Black white film processing
Digital black and white
Black And White Photo Film

Black And White Photo Film Black And White Photo Film

35mm film and development is becoming increasingly scarce. This is because some of the major developers are getting rid of their wet labs, only doing digital printing.

This really bothered me the first time I got my film back because I didn’t know about it before I shot. I hadn’t adjusted my shooting style to match it.

We have a great post on how to digitize film photos you should check out. Or how about trying our black and photography challenge to keep improving your work!

You don’t have this option when shooting on film. So you really have to pay attention to what it is that you want to capture and how it’s going to look in black and white.

The amount of silver salt and grain in black and white film decides whether the film is more or less sensitive to light. Fine grain film will require more light to produce an image and large grains will require less light to produce an image. The amount of grains on the film help determine the ISO film speed of the black and white film. Fine grain leads to slow film and large grain leads to fast film. To learn more, please see the ISO film speed page.

In my post on film photography, I talk in detail about how shooting on film helps to hone your skill. You think a lot more about what you’re doing before taking each photo, rather than wasting a piece of 35mm film.

Black and white film is also available in C-41 processing film. If you plan to create or have a darkroom set up for black and white photography, you will not be able to process this film with standard black and white processing and may have difficulties printing it as it is color-based emulsions.

Simple black and white films are made of three layers. First, there is a light-sensitive emulsion layer. The emulsion contains grains of silver salt that are able to absorb light and react with a developing chemical to break down into pure silver, remove the silver, and reveal an image on the negative. Second is a layer of plastic to support the emulsion. Third is an anti-halation layer that is used to capture light and refrain it from bouncing back to the emulsion. This final layer eliminates blurry images or foggy film.

This still takes about 2 weeks or longer. I’m there regularly for printing anyway so it’s not too much of a problem.

This added pressure of wasting money on the film and development means that you become a much more careful photographer. You consider how else each photo could be taken before actually taking it.

The image on a black and white film negative is actually the inverse of the actual image. That is to say, all the areas that show clear on the negative will be black on the print and all black areas of the negative will show white. When printing onto photo paper light is able to pass through the clear areas of the negative resulting in more light hitting the paper and leading to a dark spot. Black areas of the negative are the opposite, resulting in less light hitting the paper to leave a white spot. Of course, there are many shades of gray in between depending on the density of the negative. Here is an example of a black and white negative and it’s printed counterpart.

Take the photo below for example. I knew when I shot it that the left-hand side of the photo was going to be underexposed and that the right would be overexposed. This actually worked out really well.

The first thing you’ll notice when you get a roll of black and white film developed (particularly with the brand of film that I use: Ilford HP5 Plus) is that the dynamic range is a lot worse than what you’re used to with digital and colour film.

One of my favourite things about shooting on film is how good skin looks.

Very fine detail and lack of grain; good for fine art photography.

Mistakes can get pretty expensive if you’re not sure what you’re doing with your film camera. This forces you to quickly learn what you’re doing wrong.

You rely much more on composition, texture, shape and form to create a good photo, so you have to look for this before you shoot, not after.

Black and white film photography is all of this and more. Normally, when I take black and white photos, I shoot in colour first and convert it afterwards. This gives me more options in post production.

The answer is simple – there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

I have noticed over the past 2 years that development is getting more expensive.  It’s also taking longer to do and film is becoming harder to find. If we take that as a sign of things to come, it doesn’t look too good.

I particularly like how the light shining on the back of the subject’s head is emphasised by the dark figure behind him.

My nearest lab that will actually develop it in-house is about 25 miles away. This isn’t really a lot of use as the development process itself takes a while. Instead, I take mine to my nearest major lab, who send off for it.

Ideal for low-light or outdoor scenes, can be pushed 2-stops.

Ideal for low-light or outdoor scenes, can be pushed to 3200.

That’s also one of the advantages of the poor dynamic range. The contrast on neutral colours is boosted.

Had I shot the photo above on colour film, you’d be able to see the subject with no problem. When shooting on black and white film, it’s important to determine where the light illuminates the subject and work around that.

I urge everyone to start shooting on film as soon as possible. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to experience it in the future.

That is my favourite reason for shooting on black and white film. You’re forced to hone your skills much faster.

I’ve written about film photography and I’ve written about black and white photography. You’re probably wondering why I’m writing about black and white film photography.

Black and white film in particular makes the skin look great. The natural grain adds texture and detail, while the lack of colour emphasises the tone of the skin.

There are a number of black and white (b&w) films available for 35mm film cameras and medium format film cameras that can still be found in stores. While there are also a number of special films that require unique processing, it would be best to work with the basic black and white film types and learn how the film works before using these special films. The three major brands of black and white films are Kodak, lford, and Fuji. Unfortunately, the best advice for any beginner in black and white film photography, like color film or slide film photography, would be to try a variety of brands and subtypes within those brands to find the right film for you.

Once you understand how the film reacts to the light, you can use it as a creative tool in your photography.

The light is harder to control but, when you expose a photo correctly with the light in the right places, the results can be much more dramatic.

You need to be really careful about this. You’ll find that even landscape shots don’t come out properly, let alone photos of people indoors.

Fuji Neopan Acros 100 Very Fine Fine grain quality for a wide range of photography applications.

The effects produced and the parameters you have to work within are very different from any other type of photography. This can produce some very interesting results – results that you may associate with a much older style of photography.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography’s Photographer-In-Chief: Thank you for reading… CLICK HERE if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera. It’s my training video that will walk you how to use your camera’s functions in just 10 minutes – for free! I also offer video courses and ebooks covering the following subjects: Beginner – Intermediate Photography eBook Beginner – Intermediate Photography Video Course Landscape Photography eBook Landscape Photography Video Course Photography Blogging (Service) You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos! Thanks again for reading our articles!

That being said, there are still places around that do it at a reasonable price to a good standard. But black and white is a lot harder to get done.

Fuji Neopan 400 400 Fine Wide exposure latitude, push processing capability to EI 1600

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