Film shooters - only b/w film?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by raymondc, Jan 28, 2017.

  1. I still shoot film occasionally, b/w film is noticeably cheaper. I have heard that some shoot primarily b/w film only. Isn't that a bit limited? When I went out a lot of times I found subjects suited better if I had a second body of film back. Could you just limit yourself to monochrome?
  2. david_henderson


    Yes I can limit myself to b&w, but not over a long period because I find some locations/objectives clearly suit either colour or b&w to my mind. I have visited Paris, New York, parts of desert USA with a very clear objective of photographing them in b&w. I have been to other locations with an intention of shooting in colour to find weather conditions that suited b&w a lot better and adopted a focus on b&w on the hoof. On the other hand I have used colour & b&w in parallel on lots of shoots, making the decision shot by shot.
    There are a large number of classic photographers who chose to limit their work -or their serious work anyway- to b&w. You might want to ask whether the likes of Michael Kenna or Ansel Adams - and there are lots of others of equal stature- found a focus on b&w photography an unnecessary strait -jacket. I'm far from convinced that these guys fret or fretted too much about whether they'd remembered to pack the colour film.
    On this issue I think the choice of film or digital is not relevant. I enjoy making digital photographs destined to be b&w as much as I did when I shot b&w film. The only difference is that now I could change my mind between shooting and finalising the photograph but I don't do that very often.
  3. IMO it's relevant to a's all about preferences. Although I may prefer b&w (larger format), I may also shoot the same scene in color....using digital DSLR. Sometimes the DSLR is set to monochrome...and I'd walk away with just those images. Much depends what you set out to achieve.
  4. SCL


