Film for pregnancy portraits
I'm surrounded by pregnant women at work (friends and wives of friends) and have offered to take some pregnancy portraits of a friend of mine. It's mostly a trade for services -- she missed getting similar portraits for her first pregnancy since she was in the hospital for the last 4-5 months of it, and now that we are in Japan there really is nowhere for her to go to get them done (it's not done here). I've always been interested in portraiture but haven't done a lot of it (she knows this), so we're trading modeling for experience.
In any event, we're interested in a variety of possibilities -- likely my apartment as a "studio" -- my walls are a textured off-white colour, I have lots of windows, and I can use a black velvet backdrop as well. However, even with the best light, I'll likely be limited to 400 speed film (at least) within the apartment as I have no other lighting (other than on-camera flash). Depending on the weather, we may also try some outdoor portraits at a local nature park. My plan is to mostly use colour and black & white with the Bronica SQA, and one or the other in my f100, since she has a 2-year old she would like to be in the pictures. If we have extra time or good light I may also try portraits with my Holga and/or pinhole. If we do get outside and the weather is right, there is the possibility to experiment with IR film (HIE or SFX).
I'm okay for colour neg, but I'm curious as to what people would recommend for the black and white film. I normally shoot traditional films like Tri-X and HP5+ (and Acros for 100 speed film), but am wondering if I would be better served with a "creamier" film for this kind of portraiture (she's not the gritty type). Unfortunately I can't buy any c-41 films like XP2 here, and I'm limited by my developers - D-76, Xtol, and Rodinal. That being said, I'm very interested in what others may have to offer in terms of advice for the film (and the portrait session in general).
My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. D. Arbus
I find TMAX400 to be the best at everything, but TXP is the traditional B&W portrait film. If you want "creamier", use a larger format. That will have a larger effect than any film choice will.
You're making it too complicated. It's better to use materials you are highly familiar with.
TMax 400 can be made to look like TXP by underexposing it two stops, shot at 1600. Then you process in something like Xtol 1+1 to regain as much shadow detail as possible, adding about 40% to your normal developing time. This gives you a longer toe, 90% of the shadow detail is still there but is on the toe with less separation (just like TXP), and you bend a slight shoulder for slightly compressed highlights (just like TXP).
Technique is everything.
"Make good art!"
- Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera".
- Yousuf Karsh
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit".
Shoot wit the film you are used to, for me I use PanF+, FP4+ and HP5+, but one think that I ALWAYS use when it portrait is a yellow filter. Using this filter will fix skin blemishes, and create smooth soft skin tones. It will also effect blue (darken it a bit) and if someone is blond the hair will be given more intensity.
My setup is 95% of the time 120 camera (Hasselblad), 100mm Planar lens, distance ring, yellow filter
I would look on flickr and have her&family look on flickr to see what the style options are and do the composition your own way in your own surroundings. I would think for B&W you might like something with a non-distracting background to show off the belly shape. Like narrow depth of field with smooth non-distracting bokeh and complimenting tone. If she's showing skin you might want a darker background and use light to make the shape look nice. If she's wearing a dark tight shirt to highlight the shape, perhaps a brighter background.
Acros 100 is pretty creamy looking what little I have used of it in 120 format. I haven't learned the film enough to like it or recommend it in a particular combination. I don't have a good technique for this film.
I get creaminess from lens choice mostly (voigtlander 40sl2 or nikkor 105/2 dc in 35mm, tessar or other "inferior" lenses in MF/LF.)
Tmax400 in Xtol 1+1 is going to be not-gritty when properly exposed and developed. If you are not familiar with it, you could bracket. Too thin will make beautiful scans but poor prints, a little thin will make nice prints with a grade 3 filter.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
Some folks seem to be missing the point you made about shooting indoors, natural light, with a 2 year old, as well as the expecting mom. Even 1/60th is too slow for some toddlers. You'll need to use high speed film so you won't have a blurry toddler in every shot. I've used TMAX 3200 and Delta 3200. Currently I use the Ilford because it's cheaper and more available here. In 120 you won't find the grain excessive, unless you develop in Rodinal. If you look at the pregnancy shots in my gallery, they're almost all on one of these 2 films (except LF ones). Have you got acess to a darkroom to print them yourself?
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. In the end I went with HP5+ because it really was the only 400 speed film I could get my hands on (and of course, I'm very familiar with it). Unfortunately the toddler was uncooperative throughout the shoot, so it ended up being primarily the mother. We had nice light in the afternoon and I hope the photos turn out (I'll develop them this week). Unfortunately I don't have a darkroom, or access to one, so I won't be able to print them for a while.
The thing I found most interesting was how much direction my friends needed (the husband was involved briefly until he had to take care of the kid). Even though they wanted pictures, they really had no ideas of what they really wanted in terms of poses. Just another skill I'll need to work on if I decide to keep on with portraits...
My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. D. Arbus
Ah yes... the unco-operative toddler ("NO!!"). I often find the parents are anxious about how the youngster will act, or maybe have expectations of a particular kind of image in mind ("Please, Missy, leave the ribbons in your hair!!"). The more anxious they are to get the kid into the photos (with the ribbons!) the less co-operative the child becomes. I've found that telling parents that 2 sessions are possible (if the child is having one-of-those-days), at no extra cost, takes alot of pressure off. They relax and enjoy the session more. Either the child relaxes too, and becomes more involved; or they come back a week later and Mr. "NO!!!" is now Mr. Sunshine. Two short sessions can get alot more useful images then one that drags out with everyone getting more miserable.
I find most people haven't got specific ideas about poses. I'd rather deal with that than someone who wants me to make them look like Demi Moore!
Hope you and they are happy with the results.