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  1. #1

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    Black and White film with tones more silver than grey.

    I was recently wondering why older black and white films tend to have a more silver tone than grey, this was mostly due to watching 8 ½ (cine film I know, but aren’t they essentially the same? if not at the very least manufactured by the same companies - 8 ½ was shot on Kodak film) and looking at pictures of stars from the silent movie era.

    Is there a difference in the way modern film is made? Has the desire for a “truer” tonality meant that greys are more realistic than they were, or were the old plate techniques just inherently different because of said technique?

    So anyway, while I’m a huge fan of modern black and white films, I do really miss that silver tone... maybe it’s because the world is grey enough as it is or an inherited nostalgia, either way, I was hoping to find some modern film that has the same characteristics as these older films.

    I never shot any real super professional film or fine art film, mostly just the regular commercial type, so maybe the answer is there.

    Does anyone know of a modern film that has a silver tone?

    The answer may lie in the development process or possibly even the makeup techniques of the time rather than the film, so if anyone knows – now is the time to speak up.

    Thanks
    Dafydd

  2. #2
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Not sure what you mean by "silver" tone. Do you mean diffused highlights, perhaps? Or less midtone and more contrast... (brighter highlights)? Please see if you can describe the silvery look, and then maybe someone can tell you how to get it.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by keithwms View Post
    Not sure what you mean by "silver" tone. Do you mean diffused highlights, perhaps? Or less midtone and more contrast... (brighter highlights)? Please see if you can describe the silvery look, and then maybe someone can tell you how to get it.
    I'm not sure I can describe it any further than - the greys look silver rather than grey.
    these are the pictures I was looking at http://www.guardian.co.uk/fashion/fa...rs-in-pictures and I guess anyone that has seen 8 1/2 would understand what I mean.

    By all account he used a high contrast film for some of the film, but that would have stronger blacks & whites and, therefore less "greys" to be even silver

  4. #4

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    "Silver" is not the word you are looking for. What you mean is that they have more greys between black and white, and much less pure black and white. That's easy to do these days, but photographers often appear to be more fascinated with empty black shadows and lack of tonal scale in their photos, and pushing film, which doesn't really do anything but make more empty dark areas, and a generally darker tonality. Go to some exhibits, and you'll see that the game sometimes appears to be "how dark can I make everything, and still see most of the picture" rather than an imitation of real life. It can be quite striking, but it's just a style of printing, not something imposed by the materials.

  5. #5
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Craftsmanship and skill.
    Lenses with less contrast (open shadows and softer highlights), and subsequently film developed to higher contrast index to suit the paper materials of the day.
    (Today's modern multicoated lenses tend to have a lot more contrast than the old ones).

    What makes you think you cannot achieve similar results with modern film?
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    "Silver" is not the word you are looking for. What you mean is that [...]
    are you sure that's what I mean?
    because more grey surely wouldn't result in a more silver tone but just more grey... but I'll take your word for it and try to reduce the contrast on some shots I have (using photoshulopmommmm) and see what happens

    thanks

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Craftsmanship and skill.
    Lenses with less contrast (open shadows and softer highlights), and subsequently film developed to higher contrast index to suit the paper materials of the day.
    (Today's modern multicoated lenses tend to have a lot more contrast than the old ones).

    What makes you think you cannot achieve similar results with modern film?
    nothing, nothing at all - it's just that I haven't seen it on what I definitely know is modern film. I generally see more accurate greys, but please, if you know how; let me know.

    thanks

  8. #8
    CPorter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himself View Post
    Does anyone know of a modern film that has a silver tone?
    IMO, I don't believe this has to do with any property of the film. Not all those images that I saw on the link appear to have any special silvery tone to them. IMO, it is a matter of subject values relative to development and the printing along with paper developers.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by CPorter View Post
    IMO, Not all those images that I saw on the link appear to have any special silvery tone to them.
    but some of them do right, I'm not just seeing things?
    have you seen it on any contemporary shots, or have any idea what the process may be?

  10. #10
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    It is almost certain that most of these photographs were taken with orthochromatic film. Probably with less of an anti-halation layer than with modern films. Those factors, in addition to the properties of the older lenses, are probably necessary to duplicate the 'look'. I'm getting it with handmade ortho film, but I'd be comfortable betting that one of the ortho films commercially manufactured, together with an older lens, might get you close. It's a really lovely look.

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