    I shoot only B&W film these days because I have bulk rolls of it, and color processing has become fairly expensive; so I shoot color with digital.
  5. I learned photography on b&w film and for many years shot it nearly exclusively. I still prefer Tri-X to nearly anything else. I shoot a lot of digital but generally find myself happier with a Nikon film body and 10 or 20 rolls of some b&w film. I also always prefer darkroom work to a computer. Honestly digital is getting dull.
    Rick H.
  6. Film and digital are both cool. I've made some of my best b/w shots with a digital camera, but I love T-max and Acros, and plan to shoot some Ilford this Spring. I also like color film, and find the result (wet print or scan) to be difficult to duplicate with my Fuji or Nikon digital.
  7. I only bought one Leica Monochrom so far and feel clearly: It won't be my last. If the 3rd version was out already, I might be in debt by now. - I am admittedly sad that DSLR makers don't follow that marketing approach; I'd happily scoop up a monochrome Pentax. When I had only color digital something was missing. - I guess Winogrand nailed it: "I photograph to see what things look like photographed" The sentence gets much easier to understand once you stop doing color.
    Bringing a color loaded 2nd body pleases the obsessed shooter but tends to doom the narrator. How on earth are you going to mix the low light B&W rolls you did indoors or in the evening into the flood of color slides done outdoors? Is a year really 47 weeks of watching TV while feeding your sluggish scanner with whatever you snapped on vacation? Shooting negative film in both bodies wouldn't help very much since it takes an extra week or longer to get bigger prints of your greater color shots to mix in after you finished printing whatever lent itself to doing so in your B&W darkroom.
    I'm not overly fast in a wet darkroom (although I followed the basic advice to speed things up with a 2nd enlarger). So I do appreciate that digital makes my results shareable after just contact sheet making efforts or maybe even less than that applied to them.
    I'm probably trying to say: If you decided to do B&W; do it, stick to it. - You might miss something in color or need to let it be but still: I think your work might suffer more, if you'd insist on multi tasking, by doing both color + B&W seriously. Maybe keep a clear line of commitment levels between the 2? - I 'd load the least expensive and lightest body with color, if I was doing negatives only with 35mm SLRs (and had a darkroom at hand). - I also would not bother with MF or even LF color as an amateur.
    Starting out today I'd recommend grabbing a light digital system for touristic happy-snapping like crazy in color and whatever you 'd love to use for serious B&W.
    If you don't have a darkroom and aren't well doing stay away from the bigger cameras but maybe enjoy a roll of color in a 35mm classic once in a while.
    If I am mixing a color digital with the Monochrom, I shoot it RAW + B&W JEPEG. While roaming without serious photographic aims around the home I am content with just a B&W camera with me but yes, a pair of them would be nicer to have.
    Is color needed? - IDK. I guess if there is a lack of B&W subjects, it gets compensated by a lack of funds to afford shooting 10 rolls per day? If you are carrying a camera around do you shoot it every day you are out?
  8. I just shoot B/W film these days. It's not that I do not like color or anything other then I just have so much time and funds for photography so I shoot B/W film. There are no labs and I do not want to take on developing color also.
  9. I shoot B&W film pretty much all of the time. The only color pictures I take are with my phone and those are usually regarded as like keeping a visual journal where I might be interested in coming back to a location or exploring a new theme. Since I do my own developing and printing for B&W and I don't know how to do the same for color it just makes sense to skip shooting color film to me anyways. Besides, most of the 1-hour labs around Los Angeles have closed and taking a roll to a pro lab costs over $20 which is simply out of my budget these days. I also have aesthetic reasons for shooting B&W film but that would take too long to get into and probably be boring to read anyway.
  10. Settling on a photographic medium is like choosing a spouse. You find one you like and get comfortable
    with it. Although you may still see why others may be suitable for other people. After my first roll of
    Kodachrome I never looked back.
  11. I only can process B&W myself - color takes too much control over temperature (and I'm not going into debt to get a Jobo). With B&W, I can develop the film and make silver gelatin prints - all by myself. And I don't have to deal with color balance.
    I do shoot a little color film, but most of my color shots are done with digital. Overall, though, I just like B&W for most things that I'm likely to shoot.
  12. I love shooting and processing B&W film and making photos in my darkroom or scanning to digital prints. For all their beauty of E-6 and C-41 films are not easy to process and have no great qualitative advantage for me over digital color, its convenience and post exposure control, so I intend to continue shooting B&W film (mainly medium format) and enjoying darkroom craft, while supplementing that with both color and B&W digital.
    Like the last poster, Bethe Fisher, I am attracted to the graphic and expressive character of B&W film and silver printing of its negatives and I hope that we continue to have the materials that make that possible.
  13. I love b/w film, wet process all the way to print. I quite like digital colour but never found a printing method I like, so they largely exist on my hard drives, the b/w exists on my walls.
    After 35 plus years at it I think I see in mono anyway.
    Absolutely allergic to digital mono, even borrowed Leica Monochrom, horrible, no thanks.
  14. That's the first time I ever heard that shooting B&W was limiting. It's not, I assure you. If you don't do it consistently it's difficult because you have to learn to see the scene in B&W. You need to understand that a red flower in green foliage is going to look the same value, so a filter is in order. I have no idea what is involved digitally, but for B&W you really want to be shooting film for about a thousand reasons. It's a difficult medium to master, much more so that colour, which allows you to change composition and point of interest w/ simply a saturated colour. A colour shot of a sunset is something, but not much so in B&W. So you need better skills to successfully shoot good B&W images. It's all about the light.
  15. Mark, I understand your dislike of digital black and white, but is that based uniquely on quality of result? This image is a digital camera conversion with minor post exposure light rebalancing (similar to red optical filter use with film). Although a committed film and darkroom worker, I don't think my film and darkroom craft could have provided a very different result. The digital image printed quite nicely on Canon inkjet paper, although I might have had a better physical texture with some developer and silver papers. I like to "see" subjects in B&W, which is often as important for me as the medium used to achieve them. The necessary slowing down of the visualisation and capture when using film for landscapes and other applications is certainly advantageous in some cases.
  16. I could have used a gigantor telephoto lens today. I hiked up to the High Peaks at Pinnacles National Part and found 4 other retired persons also up there. We watched a Condor show straight from heaven. You could spend a lifetime waiting for that. What a beautiful sight. Out of the 5 of us it was agreed that we were not tough enough to carry a lens around all the time until something like this happens. I had my 50mm lens with me and took a shot of Condor #36 anyway. It will just be a black spot on film however. I have a compact set of binoculars in my bag all the time and that is why I could see the tag #36 on one of the birds.
    Anyway I am not going shopping for a lens or a camera and all that. It's a hard hike as it is but I am doing it frequently right now as I am trying to toughen up for the Half Dome Hike. I figured out how to get a permit and want to hike it this year while I am still strong enough. At 69y/o I am running out of good years for a physical challenge. I will carry my FM2n with 50mm lens as usual. I will take 3 filters and 4 rolls of HP5. Todays Hike was 5.5miles and I climbed 1800 feet according to my Strava app.
    In general when hiking photography is secondary and the hiking is primary. It would all be different if I was trying to sell photos but I am not.
  17. Often I have a camera with black and white film, and a DSLR for other pictures. Sometimes the same picture on both. But I do like color film, too. Usually on out of town trips, I will try to shoot a roll of color, either E6 or C41. The cost isn't all that much for one or two rolls a year.
    Nearby lab does C41 for USD 7.50, and E6 for USD 11.00. (plus tax). I have enough rolls kept cold to last for some years at the current rate.
    But for more ordinary shooting, usually black and white. Develop myself, usually scan. Sometimes make prints in the darkroom.
    When I started at nine years old, I couldn't afford color. It was much more expensive then. I do remember color reprints at USD 0.22, but now many will do them for less, even without inflation adjustment. My father got me interested in darkroom work, and the next year I inherited my grandfathers darkroom equipment, some of which I still have. Most important, his Nikor 35mm tank and reel.
  18. Where I live, B&W film sure isn't cheaper than C41 colour, unless you want the good colour films (E6 is a lot more expensive). Nonetheless, I shoot mostly B&W film these days. I don't find it limiting, in the same way I do not find it limiting to walk around with 1 or 2 focal lengths. You just adapt what you look for to what you carry. Sure there are shots you have to let go, because you're not carrying the right gear, or film. But the more I do it, the less I actually notice that.

