Film for skin tone

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by rufusm, Sep 26, 2010.

  1. rufusm

    rufusm Member

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    Hi all, what are your recommendations and experiences in choosing a mf b&w film for shooting portraits whether it's outdoors or inside with flash and how a particular film may affect skin tone. As for filters please give your opinion on this also.
    I'm looking to add handmade b&w prints to my portrait bookings, is there an interest for this type of work?
     
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  2. thegman

    thegman Member

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    This will likely be the least experienced opinion you'll have, but I like XP2 and other C41 BW films for this sort of thing, very fine grain, easy to scan if you're into that, and just very pleasing and smooth.
     
  3. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Subscriber

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    If you really want to do it with film, any of the currently-available films will do, but none of your clients will know the difference between a digital B&W and a film one. They care zero about the media used, only the result.
     
  4. Rolleijoe

    Rolleijoe Member

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    Ilford XP2-Super is an excellent choice for portraits. Also HP5+ and FP4+. Ilford has always been known as an especially perfect skin film. It seems to hide blemishes very well, with it's smoothness. Each of the 3 mentioned has a slightly different look. Try them all, and decide for yourself. Although XP2-Super uses dyes which WILL fade over time. So keep that in mind. Good luck.
     
  5. rufusm

    rufusm Member

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    Thanks for the feedback all.

    thegman: I've used the C-41 b&w and they are fine films but not what I was looking for. There are wedding and portrait photographers using these with success but I'm after the grain and tones available in traditional b&w. As for scanning, I scan prints.

    Wolfeye: That's unfortunate, sign of the times I suppose. Good thing I can run around the digital playground well enough.

    Rolleijoe: Ilford it is, although I will test T-Max as it is very sharp and I don't like the Delta's.
     
  6. Rolleijoe

    Rolleijoe Member

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    HP5+ and FP4+ are not Deltas (I don't care for those either). They are traditional b&w films, with exceptional skin tones. They run rings around T-Mud :smile: from Kodak.

    Let me know how it goes.
     
  7. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    With any film lighting will be the key. I've used Delta 400 with excellent results. Everyone has their favorites, try several to see which one works best for you.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    In your humble opinion, of course?

    TMax 400 is my favorite portrait film, because it's the one I know the best.
    It's about as far from 'muddy' as I can get with a film, and I think you are misrepresenting Kodak TMax films with your statement. It's sharper than either FP4 or HP5, has finer grain, and better resolution.
    To me, none of that really matters. I just love how the film looks. Five pictures attached. Four of them are TMax 400. Four 120 and one 35mm. Not easy to tell which is which; the prints are even more difficult. Treated differently for different lighting situations and desired results.

    I always advocate to learn one or two films and learn to use them well. Explore all possibilities with it, and once you get to that stage, you will be much better equipped than switching films for certain effects, be it skin tones or anything else.

    I don't know much about filters. I never use them.
     

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  9. rufusm

    rufusm Member

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    Yesterday I picked up 5 rolls of HP5+ in 120, from what you are saying I should be pleased with the results.
    T-Mud eh? :whistling: I've ran a roll of 400 through Ilfosol 3 and I was impressed with the sharpness and tones but I also like the pleasing grain in traditional b&w.
     
  10. rufusm

    rufusm Member

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    Of late I have settled on HP5+ and T-Max 400 so your statement rings true for me. As for exploring (testing) these films further I will run them through D-76/ID11 and decide then. One film/developer I suppose is what I'm really after.
    Very nice examples btw.
     
  11. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I love tri-x for skin tone.
     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    And I love what you do with Tri-X. :smile:
     
  13. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    yes,
    I just recently did some tri x in PMK and was especially pleased with the skin tones even on the RC test prints I made.
     
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  15. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    The standards all mentioned above are all great for most skin tones.

