On looking "real"

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by john_murphy|1, Jun 10, 2004.

  1. I have spent so much time trying to get B&W photos that look good,
    that I was not prepared for an interesting objection raised by a
    family member. In viewing photos of my daughter it was noted that
    she doesn't look "real" in pictures shot with HP5 film. This is to
    say that she doesn't look as she does in real life, or simply, she
    doesn't look like herself. In other words, she looks like somebody
    else. Upon reviewing my old shots, I find this to be particularly
    true of the Ilford films. This doesn't mean that the photos are not
    realistic, because FP4 in Perceptol produced some very realistic
    photos, but they too don't look true to reality. Only the Agfa APX
    films seem to produce a true-to-life rendering of my child. Any
    thoughts on this?
  2. Why don't you post a comparison so we can make an objective comment on your pictures?

    It might also be of benefit to us in selecting a film in the future.

    Thanks for the info though.

    Ron Mowrey
  3. The problem with trying to post scanned versions of B&W prints is that it introduces even more distortion into the image (even with my best scanning techniques). You'll have to just take my word for it that the APX shots are much more recognizable renderings of my daughter than the HP5 shots.
  4. What a strange conclusion to relate the "real" look of somebody to the properties of a
    film! When you take a portrait of somebody you are freezing an expression in a
    fraction of a second. It depends on this expression and the mood of the photograph if
    people will say: "that's really him or her". In my experience the technical properties of
    the film have nothing to do with it. Of course the sharpness or softness of your lens
    and the way you do your image treatment will enhance or diminish the mood in your
    picture. But the right expression you have to observe it and be there at the right
    moment. No film can do that for you.
  5. John -- how can anyone look "real" when their likeness is recorded on a gray scale material -- be it an Agfa or Ilford, Kodak or Fuji product?
    B&W photography is interpretive so ones expectations of "reality" are seldomly (white dog, black night) obtained.
    I shoot B&W exclusively -- tons of APX 100 & 400 and I never taken a shot that looks real.
    Hope II or Gazing Into The Sun.
    I think you gotta rethink your position or maybe reword this post -- don't know which but good luck!
  6. Think about it this way: if you were trying to identify someone in a photographic, which film would make it easiest? (Assume all other variables are held as constant as is reasonably possible.)
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    As pointed out above, the look of the film has little to do with this. Capturing the right expression on HIE might make someone far more "real" than capturing an uncharacteristic expression on APX 25. The question really doesn't make sense.
  8. The wonderful thing about B&W photography is just that, it's not real.
    As humans we don't see in B&W. Added to that, the fact that we can distort it further because it's not real and B&W materials readiness to be distorted. Colour can be real but B&W is surreal.
    When taking pictures of people B&W can be spectacular, it strips away all the distractions of colour and leaves us with a much more stark, raw if you like image.
    Bottom line, if you want reality then shoot colour.
  9. Yousuf Karsh in an interview said something like

    " Colour shows real life. B&W is different everytime you see it. Every day what you see in the photo changes depending on how you feel" Something like that.

    If you want reality shoot colour. B&W is about interperting reality. It's not just the film but the paper. How you print it.
  10. Please define what are the attributes on the APX100 picures that made it more lifelike.
    May it be sharpness, tonality, contrast etc.

    By abstracting your picture into a gray world you are having a different "interpretation" of your daughter. FP4/APX100 require different light than HP5, so it could be a problem of that sort.
    Also your contrast may be different depending on how you prnt those.

    I was printing some 1940s negatives for my fathe rin law and I wasted a bunch of paper because I made them soft and full of tonality (VC filter 2) and he just hated them. I printed them again using a 3.5 filter and he loved them......
    Maybe you can print 2 or 3 different versions by changing the contrast and see what your relative says
  11. Just a thought. Could the spectral sensitivity be quite a bit different in the two films you used? This would account for some differences in brightness values for different colors, which can impart a different "look" to a black and white image. For instance, Tmax has a different "look" than Tri-x partly for this reason. I see a difference in Fuji Acros too. This quality of "realness" could be the shades of gray that are being translated from color. Altering contrast in the print would not greatly change that either.
  12. This reminds me of the old story about Picasso. Mr. Picasso was
    painting a portrait of some woman, and the subject's husband was
    looking over Pablo's shoulder as he painted. He grew more and more
    anooyed until he finally stomped his feet and declared "That looks
    nothing like my wife." "Well, then, how does she look?" asked
    Picasso. The man pulled a photograph of his wife out of his wallet
    and showed it to the painter. Picasso looked at it and then asked
    the husband "Kind of small, isn't she?"
    Maybe the key is to have in the future only monochromatic children.
  13. I think Steve is onto something. Also, APX has a longer toe and can show earlier shouldering than the HP5+ and FP4+ and that could contribute to a relative contrast increase for the mid-tones of prints from APX negatives.

    Whatever the reason, I too have noticed that APX 100 seemingly produces more spirited, glowing, and life-like portraits than many other films. When I shoot B&W film portraits, APX 100 is the film I usually reach for.
  14. To drag this back into it's proper place in the "Film & Processing" forum area, I'll state that every conventional silver halide film I know of is developer (and technique) dependant.
    The look between APX100 in dilute Rodinal is going to differ -- sometimes greatly -- from the look of the same film in a different developer e.g. TMax.
    Then if we want to change forums (Lex likes us towin' the line) we can mosey over to "B&W Photography - Printing & Finishing" and discuss all sorts of variables there.
    Color? I shot a roll a couple years ago so I don't wanta go there.
  15. Someone asked me to specify what aspects make the picture look more real. This is actually why I posted the question, because I cannot tell, perhaps it is in the eyes. I am hoping someone out there has had a similar experience.
  16. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Is this the point where you discover that the processor got your
    rolls of HP5 mixed up with someone else's?

    I did once send away a couple of films with photographs of
    France and when they came back it looked like China. Do you
    think that could be the same thing :) ?
  17. If they don't think the photo looks like them politely refer them to the first law of portraiture. If you want a better picture... bring a better face.
  18. If it is the tonal range that looks odd... pop on a yellow/green or a green filter.
    This will make the tonal range of the face look more life like. It also may be a
    matter of exposure rendering the skin tones one stop brighter...
  19. Print the picture backwards (mirror image), then see what she says...
  20. David

    You paid a trip to France and China came as a bonus? Nice business! ((-:
  21. Maybe you just have Agfa compatible kids. My portraits of my kids seem to look just as good on Ilford or Kodak as they do on Agfa. Maybe it's just my kids' mixed blood.
  22. As a portrait photographer I depend on the fact that people do not look the same in a photograph as they do in 'real life' - whatever that is!
  23. I agree that there is something unique about the tonality that is
    produced by apx-100 & 400. I personally find the tonality more
    satisfying for portraits than ilford fp4+ & hp5+. There is a
    beautiful look that these films produce on skin tones that could
    be partially related to spectral sensitivity. I find efke 25 and
    fortepan 200 to have similar characteristics. I dont know exactly
    why but I find the tonality of these films seems to subtly enhance
    the emotional impact of a successful image.

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