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The Art Of Photography Black And White Film.

Try Long Exposure. Long exposure shots could work really well in monochrome photography, especially where there’s moving water or clouds. During the exposure the highlights of the water, for example, are recorded across a wider area than they would with a short exposure and this can help enhance tonal contrast. The blurring of the movement also adds textural contrast with any solid objects in the frame. If required , use a neutral density filter such as Lee Filters’ Big Stopper or Little Stopper to decrease exposure and extend shutter speed (by 10 and 4 stops respectively). naturally , when exposures extend farther than respecting 1/60 sec a tripod is wanted to keep the camera still and avoid blurring. It’s also advisable to use a remote release and mirror lock-up to minimise vibration and produce super-sharp images.

Shoot RAW + JPEG. The greatest monochrome conversions are set foot on by editing raw files which have the full colour information, but if you shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome picture Style/Picture Control/Film Simulation mode you get an indication of how the image will look in black and white. As many photographers struggle to visualise a scene in black and white, these monochrome modes are an invaluable tool that will help with composition and scene assessment. most cameras are also capable of producing decent in-camera monochrome images these days and it’s worth experimenting with image parameters (usually contrast, sharpness, filter effects and toning) to find a look that you like. Because compact track cameras and compact cameras show the scene seen by the sensor with camera settings applied, users of these cameras are able to preview the monochrome image in the electronic viewfinder or on rear screen before taking the shot. DSLR users should also do this if they kick in her camera’s live presumption channel , but the usually slower responses mean that numerous will find it preferable or check the image on the screen post-capture.

Take Control. Although coloured filters should still be used to manipulate contrast when shooting digital black and white images, it’s more common to save this work until the processing stage. Until a a couple years ago Photoshop’s Channel Mixer was the favored means of turning colour images monochrome, but now Adobe Camera Raw has more powerful tools (in the HSL/Grayscale tab) that allow you to adjust the brightness of eight individual colours that make up the image. It’s possible to adjust one of these colours to make it anything from white to black with the sliding control. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the whole image when adjusting a particular colour as subtle gradations should become unnatural looking. And adjusting the brightness of a red or rosy shirt with the red sliding control, for moment , will have an impact on the model’s skin, especially the lips. The Levels and Curves controls could also be used to manipulate tonal range and contrast, but the HSL/Grayscale controls allow you to create delineation between objects of the same brightness but with unique colours.

Dodge and Burn. Dodging and burning is a routine that comes from the traditional darkroom and is usually used to burn in or darken highlights and hold back (brighten) shadows. Photoshop’s Dodge and Burn tools allow a level of control that film photographers can only ambition of because you should target the highlights, shadows or mid-tones with both. This means that you should use the Burn tool to darken highlights when they are too bright, or the Dodge tool to perk up them to grow local contrast. It’s a great road of giving a sense of better sharpness and enhancing texture. Plus, because you may set the opacity of the tools, you should build up their effect gradually so the impact is subtle and there are no hard edges.

Look for Contrast, Shape and Texture. The complimentary and opposing colours that bring a colour image to life are all reduced to black and white or shades of grey in a monochrome image and you have to look for tonal contrast to make a shot stand out. In colour photography, for example, your eye would instantaneously be drawn to a red object on a green background, but in monochrome photography these two areas are likely to have the same brightness, so the image looks flat and dingy straight from the camera. luckily , it’s possible to work adjust the brightness of these two colours separately to introduce some contrast. However, a good starting point is to look for scenes with tonal contrast. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule look for scenes that contain some powerful blacks and whites. This should be achieved by the light or by the brightness (or tone) of the objects in the scene as well as the exposure settings that you use. The brightness of the bark of a silver birch tree for example, should inject some contrast (and interest) in to a woodland scene. Setting the exposure for these brighter areas also makes the shadows darker, so the highlights stand out even more. Look for shapes, patterns and textures in a scene and move around to find the best composition.

Use Filters. Graduated neutral density (AKA ND grad) and polarizing filters are purely as advantageous in monochrome photography as they are in colour. In fact, because they manipulate image contrast they are arguably more useful . An ND grad is supportive when you require to retain detail in a bright sky while a polarizing filter may be used to reduce reflections and boost contrast. Alternatively, count taking two or more shots with diverse exposures to create a high dynamic range (HDR) composite. Don’t be afraid to use a ND grad with a standard neural density filter if the sky is brighter than the foreground in a long exposure shot. Coloured filters, which are an essential tool for monochrome film photographers, could also be advantageous for manipulating contrast in digital images. They work by darkening objects of her opposite colour while lightening objects of her own. An orange filter, for example, will darken the blue of the sky while a green one will lighten foliage.

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I use mostly a Mamiya C3 (a Twin Lens Reflex camera), a Holga and a Calumet 4×5. Occasionally, I use a Rolleiflex and homemade pinhole cameras. The films I use are Fuji Acros 100 and Ilford FP4.

