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07-13-2012, 07:06 PM   #1
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Tricks for B&W contrast?

I have a bad habit of thinking in color a lot of the time, and certain shots don't come out right because what would have been distinct objects in color kinda turn into a mush of grey in B&W. I think I've noticed that to err on the side of underexposure is good for contrast, and you have to have decent light in the first place, but what sorts of things help make clear contrasty pictures and what things hurt it? I'm sticking with just the taking of the pic for this one since if we get into special development and paper types we will be here all day.

07-13-2012, 07:31 PM   #2
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Here is how you manage contrast with B&W film:
  • Choose the film to match the your needs. Different films have different spectral sensitivities and different inherent contrast characteristics.
  • Development techniques (does not apply tochromogenic (C41) films)
  • Color filters! Yellow will brighten foliage and darken skies. Blue will have the opposite effect.
  • Post-processing. Whether through wet darkroom printing technique or by curve manipulation for scanned images, there is much that can be done with even a marginal negative.
A ton of stuff to learn? Yep, but that is half the fun!


Steve
07-14-2012, 01:37 AM   #3
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Basicly all that steve said.
Ilfort Delta 100 en 400 are contrasty, you could start there. or if you really want contrast, the Ilford PAN F+ film is good (just do not over expose this film, or your contrast will go overboard)
Overexposing also boosts the contrast, overexpsoe by 1/3 or 1/2 stops, and there is a big (or small depending on type of film) leap in contrast.
If you develop yourself, add 5-10% to your developing time (all depends on developer and film used)
07-14-2012, 09:44 AM   #4
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That was the last of my Kodak C41 B&W, now I was actually planning on ordering the Ilford delta 400 ironically. I'll have to get some filters too but I have so damn many different lenses. Bother. Its odd that you say overexposing for contrast, I was seeing the opposite, everything started to white out it seemed if I overexposed much at all. Too far underexposing just blacked out everything. I think I'm seeing problems from scanning though and assuming its in the negative, I have about 14 shades of B&W pictures from the same roll on my Target CD here, some are sepia and some are near purple. Those people need to learn how to scan better.

07-14-2012, 10:23 AM   #5
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Try using filters,a a yellow, orange or red will help.

Also the combination of exposure/development will determine your contrast.
There is a myth that film A or Z is over-contrasty, I have found that ANY film can be soft or contrasty depending on how you expose/develop it.
Development with a more agitation will tend to give more contrast with less time, slowing agitation down or increasing the dilution of developer allows for a less contrasty results.
07-14-2012, 10:24 AM   #6
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With film and wet darkroom an underexposed neg with higher contrast papers is good for priting an image down. Any image can be made contrasty though. I just favor chiaroscuro style.
07-14-2012, 02:14 PM   #7
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Yellow-green sometimes a/k/a light green is my favorite all-purpose filter for black and white.
It darkens skies (vs. clouds), lightens foliage and renders more pleasing skin tones.
I have this filter in every size to fit all my lenses. I seldom shoot black and white without one.

Chris
07-15-2012, 01:08 PM   #8
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To expand some on what Chris said, there is a school of thought that most panchromatic b&w films benefit from some flavor of yellow filter. I generally use a straight yellow (K2, Y2, Wratten #8) for general shooting and a Wratten #12 (minus blue) for landscape work here in the Pacific Northwest.


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07-15-2012, 01:43 PM   #9
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I really think you need to play around a bit first. When I first starting working with black and white I was shooting a lot of Delta 100 and T-Max films and I read that a yellow filter was a great addition. Unfortunately I didn't see much difference between the yellow and no filter. So I went to a darker filter and starting using an Orange and a Red 25. This did help.

Then I started working with some of the "older" emulsions, Efke 25 and Pan F Plus, and the red and orange filter were WAYY to much. So I tried the yellow and, son of a gun, they were right, it worked really well.

I have found this to be true of all my filter work. If I spend some time working with them and seeing how each filter works for the type of photography I'm doing, and the film I am working with, I learn what works, what doesn't and what effect I am going to get.

