Want the slick Ilford look without the hard to find and sometimes expensive B&W processing? Look no further than the wondrous Ilford XP2.
Ilford XP2 Super 400 is perhaps my favourite film of all time. It’s one of only a small bunch of B&W films that offer the high-end sharpness and low grain look of dedicated professional B&W films made for C41 (regular colour film) processing, meaning you can take it to virtually any minilab and they won’t bat an eyelid about processing it, and it’s readily available almost anywhere.
Since discovering Ilford XP2 Super I’ve rarely strayed from it, in fact I tend to only use my other film when I’ve run out of XP2! I buy up stock of it, new and expired when ever I see it cheaply. I find that the B&W is an excellent medium for capturing memories, it feels like a moment in time has been held still, yet it seems almost otherworldly, I guess the heavy use of B&W in movies to convey past moments in a narrative is what has influenced me to think like this.
But it’s not just that, as well as it’s mind boggling sharpness and ease of processing is that XP2 is incredibly forgiving to over and under exposure. In fact it will handle being exposed around 4 stops (Ilford say anywhere in the 200-1600 range) each way of an ideal exposure. As it’s a 400iso film it you can push or pull the film to suit almost any scenario, and it’s definitely worth using this aspect to full effect! If you want a high contrast look, shoot it a couple stops under and when it’s processed it’s forgiving enough to give you jaw dropping texture and film noir-esque moody-ness, or over expose it a few stops for high contrast classic B&W stylings.
So basically you’re more or less guaranteed to have a full roll of photos with pleasing exposure every time, I’d even go as far as to say just load it in a go with the flow, don’t worry about the details, you’ll be rewarded for your care free snapping. Sounds like a Lomographer’s dream right?
Put on a red or orange filter (or get creative and use a piece of unexposed film or a sweet wrapper!) and the contrast is boosted, making blue skies dark and clouds menacing. I personally always use a red filter for my B&W shots as I prefer the higher contrast effect.
With XP2 being a colour film, you can scan it in colour and pickup a subtle colouring effect that can vary depending on the processing, from green hues to vintage sepia brown, cold and hard blues, the possibilities, although never promised are endless!