    When I shoot digital, a fairly significant portion of what I shoot ends up B&W too, and usually I know that when I make the shot, so I don't see that as vastly different from working with film, except of course I don't have to think about colour filters just yet.

    In general, limiting yourself can also be a liberating experience. Use one focal length, use only B&W, have only 36 shots on your roll and no second one in the bag. It helps you focus on what you can do, and helps you think ahead on whether the shot will work at that focal length, or in B&W, or maybe not and better try again some other time? I learnt a lot from it, and notice I shoot a lot less, consider the options a bit better and think things through a bit more.
    Of course, it depends a lot on your subject matter whether this can actually work, but if it can, I find limits more rewarding than carrying tons of gear and having 100s of options afterwards. YMMV.
  19. Yes, for store bought film by the roll, C41 color is close to black and white price. The chemical cost is more, and I don't do it enough to make good use out of a processing kit. Also, getting the temperature and timing right is enough more work that it isn't quite as much fun as black and white.

    But I now have a good supply of older black and white film, some in bulk rolls, others in sizes that they don't make anymore. I have some older color film in the freezer or refrigerator that is supposed to have been kept cold, and some that I put in soon after I bought it.

    But often enough, I have a DSLR for color, and another camera for black and white film.
  20. I usd to shoot more b&w for street photography projects. The first time I went to Tokyo, I was using both my Fuji X-Pro1 and my Nikon F5. While I did use a bit of Delta 3200....I preferred the flexibility of using Fuji Superia 400 and Natura 1600. I then simply used Silver Efex to work on my scans.

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