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Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Evgeny, May 14, 2008.
What is the best black and white film for studio portraiture photography?
Over the years I've used Tmax100, APX100, FP4 and EFKE 25, all give excellent results. If using tungsten then I use Tmax400.
Really it's a very personal choice.
Ian, thank you for sharing.
Can you recommend Ilford Pan F Plus ?
It is a personal choice, but TXP (the Tri-x 320) was engineered for just such use, and really loves the studio! Have fun finding your film!!!
Evgeny, personally I wouldn't use PanF but there's nothing wrong with it. It's like SuzanneR say you have to find what suits you best. I've never liked Tri-X but it's a superb film used by many photographers.
Try Pan F and see what you think.
I don't think there is a best film. It's the combination of film/developer and look influenced by the shooting style of the photographer that is a personal choice.
Kind of wierd , and shows that i have chemical developer obsessions
for females - plus x at 80 with microdol x
for gents - kodalith ortho with dilute PMK
I love PanF+ and Ilfosol for studio portraits, that's all I use there.
Whatever you like. You can pick a film and developer to accomplish almost anything !
In the broadest terms, Kodak offers 3) 400 speed films, each very different. Each fills a niche, and Kodak has done this for decades.
The first, TXP, has what used to be called a portrait curve, intended for photographers who worked in flat light, like the North sky at the end of the afternoon, with the subject shielded from the direct light of the sun.
TXP wants to compress the shadows, has higher contrast through the midtones. The effect, to emphasize the face, and reduce the importance of the shadows without making them turn black.
If you were to shoot this picture with TMY, you would have brighter shadows and darker highlights. On the other hand, if you were to shoot by window light, with strong contrast, TMY will easily hold all the light, and TXP would make you choose between catching the highlights OR the shadows.
In other words, TXP will try to brighten a dull day. TMY will try to soften a harsh, sunny day.
With each film, developer choice has an effect. XTOL has the same personality as TMY. HC-110 has the same character as TXP.
XTOL will make it easier to use TXP in direct sun, lifting the shadows relative to the highlights. HC-110 will help TMY give a brilliance in the whites. Using TXP with HC-110 gives you a very bold palette. TMY with XTOL, a pastel palette.
In between are both D-76 and TX.
I photograph both fair and dark complexions. My solution is to use TMY with Rodinal, a compromise which suits my particular needs. It tends to emphasize midtones over the dark and light.
You can achieve the same type of results with Ilford products. DD-X is similar to XTOL, ID-11 is D76, and Microphen is similar to HC-110.
If you have enough light, both PLus X and FP4 are wonderful portrait films, which balance lights and darks quite well.
Pan F seems to be a radiant film, that can cause a face to glow. It can also give realistic images. It sees color in a very flattering way for faces.
So, all this talk, and it is still up to you ! Every combination is perfect for SOME condition, so consider how you will be working: window light, outdoors, in a garden, or indoors with electronic flash, or constant burning light. Your choices HERE, will determine the best film to use.
DF, I must just underline that you have written one of the most useful post on APUG I've ever seen.
I can say so because my own experiments with XTOL/HC-110 and PX, TX, TXP concur with your results; I trust you for the other statements.
Don't worry about it too much. Your question is impossible to answer. Your best film will no doubt depend on your vision of the final product. Just get to know three or four films really well. Pick a brand and learn their low-speed film, their medium-speed film, their high-speed film, and possibly even their super-speed film for certain looks. Do it all in one easy to use, long-keeping developer, always keeping processing parameters the same. You will get the basic looks of each of the films, and be able to get consistent results. Then you may want to experiment with other film, other developers, etc.
If using larger formats (which I assume you are since you are in studio and doing portraits), a 400 (or 320) film will be quite versatile, and they usually have the advantage of lower contrast over the slower films. This inherent low contrast nature makes them over all very pliable. You also have the advantage of faster shutter speeds when using continuous lights. I would start with HP5 400 or Tri-X 320.
If using 35 (and I can't imagine why you would in studio unless it was somehow part of your concept, or you only have a 35mm camera...the 35mm camera often loses most of its advantages when placed in a highly controlled situation), I would try to use a 125-speed film or a 50-speed film, and use flash if you can, at least at first until you learn to work with models well enough to keep them nice and still. The problem with these films is that they are inherently high in contrast, so require a better handle on technique to get a nice neg. If left to your own devices, you will probably settle on a better EI to use than box speed pretty quickly to avoid losing the shadows. Then you will probably settle on a better development time pretty quickly after that to avoid losing the highlights. These are highly advantageous films for many reasons, but *are* more technically demanding, especially for a beginner.
