Ilford FP4 125 - What am I doing wrong? Why are my prints consitantly bad?
What do I keep doing wrong?
Ilford FP4 125 - I used it once back in 2008 using my (then) Nikon F80 and it's built-in on-camera flash - I shot two rolls of it. The result were very flat with very few shades of anything near black - they were just washed out looking grey prints. I figured it was most likely me and my built in flash and lack of understanding about B&W film.
The rolls I had left from then have been in my fridge ever since (though still within their use by date, just), unused, as I've been too scared to use it since, despite learning lots since. Still, I had a need the other day and I know my photographic style and kit has improved since then too so I gave it a second try during a day out with friends. So, this time, I shot another roll of it using my Nikon F5 and SB-800 speedlight.
I was using aperture priority and centre-weighted metering with 75% metering concentrated within the circular area of the viewfinder which was always placed around the chest of the subjects. No compensation was used - it was outdoors and sunny with variable shades. Based on questions I've asked previously, I always tend to rate my films at less than their box speeds - typically 50% less, so if it's ISO100 I'll rate at EI50, or thereabouts. With this 125 film, I rated it at EI80 to try and ensure I got a denser negative than previously. My SB-800 was set at -1 power using TTL mode (not TTL-BL as I was only interested in the face or main subject) and the flash mode was SLOW+REAR so it just acted as fill in flash.
Sent the film off to the lab and back came my prints looking fairly poor again! Nothing like the results I've had with Acros & Neopan.
What on Earth am I doing wrong? Everything you read about this film tells me it's the best thing ever, yet I just fail with it every time - I don't have the same problems with Fuji Acros, Neopan, or any of the Fuji brands. Why does this Ilford FP4 125 keep taking my legs away?! It must be something I am doing wrong.
Picture here :
"Sent the film off to the lab and..." <---------- That's your problem right there.
You can't count on a lab to 1) develop conventional b&w film correctly or 2) print b&w negs decently. It looks like your negatives may be good--at least they have plenty of shadow detail, so a good printer could probably produce *much* nicer prints.
Could it be the lab? I don't know about labs in your area, but here in the US it is hard to find a lab that does good B&W work.
It looks a bit over exposed to me. Try it at box speed first before making any light-meter adjustments or run a test to establish the optimum ISO rating for your camera.
Originally Posted by ted_smith
First off I donīt think your prints look bad at all, great graytones but sure an overall low contrast. But when you send it of to a lab it is hard to say where in the process it has gone "wrong". If you rate your film at half the iso speed and just send the film off the guys at the lab probably process it at itīs normal speed. Further on when they actually do the prints its up to the machine to interpret your negs and do something with them, that is mostly a lottery game unless the lab is truly professional and do every print by hand and you can tell them how you want your prints. I donīt think that is the case as it is very rare (and expensive).
As a comparison, I have the past years sent a few rolls of Kodaks BW400CN to labs and have always been extremely disappointed in the results. This has always been because the lab has done a crappy job and their machines could not handle the negs in a proper way.
Obviously the best thing to would be to develop and print yourself but I imagine that you donīt want/can do it so Iīll leave that. The first thing I would try is to shoot the film at itīs standard speed. But unless you can talk to the labīs staff and ask them to make the prints with more contrast or to develop the film longer (more contrast in the negs) its probably not much that can be done from your part. I donīt think you are doing anything wrong when you shoot, the problem lies in development and printing I suspect.
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It is impossible for us on a forum to tell what is "wrong" (if, indeed, anything is wrong) from these scans. I can tell you that I (as well as many, many others) could likely take those negatives and print them at several different contrast grades and/or light to dark ranges.
According to your account, the variable here is the FP4, as opposed to other films. Films are different. FP4 is a good film, but if your lab does not do a good job on it, and likewise does do a good job with the Fuji films, then use the Fuji films. I know you don't want to "waste" the film, but would you rather waste the shots and the processing costs?
I also agree with using box speed. Box speed in a camera such as you describe, with anything near normal development, should give a printable negative.
Many labs use colour paper to print B&W nowadays, it's cheaper to use with their C-41 minilab. I can't tell by the scans you posted, but maybe it's a good idea to make sure these are true black and white paper.
I had similar difficulties, gave up on the lab. They can fould up a ball bearing, not to mention scratching film etc. I would suggest you first develop it yourself, not a too big problem, with daylight tanks. Once you know how to get good negatives, then take it to the lab to print, and if they don't give good results, either make em do it over or switch labs. There are some pro labs like Dalmation that are good, don't know the $$.
Second possibility- develop the film yourself, get a cheap scanner or have it scanned on a flatbed, then print digitally.
B/w is fun but it requires a long learning curve, IMHO.:
They look like cheap lab 35mm prints to me, and that's a bit hit and miss depending on where you use, I've seen & had far worse before I began processing my own.
Having printed commercially for many years including doing all the B&W work for a large pro lab for a while it would be all to easy to take an easy option and print flatter, makes printing faster and less wastage but degrades the quality. However we always went for quality first and taht does cost a little more.
You get what you pay for, FP4 has long been one of the best films around so it's not the film at fault.
Last edited by Ian Grant; 05-11-2011 at 05:30 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Based on questions I've asked previously, I always tend to rate my films at less than their box speeds - typically 50% less, so if it's ISO100 I'll rate at EI50, or thereabouts. With this 125 film, I rated it at EI80 to try and ensure I got a denser negative than previously. My SB-800 was set at -1 power using TTL mode (not TTL-BL as I was only interested in the face or main subject) and the flash mode was SLOW+REAR so it just acted as fill in flash.
Seems to me you rated it at MORE than box speed. If you wanted denser negatives you should have rated it at 64. Also, flash used on camera fills in the shadows and makes for a flatter negative.