    Here are some other, off-the-beaten-track options to consider: have a look at the dr5 processed films. Also consider the near-infrared films like superpan, rollei IR, sfx etc. with a red filter. If the skin is problematic, you can get some rather porcelain skin tones that way. On the other hand, if you want a leathery, vintage look, try a 403 UV filter over most of the standard films.
     
  16. Mackinaw

    Mackinaw Member

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    Plus-X is my personal favorite.

    Jim B.
     
  17. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    I have photographed portraits for clients with Tri-X 400 roll film for many years now and develop in Xtol. Wonderful stuff. I recommend you play with exposure, dev times and lighting, as each is unique with so many variables. Testing is the fun part and Tri-X is a great medium with lots of scope. Good luck.
     
  18. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Whether or not a film produces good skin tones depends on the spectral sensitivity of the film. For women you want to use a pan-chromatic fim. For men an ortho-chromatic film will bring out character in the face. Look at the spectral curves to determine a film.

    This subject is quite complicated and not just a matter of "which film ..." Also important are the choice of filtration and subject lighting. Many good books have been written concerning portraiture and I would suggest them for more information.
     
  19. rufusm

    rufusm Member

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    That is certainly an interesting process.
    Plenty of Tri-X suggestions here and thanks. I have used Tri-X in the past but when I recently started up again I chose to go with HP5+ instead due to Kodak flipping around with their film lineup of late and ilford appear very committed. As for testing, HP5+ is getting me the results I need and similar to Tri-X. I have some rolls to shoot with portraits in mind to fine tune the process and yes testing can be fun. Then test again with T-max 400, I hope it doesn't go away or change.
    Thanks Gerald!
     
  20. Bill Harrison

    Bill Harrison Subscriber

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    One of the special qualities of Kodak Tech Pan was (is, if you find some, it seems to last forever, another quality) its rendition of skin tone and reduction of blemishes in portraiture. Ilford's SFX works well for skin tones also...
     
  21. A49

    A49 Member

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    I agree with this. If you want to have special deep skin tones, use an ortho film (Ilford Ortho plus seems to be the best for this because of the relative high speed - 80 ISO.) Or use a more or less decent blue filter with normal film. Ortho films are relativly blind to red colours therefore they render skin teints which have an considerable red part in it darker than as expected when seen with the human eye. Blue filters also block red and make the mentioned teints darker.

    Best,
    Andreas
     
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  22. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Does that mean Tungsten lighting will be the wrong light to use with this film?
     
  23. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    IIRC, tungsten light was used with ortho and blue-sensitive films in the early days of glamour photography. Take care when drawing conclusions though: much of what we see from that era was quite intricately retouched.
     
  24. rufusm

    rufusm Member

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    I looked into Ortho film, thanks again Gerald, for portraiture as this would be worth trying. The examples I viewed certainly have a unique look to them. Unfortunately most are available in sheet film only. From what I have read, the ilford emulsion gives tones of grey as opposed to others that are more or less straight b&w. I shoot 35mm and MF and all I could find is Rollei in 35mm which appears to be 2 tone. I'm staying with my choice of film for now but ortho warrants some exploration on my part.
     
  25. piu58

    piu58 Member

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    A blue filter emphasizes impurities of the skin. I recommend a strong green filter.
     
  26. Daniel Haskins

    Daniel Haskins Member

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    My favorite BW film for portraits would have to be the Efke/Adox 100. It is very very very grainy in 35mm. I've yet to try it in 120. Even with all the grain, it still has a look to it, that I like very much, in the skin tones and elsewhere.

    I've tried Plus-x, Fuji 400, HP5, Kodak 400CN, some expired Superpan 200 from the 80's... I did not like the Plus-x or the Fuji 400 at all, thought it might have been the developer. Agfa Superpan 200 from the 80's is a great film for portraits too, though I'm not sure what it was really, or if you could still get it somewhere. I think it was imported here illegally.

    Here are 5 shots, all on Adox/Efke 100 in 35mm:
     

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