctly, hence the underexposure.

I tried to enlarge some images in the darkroom with no success. I then scanned a couple of images on my Epson V600 scanner but they clearly weren’t salvageable. Here are a couple photos I attempted scanning before giving up:

These images remind me of an old fuzzy black and white television screen where you cannot seem to get a good picture from the aerial.

I was very disappointed as I thought I had taken some nice photos of my cats.

However, this complete and utter fail hasn’t put me off and I’m determined to try again and see if I can improve on this last mishap.

I was thinking perhaps I would try a higher ISO film and see if this will make a difference?

For anybody reading my blog who has experience of using a Hasselblad indoors then any advice would be much appreciated before I potentially waste another roll of film on taking more bad photos.

I was really hoping that I would be able to take photos indoors with natural lighting from outside without having to use a flash or indoor lighting but perhaps these two things are essential to shooting indoors?

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21 thoughts on “My failed attempt at indoor photography with the Hasselblad 500 C/M

  1. Someone once said ‘never work with children or animals’…

    Anything of colour pure black, white or near that colour is always notoriously difficult to get the correct exposure with a cameras built in meter especially a centre weighted meter. However you have a handheld meter, get a reading the colour of the cat or something near the colour in the same light, not the whole scene. A reflector opposite the the light source would help a great deal.

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  2. I have had mixed results photographing my cats, they both have a fair amount of white fur which often turns pure white on the negs. For black & white the best results I’ve had are with Kodak TriX and HP5 developed in D76 or ID11. Might be worth trying metering using incident light readings, do you have the Invercone for your Weston meter ?

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  3. I echo what the others have said, meter for the cat and a reflector. A dark cat against a white sofa was always going to be hard, so you might want to experiment with differing backgrounds maybe? Either way I’m sure you’ll crack it.

    What I’m really impressed with is that you managed to get your cat to stay still for that long! I’d have to glue mine to the sofa!

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  4. I have found that my film camera’s light meter underexposes by 1-stop. So I compensate for it while shooting.

    One thing you can do is to make sure your lightmeter is working properly. You can use a digital camera (yours/borrow one) that has a manual mode. You can use it to meter the scene and that will give you a good idea on the exposure settings. Then, check whether your lightmeter is showing approximately the same exposure settings. If not, it might be a good idea to compensate for the exposure settings indicated by your lightmeter the next time you use it to take your indoor shots.

    Also, when shooting indoors, I try to push my film. I’ve had good success by pushing Tri-X 400 to 1600 ISO when shooting indoors. And then I overdevelop it during development. If you don’t develop your own film, then you can indicate to the local lab that does the development to push the film by 1 or 2 stops depending on what ISO setting you used to shoot the film. For example, if I shoot the Tri-X 400 at 800 ISO, you need to push by 1 shop, if you shoot Tri-X 400 at 1600 ISO, you need to push it to 2 stops. Pushing just means you are giving it more time during the development of the film. You can write N+1 or N+2 for pushing the film by 1 or 2 stops and the local lab will understand that the film needs to be pushed. N stands for normal development.

    Hope this helps, and good luck for your next indoor shoot!!

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  5. Natalie, do you remember your numbers? I can only handhold my camera at 1/60 any less and I risk shake, so even at Ζ’2.8 at 1/60 using ISO 400 film that’s EV7 not enough exposure for interior light I suspect. I think you will need a tripod and a longer exposure next time.

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  6. One other thing to consider is whether there was a problem with the processing itself. In your case I’d try and find out whether their hypo for the fix stage is too old. I shot a couple of rolls and processed them myself, and for the first time they came out flat and way too dense. I initially thought it was a light leak in one or more of my backs but after some reading and thinking I tried rolling the negatives up in a tank and re-running the fix stage with fresh hypo. The shots cleared up immediately and were perfect. You could try it yourself with a tray. It doesn’t hurt the negatives other than the fact you’ll need to re-rinse and dry them out again, even if it wasn’t the hypo.

    But yeah, shooting medium format inside is challenging. There’s no getting around the fact that film has its limitations. But try the hypo trick first. I see you already print yourself so I hope you get into the film processing part too. It saves you gobs of money and you control your chemicals

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