Best film for B&W Hollywood glamor

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by rebecca_skinner, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. So the best part about being in college is that there is always an excuse to try out so many things in photography. Particularly portrait shooting. Recently I got a hold of some friends who are willing to model nude for me and put together a portfolio celebrating feminine figure and female form. Unaltered, unedited (except for maybe white balance corrections) just real women, in real settings. We're talking fine art here, nothing to objectify these women.

    I want to recreate the Hollywood glamor shots from the golden age of Hollywood. Of like Julie Garland and Audrey Hepburn. I know most of that is lighting, but then I look at these pictures and they have such a pearly quality to them that I can't make heads or tails what was used to create them.

    The Ilford Pan F plus looks promising from the description that is.
    "Ilford Pan F Plus is an extremely fine grain black and white film. It has outstanding resolution, sharpness and edge contrast. These characteristics make it the natural choice where fine detail and lack of grain are more important than film speed." From B&H's website.

    Since it's studio setting do I really need to worry about speed? Is 50 speed too slow for photographing people? Or should I stick to like a 100 or 400? Even if I am in full blown southern summer sunlight? I know it sounds silly but when I do digital I just do trial and error before I begin my session to figure what ISO I need. Though I rarely go beyond 3200. I know film is a whole other ball game.

    I want to do most of this outside in natural sunlight so playing with flashes and what have you is minimal. (I hate setting up lighting and using flash) But if the only way I can get that look is to set up a whole studio lighting system then I'm willing to do that also. Then again I know some of us in the group are also wanting to go for the 'natural' look and take advantage of some of the deserted fields and forests. There are a few abandoned housing developments that would work well too.

    Also, what is the difference between Kentmere and Ilford? I know they're owned by the same company and many people in the shops around here say they can't tell the difference, it's just basic B&W film but really there has to be a reason why one costs 40% less than the other. I sell computers I know there's a difference between Compaq and HP, so I'm a little skeptical when people tell me it's the same. That's not going to stop me from using both to see for myself!
  2. If you can get the lighting right, I would think that you would also want to get the grain right. Tri-X or HP5+ might be a good choice! I would choose Tri-X though.
  3. p.s. If you want to go grainless (whichh is not a bad thing)... FP4+
  4. I believe format will be more important than the film. 4x5 should work and MF at a min. The Film should be a traditional cubic grain like PanF+ or Efke 50-100 Maybe even Foma 100. That all said lighting will be the key. Reflectors and open flash along with key placement of spots.
  5. There's also a look to the "upswept curve" portrait films, such as Royal Pan, Plus-X Professional, and Tri-X Professional. The only one of those that's still available is Tri-X Professional, but only in sheet film sizes. These were used to get high tone separation in highlights, while compressing the shadows.
    Of course, this can be done with curves in a photo editor after scanning.
    Note that the "look" included a lot of pencil retouching.
  6. If you are talking about images in the style of George Hurrell or Edward Steichen, they were accomplished in studio with hot continuous tungsten lights that were focusable, slow speed films, large format film that has been extensively retouched.
    For a modern camera approach check out this:
    and the Youtube version:

