Improving Your Prints
People are often disappointed when their prints come back from the lab too dark or too light. They blame themselves, the camera, the film, or even the lighting. Sometimes you just need to have the print made again. With its great latitude, print film is capable of producing good images even with improper exposure.
A print whose murky shadows and highlights are too bright can be printed down (made darker with more exposure in the enlarger) to make the blacks truly black and produce more detail in the highlight areas.
If a print comes out especially bad, it's okay to ask your lab to compare the negative with the print. You may need to explain what the lighting was if it's not obvious. If your film has been overheated or stored too long it may be impossible to correct exposure and color problems. The lab may quite correctly state there is no way to get a good print from a particularly bad negative, but they should offer to try.
You will be happier when you have the breakthrough realization that you can never get 100 percent accurate color in either prints or slides. They produce pleasing and believable color, but it is impossible for every color in real life to be captured and reproduced perfectly.
Obviously, if your negatives are exposed incorrectly, it will be hard for the lab to make a good print. If the blacks in your prints look milky and not truly black, your negatives may be too thin. In order to compensate for your mistake, the printer underexposed the paper, which means not enough light hit the emulsion to turn it fully black. The print is either underprinted or underexposed. Sometimes a printer doesn't know if an image is underexposed or if your subject is supposed to be dark. If the blacks in your silhouette are printed gray and milky, show the offending print and negative to your printer and explain what you want. They should reprint it at no charge. A lab that consistently balks at working with you and trying to make things right probably doesn't need your business.
If your negative is overexposed, the lab will correct the exposure when they are printing. There is a price to pay for extreme over- and underexposure: The color and contrast cannot be totally corrected, no matter how good your printer. But if your negative was properly exposed in good light with the right level of contrast, you can expect and demand good color.