I still read these posts to get ideas (like using a UV filter with Kodak Ektar), but I do some experimenting before I decide whether it is a good idea for me. Sometimes you can get great ideas off the internet, or sometimes you find that it seems to work better for others, but it isn't quite as universal as they would have you believe. You have to pick and choose, and then try before you take it as gospel.
07-16-2012, 04:54 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
That was the last of my Kodak C41 B&W, now I was actually planning on ordering the Ilford delta 400 ironically. I'll have to get some filters too but I have so damn many different lenses. Bother. Its odd that you say overexposing for contrast, I was seeing the opposite, everything started to white out it seemed if I overexposed much at all. Too far underexposing just blacked out everything. I think I'm seeing problems from scanning though and assuming its in the negative, I have about 14 shades of B&W pictures from the same roll on my Target CD here, some are sepia and some are near purple. Those people need to learn how to scan better.
The C41 BW films have a tendency for having lower or medium contrast, that's just part of the chromogenic technology. If you underexpose to increase contrast, this is meant to be compensated by increased agitation and time in the developer. Both factors (more agitation and longer developing time) will increase contrast of the neg (in addition to increase density).

But in general: If you are going to scan the negs, I would try to have flat to medium (at max) negs. Increasing contrast at the PP stage is always much easier, than bringing excessive contrast down. Also, many scanners are simply not able to scan high contrast negs with good results.

Ben
07-16-2012, 02:53 PM   #11
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You do not need to buy a filter for each lens size. I have had 49mm filters for decades and the next size I have lots of is 77mm. This due mainly to having a 210mm lens for my 4X5. For a while I had lenses that took 40.5, 49 and 77 in large format and used one filter and step up rings. Decide on the largest lens you need to filter and check the prices and work from there. Red or red orange, yellow and green are the three filters I like to have in the tool kit.

Film stock and developer plus developing style also affect contrast.
07-16-2012, 04:58 PM   #12
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A polarizer also works very well with b&w film.

Phil.
07-19-2012, 11:59 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
I have a bad habit of thinking in color a lot of the time, and certain shots don't come out right because what would have been distinct objects in color kinda turn into a mush of grey in B&W. I think I've noticed that to err on the side of underexposure is good for contrast, and you have to have decent light in the first place, but what sorts of things help make clear contrasty pictures and what things hurt it? I'm sticking with just the taking of the pic for this one since if we get into special development and paper types we will be here all day.
+1 to what has already been mentioned.

Looking at light in a different way is a good start. Also, learning how color translates into shades of grey goes a long way to the making of better b&w photos. Instead of color contrasts, you need to concentrate on brightness and distance. With a bit of practice this will become easier.

A good way to speed-learn is to take a variety of your color digital photos and convert these to b&w. This gives you a quick view into how b&w film may see a particular scene. You can also test the effect of color filters this way. The main problem is that your favorite b&w conversion method may or may not be close to how film does it.

Though you don't want to get into it, often the scan and post processing (in digital) and paper contrast (in wet darkroom) together with some dodging and burning is important to the final result.
07-19-2012, 07:29 PM   #14
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At this point the only reason I don't want to get into the darkroom end of contrast is because the last time I used a darkroom was in high school so I have just this side of no idea what I'm doing to start with and it would be too much at once. I figure if I can avoid screwing the negatives up in the mean time that will be a good start and I can sort the rest as I get there.
I have a rather expensive order all saved on B&H for pretty much all the chemical and darkroom supplies and a bunch of B&W film, just have to get the cash (things keep happening). But I have most everything tools wise including my Beseler 23C II all of which I bought from someone getting out of darkroom stuff for $50.
I am positively chomping at the bit to get some of the stuff I have printed since I need to see how much Target screwed the scanning up (brightness and tones are all over the place) to figure out what I was doing right and wrong, plus I just have a few (recently posted to B&W pics thread), that I really just wanna see in a huge print since with photography the size of the print really truly makes a huge difference in how good it looks and the effect it has. As with many other things, bigger is better.
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