    To really get the vintage vibe, study the master photographs intensely. Where is the light coming from? What is the quality of the light?(direct, diffused) How many lights are used? How is fill accomplished? How does the lighting ratio create drama? How does lens selection, camera angle, depth of sharpness, pose and composition create monumental strength. What role does makeup and props play? It's all there in the photos. Study them. There is a masterclass in each one.
  7. Louis, that's it! You got it on the head. I've been reading on lighting techniques that Hurrell would use, such as rolling paper into a cone and focusing the light on the subject. From the pictures I've seen lots and lots of matte makeup to get the pearly essence in white skin. It was his work that really got me into B&W when I realized I could possibly recreate that and develop it myself. And I'll admit that's really, really what I want to create in these women. Recreate that ethereal, pearly white essence and use shadows to highlight each feminine curve. Is there any word though as to what film they used?
    Larry, all I have is a 35mm SLR and I have (at least at this point) no intention of using 120 or 4x5. I remember when my sister played around with a Holga in her photography class taking 120. It was a pain. Until I get some more experience I'd rather not deal with 120 rolls either. I'm a very clumsy person. Though considering when those classic portraits were shot it would make sense those formats were avaliable and aside for film that may no longer exists and formats outside my penniless student budget I may be unable to capture it just so as it is.
  8. Re: John's film suggestions... Plus X can still be found in 35mm on some store shelves (and certainly on ebay for a price). Buy soon if that is your option!
  9. Is there any word though as to what film they used?​
    Hard to say. Verichrome Pan, Super-XX, Tri-X and Plus-X were available. Of greater importance was the size of the format. Large film was easier to hand retouch.
    Don't underestimate the importance of retouching to get that smooth look.
    Scroll down an check out Joan Crawford's before and after Portrait. One of the reason in shooting 8X10 was the ease that retouching could be done right on the negative.
  10. People will tell you that "love" or "money" or both make the world go round. This is not the truth.
    Chemistry makes the world go round!
  11. In "Hollywood Portraits" by Roger Hicks and Christopher Nisperos it is suggested for 35mm to use a standard lens wide open to give the shallow depth of field originally obtained with 10x8 cameras.Orthochromatic film was used in the early days;in 1931 Kodak introduced SS Pan panchromatic film.They note that with modern film a very pale blue filter willl give a color response close to that of the 1930's and a stronger blue filter close to 1920's.
    I believe the narrow beam of light given by the fresnels is important to give the period look in some pictures,however,as fresnels are expensive, not many studios have them.Putting a honeycomb on top of a reflector on a studio strobe will give a resemblance to this narrow beam.
  12. Hurrell was the master, so study him. But you will find these photos are more about lighting, makeup and hairstyle than what kind of film was used. You do have to learn studio lighting if you want to do this. Hurrell used mostly hard lights -- big fresnel spots -- more than the softboxes or umbrellas used today. In those days, film was slow and negatives were large, resulting in virtually no grain. So 50 speed will help if you're shooting 35mm. The tonality of film back then was different. I don't recall the name, but Freestyle carriers some European film that is described as having a 1950s formulation that might help.
  13. Craig.
    That would be the EFKE/ADOX I suggested.
  14. SCL


    If some of your shooting will be outdoors, think about shooting in overcast situations to reduce the dynamic range of the light hitting your subject (you can still get plenty of shadows and creamy highlights), or alternatively if shooting in bright light outdoors, have helpers with screens and reflectors. Lower ISO film gives you a little more flexibility in bright light, but used indoors, unless you brighten things up with good artificial light, your exposure times may be too long to avoid subject movement. My favorite film (in the old days) for this type of work was Plus-X, which you can still get in bulk rolls with a little searching. I'm also finding I really like EFKE 25 in the right light (haven't done nude photography in a long while) for portrait work. I am preaching to the choir, but don't forget the importance makeup, misting spray, light body oil...and RETOUCHING. The young lady who was my daughter's babysitter went on to become one of Europe's top models in the 1990s, including a lot of nude work, and when she would come home for the traditional summer neighborhood BBQs and recount her adventuresome life, she always complained that the makeup aspect often took longer than the shooting. Knowing her in real life and then seeing her in award winning was sometimes hard to tell it was the same girl.
  15. Definitely get the book: Hollywood Portraits. It is great to look at, but also shows how those great shots were made and what the lighting looks like.
    Definitely do what Larry is suggesting: get the largest format camera you can get, and I do believe Efke is a great choice. I would also recommend you try their Ortho film too.
    Finally, you really need some control over the print in the darkroom. It helps to be a good printer.
  16. Another vote for Efke 25, it's really pretty stuff, but if you're developing it yourself, be very careful, as it will scratch easily. Also, something to consider is the Dr5 process, while pricey, if you aren;t developing your self it may not be that much more. Some films in that process do amazing things, and could be worth taking a look.
  17. Robert
    Correct if he is stuck only using 35mm then DR5 may be an option.
  18. Larry what is the alternative to Adox ? Or is there one ?
    It sure has the 'old look' to it...but darn the film curls with no end in sight....
  19. EFKE and Adox are the same film just different names due to Country they are sold in. The new ORWO UN54 sold only in bulk is a good replacement for Plus-X. Foma 100 film is a little newer than than the EFKE stuff but is still in the ball park. Stay away from Chinese film if you want the older look. But development of any film also makes a difference. So chose your developer and as already mentioned the lighting and if you must use 35mm you will have to retouch in post processing on a computer and not on the Negative. If you print on good paper then you may be able to touch that up. Life was not easy in the golden age.
  20. Ilford Pan F would be, in my opinion, the way to go. Are you shooting 35mm of medium format? I would strongly suggest you shoot medium format. You might also look at Adox CHS 50 since it has a somewhat 'old-fashioned' look to it.
  21. My only issue with Adox/Efke is that you need to use hardening fixer, or risk damaging a fragile emulsion. OTOH, I believe the emulsion is one of the easiest to spot dust and other damage.
  22. As you only use the 35mm format, then any medium speed film from a reputable film manufacturer should deliver very satisfactory results from your 35mm camera kit.
    FP4 Plus, Plus-X, T-Max 100, Delta 100, 100 Acros etc.
    Pan F Plus should work very well too in controlled lighting.
  23. Maybe I'm missing it, but wasn't a big part of Hollywood glamour objectifying women? As far as films, it will depend on what kind of grain you want. The suggestions above are good.
  24. You guys are amazing! Sometimes I forget that post editing before the advent of the computer was not limited to just painting color on a negative. So yes there would be a great deal of editing as mentioned in the Joan Crawford shots. The large format of 8x10 negatives would indeed lend to the ethereal beauty of these portraits. God can only guess as to what type of film he used though.

