what to do about grey, porcelain skin tones with TMAX film

greenspun.com : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

Does anyone have a problem with skin tones being grey and porcelain like when using TMAX 400 and, if so, what do you do about it? I've used the film for many years and have finally come up with some combinations that work well for me (except skin tones). I expose the film at 200 ASA, develop in XTOL with a slight increase in time and strong agitation the first minute and every 30 seconds after. I like the shadow detail, the whites the fine grain the sharpness but I dislike the grey, porcelain like skin tones. Any help?

-- Tom Becker (tommb@americanid.com), March 30, 2001


I'm just starting to explore this, but different printing papers have different shaped highlight curves (toe). Some, like the Oriental Segull I just tested, have a flattened area that reduces highlight contrast. Ilford Multigrade IV Deluxe (that I also just ran curves on) is much straighter with less toe. It will give more contrast in the highlights and, for me anyway, perked up skin tones and modeling. The Seagull was very flat and pasty there. There's always a tradeoff for a given contrast grade, and the Seagull did better on midtone contrast. Things like fabric texture and shadow detail were better. Ctein talks about this in Post Exposure- the trick is where the paper produces the best tonal separation. Neither one is better, they just suit different subjects and films. That said, you should be able to get reasonable, though not perfect, results with with almost any combination if the basic exposure and development at close. Not sure if this helps, but it's the path I've been following for similar problems.

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), March 30, 2001.

I'm probably less technical than most here, but my thinking is that porcelain tones are placed on the straight line wheras compressed bright tones are on the shoulder. Try shooting someone in dark clothes and increase exposure to make the skin tones darker on the neg. For inspiration, check this:


In the UK, David Bailey became famous with bright, almost bleached out skin tones. His assistant, John Swannell, later beacame famous with beautiful grey porcelain tones. You pays your money and....

-- Herbert Gibson (herb@nireland.com), March 30, 2001.

I usually open up a stop for the flesh tone and pull the development if the person has a white shirt, so there is alot you can do to manipulate B/W. Another reason why I like the older emulsions... better tones all together!

-- Scott Walton (f64sw@hotmail.com), March 30, 2001.

Tom, Have you ever tried some filters? You can turn skin tone into anything you want, without worrying about curves, contrast and the rest of technical stuff. Of course, all the colors in the scene should be considered, but usually the other tones are secundary and easily to work in the lab. Give it a try. Regards, Cesar B.

-- Cesar Barreto (cesarb@infolink.com.br), March 30, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