Questions from a beginner : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

Could anyone tell me what the best, low cost b&w film might be? I heard you need a yellow filter to make b&w film more natural looking. Is this true? What effects do different filters have on b&w film? What b&w films can be processed at most 1 hour labs? Any besides Ilford XP2?

-- Pat Patterson (, September 10, 1997


Oh dear, a book load of questions (and a life-time of learning...)

There's no such thing as "best". I use Kodak and Ilford; others use Fuji and Agfa. Whatever your friend;y photo-shop sells.

Don't start messing around with filters before you've got some experience behind you. But the brief answer is: the human eye does not have an equal response to all wavelengths: it is more sensitive to yellow-green. A filter of a given "colour" lets through more light of that colour. So a yellow-green filter will make the B&W film "see" colours in tones that more closely match the human eye.

Kodak have a new chromogenic film, like XP2, called, umm, TCN400 I think.

-- Alan Gibson (, September 11, 1997.


I quick scan of this category of the forum and the original forum will reveal that the 'best film' appears to be any and all of them. It's very subjective and also depends on what 'look' you are seeking. Part of the fun is to try everything and judge for yourself. At this point in time the two most popular films seem to be Kodak Tmax and Ilford Delta and they share the same technology, which is different than all the rest. As for filters, well that is a subject of mystery to most beginners and I think it is best explained with actual photos as examples so I recommend any number of fine books available at a public library. The yellow filter gives a slightly darker appearance to human skin which is considered to be healthier looking. This has always been the dogma but I don't know anyone who actually uses it on a regular basis. My advice to beginners (and I am practically one myself) is to not get ahead of yourself or to overdose on data. At this point ignore the technical side and concentrate on composition because nothing will save a poorly composed image.

-- Andy Laycock (, September 12, 1997.

I would have to agree with Andy. It seems that everyone has some favorite that others wouldn't touch. I suggest trying a film and using it enough to be familiar with it's characteristics and then try another film to see how it compares to your tastes. I tried Tri-x for a year and now I'm looking into the Ilford Delta films to see if they "look" good to me. Also I wouldn't mess with filters until your familiar with what the films look like without them. I haven't done too much with filters because I'm still trying out films. I'm taking things one step at a time. Learn as much about one thing before I move on to learn another.

-- (, September 13, 1997.

Re: Questions from a beginner

I have to agree with what has been said so far: shoot as much as you can, getting your own "style", before you start worrying about the technical side of this art.

But if you really want to try filters, then I think a good way to find out what they could give you is the following: start with one filter, say green, and then shoot a couple of films (or more) where you take every picture twice, with and without filter [make sure you have the right exposure with the filter, as it lets less light in], covering as many subjects as you can. This way you'll find out what the filter does to certain colours, skin, backgrounds, walls, woods and whatever else you might be interested in photographing.

This is what I did when I bought my first filters, and I think it's a fairly systematic and straightfoward way to discover their benefits.

Have fun. ///ulisse///

-- ulisse perotta (, September 16, 1997.

Sorry, pressed the button before I was finished ...

Anyway, that film was original East German (GDR) manufacture ORWO NP22 - using Ilfosol at 6 mins (20C) I get passable negatives.

The point I am trying to make is this: Your first concern should be to learn to produce good negatives - the film as such is not as critical in the beginning (the above film is already 3 years ouf of date!) Once you find that a particular exposure/film/developer combination gives the results you want stick with it.

Unfortunately, most labs that will do B&W will not give you what you want.

-- Klaus Werner (, November 07, 1997.

Cheap. I can answere that.

Pick a film, and commit. They're all good, like people have been posting, but staying with one will help you. I suggest choosing one with the pretiest packaging.

Buy your film in a 100 foot roll - its a metal can, and pick up a bulk loader and some empty film containers. Like cigarettes, its much cheaper to roll your own.

Now you can make small rolls of 10 exposures or so, and process each differently. Reducing the cost of testing.

You can also mix a one gallon jug of Tmax developer and re-use the solution. Add 1 minute to development after 17 rolls of film... It can last up to 50 rolls, but the solution itself is only good for a couple of months. Refer to kodak for more details.

Developer goes bad with oxygen, and light, so don't spill the chemical, it will reduce the surface area at the top of the bottle, as well as maintaining a consistent concentration. Also, the chemistry will be at room temp, so you can have Stop and Fix prepared as well. Even temperature is important. You'll be hanging negatives in 30-40 minutes.

And my comment on filters... Everyone is correct, but I had to learn things the hard way. Use the extreme ones, this way you can really see a difference, a strong red is great for sky, landscape, snow, anything outdoors. Yellow may be too subtle because there are other factors you need to nail down that will overpower the effects of a filter like that.

Personally I ignored this advice at first but, shoot the same thing with all filters, and no filter while bracketing each exposure. It is tedious, but if you store it with lots of notes, you build yourself a refrence that will answere future questions and concerns.

As for Lab processing... Black and White can respond many ways. I strongly suggest developing your own negatives, use the lab for the contacts and prints. It will take less time to understand the relationship between your eye's perception, and the chemistry's rendition.

Enjoy ! Ted

-- Ted (, October 29, 2001.

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