    I agree, most of what makes these images so striking is the hard light he used to cast shadows over the faces, and yet he somehow managed to keep their eyes visible. I still think a fine grain is paramount to the effect though aside from retouching and lighting technique. Even when I watch my colorized version of Gone with the Wind (I'm assuming it was originally B&W) there's this 'misty' haze over the actors that I would assume to be grain. Even so it is definately evident in Wizard of OZ. So no grain, at least for my purposes, I think would be a bad idea.

    With that said, I've been dying for an excuse to use efke film but the fact that it is not only a thin emulsion but a thin base scares me. I've also heard about the blue 'dye' that coats the film so would you want to prewash it? I'm assuming it's an anti halogen coating that many films have. But then I also live down a dirt road, so developing it might be suicidal almost.

    I'm using Kodak everything as for the chemicals. I have D76 I need to get through first because so many of the people I know use D76. I might switch it up and try the caffenol and see if that might lead to what I want too. I am however using the powdered hardening fixer from Kodak so in that respect I am set for Efke. But am I going to cry over lost negatives when I go to scan them? I hear that the emulsion will flake off the base with just a fingernail.

    Barry: When I said objectify, what I meant to say in a very delicate fashion was that I am not after pornographic material. Some may consider this project toeing the line of mild erotica because as a feminist I feel it is possible to not hide the whole anatomy of a woman and still be considered art. Renaissance art being my cue. Which is why I'm after Hurrell's style. It would be perfect to capture every curve and plane of the ladies I get to photograph!

    I do recall having seen some shots in a vintage Hustler from the early 70's and thinking the model very beautiful and artful despite the fact she was...*ahem* It was in this case the magazine that objectified her not the photographer in my opinion. Much like the famous pin ups from the 40's, 50's. Either way, modern materials displaying the female figure are hardly as natural. Now everything is so injected with silicon and pearly pink lipstick that it is abhorrent (I'm looking at you Pam Anderson) Yes, many parts of Hollywood do objectify women, but then one could easily make the case that men have been just as objectified.
  25. Gone with the Wind was shot in Technicolor.
    D76 was a fine grain developer for motion picture films.
    Some of the film used by photographers of that era was orthochromatic. To duplicate the ortho effect, try using a cyan filter.
  26. Hollywood Portraits is a must-have book, just as The Third Man is a must see film.
    Ilford Pan F is a high contrast film which needs care. Try exposing it at ISO 25 and developing accordingly.
    There are 3 main technical features which give these old portraits their look.
    1. Shallow depth of field which is a feature of the large format negative. You can get somewhere near this with a 35mm camera using a very wide aperture lens although perspective may not be the same.
    2. The lighting. Continuous lights with Fresnel lenses. Takes a lot of practice!
    3. No grain due to large format negative. Tricky with 35mm, but Pan F can go to 10x8 and still look pretty good.
    Take each step at a time and only move on when you are satisfied you have nailed each stage.
    Have you developed film before? Consistency is vital so make sure you take care with temperatures, developing times and agitation. When experimenting you need to be eliminate the variables on at a time.
  27. Hi Rebecca,

    Choice of film is possibly the least important consideration in recreating Hollywood glamour from the golden age. Lighting, subject, posing
    and retouching are all more important than film. That being said, unless you are very adept at film handling, avoid Adox/ Efke like the
    plague. These films are beautiful, but highly prone to defects and damage. Fuji Acros is an excellent film, as is Ilford Pan F Plus. You can
    see examples of all these films, in studio and natural light, in my photo Stream:

