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.
Have a look at the following photographers style of black and white and let me know in the comments what you learn about the differences in the style of black and white and what it says about their styles and how it enhances their photos. (sorry you will have to google as their sites are under construction).
In film photography you needed to decide prior to taking a photo whether to use black and white film or colour but we now have the luxury with digital photography to choose to convert a colour image into black and white.
That is my favourite reason for shooting on black and white film. You’re forced to hone your skills much faster.
This still takes about 2 weeks or longer. I’m there regularly for printing anyway so it’s not too much of a problem.
These are just my personal preferences but I would encourage you always to try all options and find your favourites as this is part of your photographic style.
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.
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.
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!
In my interview with Toros he discusses the character of a photographer depending on his taste in black and white. ‘There are some photographers that come to me and say “Toros, I want my photos very dark, very black and deep. There are others they tell me “I don’t like grey; I want black and white without details.” This says a lot about their characters. Once Cartier-Bresson told me, “Toros, don’t print my photos with too much contrast, don’t print them too dark because my character is soft and light.”
The answer is simple – there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With digital conversions we have the choice over contrast and how we want to manipulate the image afterwards. I use a program called DXO filmpak and when I bought it I spent almost a day going through every film option on a series of photos to see the effects that I like. I arrived at a couple of favourites Kodak Tri-x 400 and Ilford Pan F Plus.
One of my favourite things about shooting on film is how good skin looks.
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.
Once you understand how the film reacts to the light, you can use it as a creative tool in your 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.
“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” Henri Cartier-Bresson
When converting images from colour to black and white make sure you don’t have any strong colour ‘casts’ otherwise the colour cast will be converted to the same grey tone and applied generically to your photo.
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.
My fabulous printer in Paris ‘Toros’ of Toroslab, in an interview in Paris Tango said “Black and white is an attitude, a different way of looking at things. I knew many photographers like Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau who preferred to work in black and white. There is an indescribable magic in black and white that is impossible to explain, it is the shadows and the highlights, in the details and in the mystique. Black and white treads that fine line between reality and fantasy.”
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!
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.
Film photographers would choose a type of film based on it’s effect. Low ISO films produce fine grain and strong contrast and the higher ISO film produce prominent grain and generally a softer contrast.
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.
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When converting colour it is important to have different tones in the photo so your subject will jump out of the background or surrounds ie.. there needs to be contrast in the image. Often if the subject has the same tone it can look a little flat in black and white.
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.
Black and White Photography – How and Why We Use It – Carla Coulson
I use black and white often when an image is graphic (like in the fashion pic above), when the photo has been taken in a ‘reportage’ or ‘lifestyle’ way and I want to make this image stronger (like the family in Naples), when I want to cut to the core of a portrait and let the person stand out not the colours like in the first picture in this post.
The art director on a book once said to me ” a colour image is only valid when the colour is great colour.” Hence if the colours jar, or they are not harmonious or are distracting that is when I convert an image to black and white.
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.
I particularly like how the light shining on the back of the subject’s head is emphasised by the dark figure behind him.
That’s also one of the advantages of the poor dynamic range. The contrast on neutral colours is boosted.
I love black and white photography, it is part of how I take photos and I couldn’t imagine photography without it. A frequent question I am asked is how and when to use black and white. So I thought today we could have a little chat about black and white in photography.
Tone and Contrast – The photo subject will work best when it has a varied range of blacks, greys and whites. Always look for dark and light areas in your images as this creates tone and contrast. Lines, Shape and Form – Images that have graphic elements, strong lines, geometric shapes or form make wonderful subjects for black and white especially when the image has good contrast between the elements.
Always look for lines that run diagonally, horizontally or vertically through the image and try and create interesting compositions with them. Textures and Detail – All details in photos add to the message and depth of a photo.
Black and white works well with textural walls such as brick, sandstone or whitewashed stone especially when the subject is of a contrasting tone. Strong skies and clouds also are wonderful subjects (check out Sebastiao Salgado’s work).
A person or detail strongly lit can make a wonderful subject in black and white. Portraits – People and the environment you find them in make for strong subjects in black and white particularly when there is good contrast in their clothes, the background and surroundings.
Look for interesting hats, clothes or textures in their environment that would make a strong portrait in black and white. Reportage/life photography– Storytelling of an event albeit sporting, religious, musical or cultural can be strengthened using black and white and add to the weight and message of the photo.
Not all photos look great in black and white and one of the arts of photography is ‘seeing’ how the image will look before you take it.
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.
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.
When you take away colour you are taking away one of the primary ways the viewer can ‘read’ your image. Therefore there needs to be strong dimensions.
I hope this helps you make some decisions about your black and white photography.
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.
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.