As for Delta and T-Max, I find them less than exciting except for technical work. But don't take my word for it. You might love them. That is something that I decided after a lot of experimenting, so I would hope that you would do the same before casting a similar judgment.
I would not start with a high-speed film if using small format. At least not for your traditional, classic, commercial 8x10 studio portrait. The sharpness will likely be lacking at that much enlargement.
Also, in response to this quote:
"You can achieve the same type of results with Ilford products. DD-X is similar to XTOL, ID-11 is D76, and Microphen is similar to HC-110."
I would say that Ilford HC-110 is similar to Ilfotec HC, and not much like Microphen in the slightest (well, they DO both develop film). After years of using HC-110 for everything, including zone system use, I switched to Ilfotec HC, and have retested two of the five films I had "zoned out". The results were effectively identical to HC-110.
Microphen is closer to DK-50, according to the Ilford equivalence chart.
I agree- DF knows his stuff.
Depends on what you want. For the Hurrell look try TXP-320, only available in 120 and sheet. Plus-X _sheet_ film was the old recommendation but isn't made anymore.
I use TMX-100 and Microdol-X 1:3.
I have seen some lovely large-format work done with TMY-400, but it gives a very chiseled/sculpted look.
Lighting will make a bigger difference than the film ever will. There are books on Hollywood style portrait lighting.
I agree. I've always loved this film and think it is the best thing Ilford makes. I lament that they can't put this emulsion on a sheet film. You definitely should try it.
Thank you all very much, so many replies!
I ordered these films
Kodak TXP 120 [PRO PAK-5] (TRI-X PAN PR 320)
Kodak TMX 120 [PRO PAK-5] (T-MAX 100 PRO)
Ilford PAN F PLUS 120
df, that was a VERY useful post, obviously from a lot of experience. I have used Tri-X and FP4 a lot for portraits and some of what you said rang bells with me, but you really put it all together. I think I am going to pin your post up in my darkroom.
I made my wife sit for me for a whole afternoon. I shot TXP, Tri-X and Acros with various filters and exposure indexes, keeping careful records. Then I cut each roll in half, wound them onto seperate reels and processed half in HC-110 and half in XTOL. THEN I printed most the images at 8x10 and spread the prints on our coffee table and looked at them off and on for a week.
I was hoping to come up with the perfect black and white portrait combination but what I saw instead was a variety of results that I liked in different ways. As DF says above, understand the materials so that you can get what you want out of them.
A cool experiment is to photograph freckles. I think this is cool because my WIFE has freckles !
So. Say you want to show them fairly neutrally. How do you do it ?
OR, the sitter is shy about the freckles. How do you minimize them ?
OR, the sitter is aggressively proud of the freckles. How do you show them off.
Let's say the sittings are all under an overcast sky, with no direct sun.
How many ways are there ?
Who wants to play ??
I would say use an orange filter to minimise them and perhaps a green to enhance them ????
You bet. Now, say the sitter has blue eyes.
How do you make the freckles dark, and make the eyes light ?
Hint: remember the context of the thread !
No filters, ortho film would do it. Especially on an overcast day. Or if you need something faster, a blue or cyan filter on a panchromatic film.
But I think dark freckles and light eyes would be pretty hideous, myself.
A blue filter will show them aggressively, a red one will diminish them. Depending on the film, no filter will show them relatively neutral.
The magic spectrogram
Depending on the film, no filter will show them relatively neutral.
Yep. Films all see color differently. By this, I mean that if we idealize some 'perfect neutral film', all the rest have some sort of built in filter. Not flaws, it's how they were designed.
TriX passes for neutral. Some are more sensitive to red, some less. Our choices today are paltry compared to the '50s, but we can make the most of our choices if we take a look at the spectrogram most film makers publish on their poop sheet. We don't need to do a critical analysis of the chart, just get a hint at what the film might do, then go give a test drive.
A few rolls of TriX and a color chart are all you need to begin. See how the colors are different in daylight and under tungsten lights, with their built in orange filter. Contact print them.
Then check Pan F, or Acros. And if you have a Wayback Machine, some APX 100. Get to know the spectro shape that you like, and screen films that look promising.
Warning: Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji use different proportions for their charts - reshape them before you starting drawing curves. (Not that I've ever made THAT mistake before !)
Below, see 3 films overlaid on a TriX color graph.
For a Portraitist, APX 100 will darken red, AND lighten blue (Relative to TriX). Pan F lightens red and darkens blue. Kinda handy outdoors, eh ?