    Good luck with your project.
  28. I'll just reiterate that lighting will be more important than film selection. That said Ilford Pan F or Delta 100 in medium format would be my choices. But really you can do it with ANY ISO 25-400 black and white film. Here is one I did a few years ago using Tungsten studio lights. If you can get your hands on an Arriflex Fresnel by all means do so! Have fun and please post back here so we can see your results.
  29. Rebecca, if you are going to use film processes for this project and are looking for a glamour look, you might look into some of the print toning methods that used to be done. I believe there were some gold toning and silver toning processes besides the normal platinum or sepia. Also, I think lighting is absolutely important and you can have some fun experimenting with studio v. natural or mixtures of both. It sounds like a fun project honestly. It will not be difficult to shoot nudes that are not porno (just use the word) or even sexy even with a "beautiful" subject. I think it will be really great for you to explore how your photographic technique ends up depicting the kind of image you want to portray. If you don't mind color, here's a set I did with one of my best friends to submit to a calendar of female accordion players. The request for photos asked for us to make the players sexy but not graphic, with the calendars creator (a feminist) operating under the philosophy that damnit, woman accordion players are sexy! :) And her inspiration was sort of the 40's and 50's pin-up calendars. Anyways if you are interested take a look:
  30. In 1945, the most likely portrait sheet films would be Portrait Panchromatic, Panatomic-X, and Super Speed Ortho Portrait. Ortho films were more likely used for portraits of men, to provide more character. Ortho film will exaggerate film blemishes.
  31. I did read that some where to use Ortho films as it highlights the reds better. Gives more detail to men which may not be a good thing for women.
  32. A less expensive alternative to ortho films is to use a green filter with panchromatic film. This darkens the reds, although it also lightens greens too. When I want true ortho I use Rollei Ortho 25, but if I need more speed I just use a green filter with Tri-X.
  33. I believe that a cyan filter would be better than green to simulate ortho film. Cyan is the complimentary color to red and would block it better. However, green filters are more readily available.
  34. I think any film will work, if the other parameters are right. Here's an example on Acros that looks a little old school--
    Granted, this is not in the style of Hollywood Golden Age studio photography, which typically utilized many, many hot lights, and was shot on 8x10 film, wit classic portrait lenses like the Wollensak Verito-- I used MF film, one spiral fluorescent in a 12" reflector, and a 500 watt tungsten work light, and a Mamiya 150 SF-C lens.
  35. It's still a great picture and has a dreamy quality to it with the book and glasses. Anyways once I figure how to scan the negatives with my all in one printer I'll give this shoot a go!

    I know you don't need any fancy scanners to scan film not unless you want like high quality uncompressed formats. For the moment I just want to see what I got a picture of, I can always go to a film shop later and have the images rescanned ^_^
  36. You can't scan a negative with that all in one to anymore than a lesser degree of nothing but you can use it to scan a print to a greater degree. No to scan a negative to any degree short of the mirror trick you will at least need an epson flatbed or the Canon equivalent that sells for under $100.00 referbed and lesser used.
    Jay is that a scan from a negative or from a print?
  37. Larry, it's a neg scan, with an Epson 4490.
  38. Very nice. Jay.
  39. Jay,
    That's a very nice shot. Beautiful control of the high values.
  40. Well, bummer looks like it'll be a while before I'll have any of my film work up. At the very least I have a slide viewer so I can kind of see what I'm getting.

    It would definately be cheaper to find something semi decent and once I have the photos digitized I can edit it and make prints as I hoped for. 100 bucks is a lot to shell out at once. But with local places charging .39 an exposure it pays for its self in eight rolls. Or a whole bulk load of film. I sure hope I can talk some of the local bridal shops into letting me advertise engagement photos for 50 bucks a setting, lol it'll make it easier to get a return on all I've invested for this. The woes of being a student!

    Still though, by the end of it, I'll only have invested half of what I sell my costumers in DSLR start up costs and that's just for a mid-grade camera. Not those fancy D700's or 5D Mark II or Mark III's.
  41. In terms of the greatest theatrical photographer, think of George Hurrell. Once he left the beach community and went to LA and MGM studios, he shot only with a single spotlight on the faces, although he used other lights for the full frame. George shot excluseively in large format, mostly 8x10, until his late 70's, although he still used 4x5 but he did use assistants because he was a bit more frail. Mostly he shot b/w except for magazine use or occasional color requirements in movie publishing. When for use in fashion he used 35mm for the first time in his career, that would be in his 80's primarily. For the Hurrell type photos I would suggest large format Ilford Delta 400, it is very similar lookling as compared to the faster high speed early emulsions.
    Regarding daylight nudes, especially in large format, my all time favorite was Andre de Dienes, although certainly, most of us also liked Edward Weston for these types of photos. My wife, Barbara Jones, was one of the best in b/w "nudes in the landscape" that I have ever seen before she retired and stopped shooting. Once again, in large format when shooting this type subject, I prefer Delta 400 because of the unusually good detail throughout the tonality even though it has a good deal of grain. However in either LF or MF Tri X or TMY should work well.
  42. You know some went to extremes with the lighting.
  43. Just read the whole thread, Are you going to post the results? Also I must of missed it but what camera and film did you use? By the way great idea!

Share This Page