Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything. —Aaron Siskind
Film is still available, of course, and there are still a number of photographers who use it. The practicality of such, though, is questionable and it has largely become the domain of hobbyist who appreciate the artistry not only of shooting with film but developing it as well. Even then, what we see today in terms of emulsions and papers is nothing like what it once was. There is no more black and white paper. Many emulsions have moved toward “green” chemicals that are not as hard on the environment. While the moves make economic and ecological sense, what was lost was a tonal environment that was only possible under very specific conditions.
So, all this week we are taking a look at attempts to recreate the tonal environments of some popular black and white films with digital photography. For this experiment, you should know what we are using the latest cloud version of Adobe® Photoshop™ and conducting most of the tonal changes using the sliders in a black and white adjustment layer. We’ve also taken careful consideration as to which image is best served by which film process. Not every photo renders well with various processes and careful consideration should be taken. We also applied color filters to some images, but not all. We’ll let you know which ones were so modified. Yes, the whole thing is a little geeky.
Agfa’s APX film is still widely available, especially online, and there are a number of photographers who still swear by it’s very fine grain and speed versatility. The speed of the film is questionable, though. If you have a camera that can do so, the 100-speed film actually works better at 80. 400 works best at 360. Obviously, not every camera can make that adjustment and it can modify the results. Digitally, this style is most easy to duplicate in an image with a light background behind a darker but well-lit subject. The black and white adjustment sliders don’t move a lot for this conversion: reds-50, yellows-91, greens-82, cyans-80, blues-33, and magentas-79. I also used a light green color filter on this image to correct some skin tone issues. Green, yellow, and orange filters work well with this setting. I kept the contrast moderate and added just the tiniest bit of grain to duplicate the older version of the film.
I much prefer how the photo looks using this process than leaving it in color. There’s a story in this picture and in black and white it compels us to imagine what that story might be. I won’t say that the duplication effect is 100% precise, but it’s close enough to give me warm fuzzies. This is going to be an interesting week. We hope you’ll join us every day.