Monochrome Madness: My Top Tips

2012-05-16 3

If you have ever read any of my other articles you will know I love and shoot only black and white film (well nearly), and if you haven’t read any of my other articles well you now know. In this Tipster, I will try and share my knowledge of shooting black and white film.

The summary pretty much summed it up. But like I do in all my articles, I will ramble for a while. If you want to skip to the actual tips, scroll down the page. Anyway, as I said, I only shoot black and white film unless I get some color films for really cheap. The reason for this is quite simple. I feel that if you use color film, there’s a tendency to look for strong colors rather than a good image. Don’t get me wrong, there are some images that I could only dream of taking in color, it’s just that I think using black and white make you think more and it can separate an average photograph from a great one. Enough of this, on to the tips!

Get the right equipment.
I think using a camera your are comfortable with is very important, and can massively influence how and what you take photos of. Also, using a lens that will give nice tones and shades is important, my camera of choice is a Kiev 4 (for 35mm) with Jupiter 8,11 and 12 lenses, and for 120 I use a Lubitel 2, also I also take a light meter everywhere I go, and at least a couple of rolls of film.

Find a film and stick to it.
Like using equipment you’re comfortable with, using a film you’re comfortable with is massively important. I’d recommend you find one film that you like and stick to it. The film for me is Lucky SHD 100 (read my review). The more you use a film, the better you become with it and learn its strengths and weaknesses. That’s not to say you don’t use other films, but have one as your primary film that you can rely on. When you’ve found your film experiment with it, shoot it at a different ISOs and develop it in different chemicals for different times, which brings me nicely onto…

Develop your own film.
Getting black and white film developed can be a pain, I know through experience. Pick yourself up a tank, a developer (I use rodinal and will hopefully be reviewing it soon), some fixer and a scanner. It will save you loads in the long run. Plus, it’s great fun! Developing your own film also links to the tip above, I know Lucky SHD 100 like the back of my hand and have created many of my own developing times, and know how to develop it to obtain the result I’m after.

Try using weird developers, such as cafenol, a home made developer primarily made with coffee if done right gives great results, almost sepia like. Another way of experimenting is by using expired film, it will usually give increased grain which for some is a great effect. Also the use of different filters can give you different results.

Those are my general tips. Now, I will give you some tips on actually shooting your film.

Look for interesting subjects.
Now this is the main reason I use black and white. Your images actually have to be interesting due to the fact that there’s no color involved. Look for images that will make the viewer think. Try to capture the moment!

Look for contrast.
When I’ve decided on my subject, I will try to capture it on a background with high contrast so the subject will pop out of the photo.

Look for the light.
Light areas and shadowed areas are much more pronounced and this can be used to great effect, and can really capture the emotion of the photograph. For example, lots of dark shades gives images a moodier look to them.

Shoot the unexpected.
This is probably the tip I follow the most. I try to capture images that would look good in colour, but then get them in black and white. I recently went to a fair which was full of colours and lights, but I used a roll of Ilford HP5+ and well, I’m very happy with the results. The reason I do this is so that the viewer of the image can fill in the colours themselves.

Have fun!
This is the most important tip, and the simplest, too! Just have fun! There’s no point in doing something if you’re not going to enjoy it. If you wouldn’t have fun following my other tips, don’t follow them. Just enjoy yourself and keep shooting in black and white.

Here are some of my black and white images:

Films used are: Lucky SHD 100, Ilford SFX and Fuji Neopan 1600.

Thanks for reading this tipster :)

written by brandkow93 on 2012-05-16 #gear #tutorials #film #black-and-white #developing #monochrome #kiev #lubitel #street-photography #tipster


  1. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    agree --> "Find a film and stick to it"

  2. imakoala
    imakoala ·

    Very useful tips, though i do have one question...
    I prefer the "blacks" in black and white photos to look more "blue/green" as opposed to "brown/red"...
    is this something that varies by film, or the way the photos are shot? I hope this makes sense...

  3. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    thanks, if i am understanding you correctly then to answer your question this varies due to many things, film used, if any filters were used and what the film was developed in.

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