I like using film because I enjoy the entire process that it involves. The direct contact with the material, the chemicals, the waiting. I like the negative as an object and the fact that my originals are printed in a physical thing. It may be silly, but I like it. One more reason is that I’m fascinated about the old times and it makes me feel closer to them. I can pretend I’m in 1930 processing my glass negatives.

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Another factor could be the search for something different. Some creatives don’t like to follow the herd. If nearly everyone else is shooting digital, then anything that can give your work a different look, such as film, becomes sought after.

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The Art of Photography is a video series produced by Ted Forbes. You can find it on YouTube, iTunes and Facebook.

But film is dying so fast, and I moved to wet plate collodion just to be sure that I can make it without it. Wet plate has a lots of secrets and its destiny is still in the hands of people and not companies, although it doesn’t seem that way very often.

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That is the missing link today for most of us, the scanner. It seems that the technology is cheap enough but that nobody wants to make something to last and to be affordable nowadays. Maybe I can do it? To make Ugo Dap 2010 – Odyssey drum scanner?! Yay!

How would I compare film and digital? I think it’s not much about the cameras. One thing is the freedom and possibilities that a digital camera gives. And it makes a big difference when you don’t have much money. With a digital camera you can practice and experiment without worrying about waste of film.

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Thanks for reading! Andrew.

I make videos that encompass a 360° view of the world of photography including tutorials, camera reviews, famous photographers and many other aspects. I even produce an ongoing Artist Series of documentaries on living photographers.

Let’s not forget either that the high quality, digital SLRs of today are relatively new. I switched to digital back in 2006, only four years ago. Film may seem old if you use digital all the time, but it’s not that old really.

In my eBook ‘The Magic of Black & White: Part II – Craft‘ I wrote about the advantages of digital photography for black and white photographers. It’s true, black and white photographers have never had it so good. Yet in spite of all the advantages and speed of digital photography, there’s a significant movement of black and white photographers who choose to work with black and white film.

Why is this? I’m sure some film photographers are using film because they prefer to use medium format or large format cameras. Digital photography at this size is prohibitively expensive – film is much cheaper.

« The Magic of Black & White: Part II – Craft |  Photos with a Compact Camera – Roatan, Honduras »

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It’s also interesting to see some young photographers who have been using digital cameras since they took up photography going to film because of the novelty value. Film attracts photographers for who the digital process leaves something unsatisfied. Perhaps by using film they feel that they are learning important and fulfilling craft skills.

I found a couple of black and white film photographers whose work I like and I asked them  about their black and white photography. Like probably isn’t a strong enough word – both photographers have work that moved me. They are artists as well as photographers, and their photos contain power and beauty.

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If you ask me it would be the real thing that somebody from one of the surviving film companies like Ilford, Kodak or Foma – or maybe even Apple or Lego (that would be cool) to make THE drum scanner up to 8×10 under $US1000. It would also be nice if somebody big in the advertising world made an campaign for the cause of film photography (Cosa nostra). Epson is already making great printers for hybrid photography. That could help bring film back to life. If I was a manager…

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But I think the biggest difference is the people who use them. I can post-process my scans the same way people do with digital, but I insist on using film today because I also like the old feel. In some way I think I’m violating something if I change my images too much with software. If I had to shoot with digital, it would be the same. Some people grew up with digital cameras, others have a kind of cultural baggage they bring to it, be it from photojournalism or from fine art, that translates into different aesthetics. So, for me it’s mostly cultural.

For me lenses are much more important than cameras. I’m using four lenses: a Tessar 80mm, a Heliar 300mm, an Ernostar 180mm f2.7 and and a Dallmeyer 3b.

The Rolleiflex was a gift from one of the last action photography heros and great artist Mr Emil Schildt, the Anthony came from my wet plate teacher Mr Quinn Jacobson and the Praktica is a gift from my late uncle Mr Vladimir Dapcevic who was my first photography teacher back when I was just five years old.

My cameras are a medium format Rolleiflex T (gray), a Linhof Master Technika V, an Anthony style bellows camera 8×10 by Ray Morgenweck, a Graflex Speed Graphic and a Praktica VLC2. Every camera that I own has a story. Each camera is from a different time in my life, and I’m their faithful servant (at the time). One love.

The Praktica VLC 2 came with a brick of Orwo 21° DIN black and white film. Nowdays I’m constantly searching for Orwo film. My favourite one is Orwo Ortho film in 9×12″ (Still life, cyanotype was taken with this film). I would love to see Orwo back, that would be a true ‘impossible project’.

If my photos are going to be seen in a computer screen, I scan them and process them in Photoshop exactly (or very close) as I want them to be printed. Otherwise, I print them in the darkroom. Rare exceptions.

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Here are some more links where you can explore the world of black and white film photography (and film photography in general):

Current Sony Pricing Current Fuji Pricing Current Nikon Pricing Current Canon Pricing Current Panasonic Pricing Current Olympus Pricing Current Hasselblad Pricing

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For me film type is not so important. I will use anything that serves me well. I just need a few rolls to calibrate myself to, or to fight with. I love Orwo for sentimental reasons and for being out of date film nowadays. But I love Ilford as well, FP4+ is great and has that springlike clarity.

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