From the series Photographic Japanese

切現 [きりげん] (kirigen) is Japanese for clip test. It is easy to remember because kiri means ‘to cut’ and gen is the gen in genzou (development). At the lab I daringly used kurippu tesuto, thinking it is probably an imported term anyway, but far from it. There is actually a Japanese term for it, which I always note and appreciate.

So what is a clip test you ask? This procedure is often used in the case of processing somewhat important transparency/slide film, which needs rather accurate exposure. This is because there is no printing stage at which you can correct a bad exposure. If you ask your professional lab for a clip test (I doubt that consumer labs would do it, and besides it would take far too much time; a pro lab can turn around slide film in 3 hours), only a limited part of the film will be processed – according to your specification – while the rest is left untouched for later. This is for the photographer to assess whether exposure is on or not. If you’re off, then at least the rest of the film(s) can be processed with some corrective instructions (push/pull) and you get your desired results for that film or shot (in case you used several rolls of the same stock under the same conditions).

There are several trade-offs with clip tests though: first you will destroy at least one shot. Since the film is cut and it is impossible to cut precisely between two frames on undeveloped film, the scissors will split one frame – so if you were on and this was the shot of your life, you’ve ruined it and will kick yourself forever for doing it. Secondly, if you were off, you have also lost all the other frames that were developed as part of the clip, because naturally only the so far undeveloped part of the film will benefit from the correction. This lovely lady above was mutilated by a clip test. The upper part is the test clip, a little too dark. The lower part was pushed half a stop showing an optimal image. So while I feel bad for having cut her head off once, there are plenty of other nice shots in the correctly processed part of the film to make up for it.

Moral of the story: expose correctly at the first place and avoid clip tests, which are also costly (¥450 at Create), but that’s often easier said than done. Routinely shooting is the best remedy to build confidence in your abilities to meter and expose correctly. Sometimes you just need total control and confidence about how it will come out. If you get your clip back and don’t know what to do with it in terms of applying corrective processing, don’t be shy and ask lab staff for opinion and advice.