Black and white images from colour film, well sort of

March 2, 2016
Light through the tree

Following on from my article on a few ways to make black and white images, there is another way of doing it, or another variation at least. This involves using a colour process black and white film. This is essentially a colour film with the colours taken out. This is quite useful because it is processed in the standard colour chemicals that a regular photolab uses, this is called C41 processing. Specialist black and white processing tends to be more expensive these days, and can be harder to find, so this is quite helpful. The film I tried recently is made by Ilford and is called XP2 Super. It produces very sharp, well balanced images with very little grain, and is ideal for scanning.

When scanning the film into your computer you can use the infrared dust removal setting on your scanner, to get rid of the inevitable few specs of dust. I wished I had actually done this whilst scanning myself, rather than having to remove the dust specs in my Adobe Lightroom software! It is worth noting with traditional process black and white films you cannot use infrared dust removal, so that is a distinct advantage of this film: scanning does take longer using the infrared setting though.

One of the things I really enjoy about black and white film photography is the many different combinations of film and development processes. There is no such thing as standardised processing. This enables you to get different levels of contrast, grain structure etc. from the same film by using different developers and techniques. This creative advantage can also be a disadvantage where you need consistency. With colour process black and white film, such as Ilford XP2, you can send the film anywhere that does C41 processing and should get similar negatives. It must be said however, that film scans done by different labs may indeed look different, so it is worth trying different labs. If you are unhappy with the scan you can take the negatives elsewhere or scan them yourself.

I was very pleased with the way the images turned out, that I took one frosty January morning. The camera I used was my Nikon F65 with a standard 50mm F1.8 lens. This is a great combination and is very easy to use, very similar to a basic DSLR. I hope you enjoy the images, to see these and more take a look at my Flickr feed. I am looking forward to using Ilford XP2 again!

Frosty brambles
Frosty leaves
Frosty field
Frosty wire
Frosty path
Peek across the frosty field

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