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  1. #1

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    Converting Color vs. BW film

    If one were to shoot color negative film, and do a high quality scan into photoshop, could a BW conversion and digital darkroom manipulation come close to shooting BW film in the first place ?

    Thanks for any replys--

    marc (new Bessa R3a/leica m7 owner)

    Marc Laxineta, D.V.M.
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  2. #2
    bobfowler's Avatar
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    Not unless your computer uses Rodinal...
    Bob Fowler
    fowler@verizon.net
    Some people are like Slinkies. They're really good for nothing, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.

  3. #3
    Lee L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robovet
    If one were to shoot color negative film, and do a high quality scan into photoshop, could a BW conversion and digital darkroom manipulation come close to shooting BW film in the first place ?
    Marc,

    In some areas it can be somewhat equivalent, such as conversion to monochrome through use of digital "filters" to simulate having used glass colored filters at the time of exposure. You obviously can't closely simulate special spectral response films like B&W infra-red from standard color film. You might be able to simulate certain film/developer combinations in terms of contrast and tonality, but I expect that would be a lot of work, especially given that there is probably not a pair of color/B&W films with exactly matched spectral response curves. Two areas where I think you'd be unable to convincingly emulate real B&W film and processing would be grain characteristics, since you're working with dye clouds instead of silver grains, and unless you have a lab that's willing to push/pull C41 film for you, you won't have the contrast controls available through developing your own B&W. The form of your final output will probably also partially determine whether you'd be happy with scanned color as a B&W substitute. There are a lot of people who have gone to shooting color only, and convert to B&W to have the extra control over tonality through conversion from color through digital "filters". It's up to you whether the results fit your needs.

    I do scan both B&W and color films, and have converted a number of color photos to B&W, but I don't use Photoshop (I use Picture Window and The GIMP), so I could easily be unaware of some special plug-ins that attempt things like grain simulation or overlaying spectral sensitivity curves.

    In short, yes, you can do good B&W from scanned color. Whether or not it comes close to what any given person wants from their B&W in the first place is a matter of personal taste and preference. I love the look of slow 35mm films in Rodinal at high dilutions. I don't know how to get that look (a combination of acutance, grain, and tonal scale) digitally from scanned C41 dye clouds. Perhaps someone else does. I'd suggest shooting and comparing the results to see what works for you. I do both depending on what result I want.

    I really like my R3A. Hope you're enjoying yours as much as I am mine.

    Lee

    (bob fowler came in and posted the Rodinal comment while I was typing. He's more succinct than I.)

  4. #4

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    Lee,

    Thank you for your enlightening reply. I just don't have the time to add wet darkroom skills to my lifestyle. I will find a good custom lab and make a comparison as you suggest. I like the feel of the Leica however the R3a produces great images.

    Thanks again,

    marc

    Marc Laxineta, D.V.M.
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  5. #5
    Andy K's Avatar
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    Marc. Welcome to APUG.

    It is well worth learning to develop your own bw film.

    A few months ago, after joining APUG, I decided to take the plunge into developing. One trip to Jessops for a film developing guide pamphlet, a bottle of Rodinal, a bottle of stop bath and a bottle of fixer, a trip to the hardware store for three plastic measuring jugs, and a winning bid on Ebay for a paterson tank, film tongue extractor, thermometer, changing bag and squeegee, then a visit to the chemist for a small (needless) syringe, scissors from the kitchen drawer and a cheap stopwatch and I was set. I also plan to set up an enlarger as soon as possible, not by building a darkroom but by using it at night in my bathroom (it has only one window and will be easy to totally black out). But for now I have to make do with negative scans.

    It takes, on average, half an hour to develop a roll of film at the kitchen sink. Then another hour to two hours for the film to hang and dry during which you can do whatever else you wish to do.

    I have been photographing for over thirty years and I thought I enjoyed photography. Now I develop my own film that enjoyment is magnified a thousand fold. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing those developed negs as you remove them from the spiral! I now feel I have a much greater understanding of photography than I had when I let a lab do my processing.

    Andy.

    As an aside, if you are a heavy Photoshop user, please be aware that in APUG's galleries negative scans are pretty much the upper limit of tolerance for digitally manipulated images. The preference is for scanned wet processed prints.


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  6. #6
    eagleowl's Avatar
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    You can also do a bw wet print from a colour neg.
    I've done 3 as a trial,and it works better than you think-pity I forgot to dust the negs first!
    Last edited by eagleowl; 01-05-2005 at 06:58 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: spelling correction
    A common mistake people made when designing something completely foolproof was to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

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  7. #7
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    It really isn't hard to process your own B&W film, and all you need is a changing bag, daylight tank, a few bottles for chemicals, measuring graduate, and a thermometer to get started. Do you process your own X-rays in your practice? It's not that different, and you probably have some of the necessary supplies on hand, if you do!

    While I've seen good results from digital color converted to B&W by using channel mixer in PS, and some film plugins that apply spectral sensitivity and density curves from traditional films to color images, they are never quite the same in texture or tonality as images produced on real film. If your goal is to produce digital prints with a B&W film look, and you're shooting film anyway, then it's easiest to start with B&W film (like they do in the movie industry, even though most film nowadays goes through many levels of digital manipulation, duping, etc. before reaching the final print).
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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  8. #8
    Helen B's Avatar
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    'If your goal is to produce digital prints with a B&W film look, and you're shooting film anyway, then it's easiest to start with B&W film (like they do in the movie industry, ...'

    Unless they/we start with colour neg and print it onto B&W without a digital intermediate. The Coens' "The Man Who Wasn't There" is a well-known example of a B&W movie shot on colour neg, with the conversion being done non-digitally. It looks quite good*.

    Later comment: I don't mean this to be a contradiction of what David says as a general rule, just a note to say that colour to B&W can produce good results, and we do it in the movies ('industry' or not).

    Best,
    Helen

    *I'm English, so 'quite good' may require translation.
    Last edited by Helen B; 01-05-2005 at 08:08 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  9. #9
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Fair enough!
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  10. #10
    titrisol's Avatar
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    photoshop can produce similar results to BW film for certain purposes....
    You can even add graininess to a photo. There's a couple of tutorials in gimpguru.org about that.

    While the main purpose of APUG is AnalogPhotography as a whole, you are shooting color film, and then trying to digitally convert it into BW. So does it become a digital photo?
    Or just another expression of an analog picture?
    Mama took my APX away.....

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