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02-11-2014, 07:57 PM   #1
cali92rs's Avatar

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B&W film for People

So I just got a FA 43mm Ltd and im dying to use it with my SLR. What B&W film do you recommend for people shots? Any filters?

02-11-2014, 08:09 PM   #2
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none, and anything with c41 on the box.
02-11-2014, 08:16 PM   #3
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Full Frame Film?

Hello cali92rs,
I like Ilford Delta 100 and 400, also Ilford FP-4 125 for a slightly different look. Kodak Plus X (125) is good, too, if you like a softer, somewhat grainy effect.
I used to try a Y2 or YG filter back in the day, for better skin tones in B+W. But now that my negs are scanned to disk, I just use the filters in PP (Lightroom 4), it seems to work just as well.
TMaxx 100 or 400 are good as well, but have a slightly 'hard' or smooth finish for faces. It seems to work better with scenic or objects, or very fine detail shots. JMO.
02-11-2014, 08:37 PM   #4
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Tri-X pushed for classic good looks and grain.... TMAX if you want it to be very sharp and detailed with very little grain.

02-11-2014, 10:40 PM   #5

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Perhaps go visit the film threads here on PF and check out some pictures.

T-Max, Ilford Delta and Fuji Acros are the newer tabular grain films and most the others are classical cubic grain films. Cubic and Tabular grain films can have a different look.
02-12-2014, 12:05 AM   #6
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tmax or ilord.. no question
02-12-2014, 12:18 AM   #7
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The reality is that a lot of films will work well. Good portraits are all about the mood and the lighting, as well as a lens that is not too sharp.

I have been successful with TMX100, Ilford FP4+ and Arista EDU 400 to name a few.
02-12-2014, 01:44 AM   #8
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FP4+ for low ISO (125) or Tri-X or T-Max for high ISO (400+).

Learn to develop them yourself - it's fun and after you've developed around 8 rolls you'll break even on what you've spent on the gear to do it.

Avoid the C41 ones because they're not proper B&W films.

02-12-2014, 10:15 AM   #9
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As you get your feel for what you like, you might want to try Rollei Retro 80s. It can be expensive and a little picky to develop, but its spectral sensitivity is biased towards the red end. As a result, it is highly suitable for nudes, male portraiture, and landscapes*. Excellent fine grain and tonality too.


* Increased red sensitivity tends to lighten lips and skin blemishes and even out skin tones on Caucasians. For landscape, skies go deep and atmospheric haze is minimized.

Last edited by stevebrot; 02-12-2014 at 10:22 AM.
02-15-2014, 07:58 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
As you get your feel for what you like, you might want to try Rollei Retro 80s. It can be expensive and a little picky to develop, but its spectral sensitivity is biased towards the red end. As a result, it is highly suitable for nudes, male portraiture, and landscapes*. Excellent fine grain and tonality too.
You say expensive but on this side of the water, its cheaper than Kodak, Ilford and Fuji.

I've been using Retro 100 (and APX) for ages but I've just ordered some 80S. What are you using to develop it and what speed are you shooting it at? I almost bought some 400S but a lot of people seem to have problems developing that.
02-15-2014, 10:49 AM   #11
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If you decide to use filters, specifically red, orange, yellow, green and blue filters, then here's a few tips:
The most important thing to know about these filters with B&W film is that they will darken their own color and lighten the opposite colors. So if you want to make acne go away, then use a red filter.
The red filter will lighten the redness caused by acne, eczema and the like. Just remember that it may also turn your subject pale too. The red filter will darken anything that is blue.

Using a green will darken red which can give your subject a "tanned" or healthier look. Just remember it will lighten green and darken reds, so any freckles or skin problems will be accentuated and darkened.

Orange does mainly the same thing as a red filter, as you'd expect, just not as strong of an effect.

Yellow filter will give a normal contrast look.

Blue filter will brighten anything that is blue, and will darken anything that is red or orange.

Kodak Tmax - Great film with very little grain. The Tmax 400 has the least amount of grain of any 400 ISO film.
Kodak Tri-X - Shoot it at 320 ISO. Old-school film with beautiful tones. But it can be very grainy if over agitated in the developing process. Highly recommend to develop it yourself.

Illford HP5 - Great all round 400 ISO film. Great latitude, so it does well with scenes that have very broad brightness levels. Not as grainy as Tri-X, but grainier than Tmax. This film pushes very well to 800, 1600, and in a pinch, to 3200 ISO.
Illford FP4 - Fairly close to HP5, just at 125 ISO.
Illford Delta - Much less grain than HP5 or HP4. It also has a narrower latitude, so it's best for overcast days, controlled studio situations. It's not too good for bright sunny days. For those, use HP4 or Tmax.

Illford XP2 - A B&W film that is developed just like color film. I'd use it only if I needed the film back fast, like yesterday. Otherwise, stick with traditional B&W films.

One tip: Don't go out and buy a bunch of different types at one time. Choose one and shoot it under all lighting conditions. You'll end up training your eye to understand the characteristics of the film so when you do decide to try something else, the differences will be more obvious. Then you'll have a better understanding on WHY and WHEN to use any of these films.

Good luck and don't be afraid of developing the film yourself if you haven't done it before.
02-15-2014, 11:55 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Filters do matter. With B&W film you aren't going to be adjusting colour channels later to get the complexion right.

As Ansel Adams says about photographing men - "The use of a greenish filter (#11 or #13) will tend to give more vigorous flesh tones, most noticeable in the lips and ruddy or sunburned skin".
Women don't need more vigorous skin tones, usually less, which calls for a yellow, orange, or red filter, depending on how the sitter prefers to look. Too far red and they will look featureless and pallid.
02-15-2014, 12:39 PM   #13
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Awesome advice all

I think I will start developing my own negatives. I just got a roll of 36 back the other day. That and 3x5 prints were $20+ Yikes
02-15-2014, 12:44 PM   #14
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FP4 and HP5 for slow and fast. Yellow for flash photos of women, Orange for outdoor shady photos of women, same for some men, green for 'manly' men.

In my experience, non-tabular films give nicer skin tones than TMax/Delta. Yellow and orange help to hide blemishes and smooth out skin tones. Green filters seem to accentuate blemishes, sunburn, stubble, etc. Green filters can work well for freckles, but can bring out other 'bad' things. Red can pretty much hide freckles. Polarizers can help get rid of glare on people's glasses, too, but would be difficult with flash-- so hot lights or outdoors for that.
02-15-2014, 01:14 PM   #15

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You can get yellow-green portrait filters (but not common). Pentax made a YG bayonet filter for their 6x7 line of cameras years ago ( and I have one). Good for both men and women. It darks reds just enough without being too gothic black ( which a green can do on some reds) and yet still good for skin.

Here is an example of the Pentax YG filter in action and how it renders the tone of red.

YG Filter, 400TMY


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