Monday, August 7, 2017

Picking A Film Stock - Decisions, Decisions

A decision has been made!

I jumped back into film photography about 3 years ago after focusing almost exclusively on digital for ... well, since digital took over. I don't recall the exact reason I jumped back in but it now sits comfortably next to my digital photography work. I like to say digital professionally, but film for fun. Today most of my casual photography and probably 75% of my street photography is film. However, 100% of my professional studio work remains digital.

After jumping back in I was shooting just about any film stock I could find.  Didn't matter if it was Kodak, Fujifilm, Ektar, HP5, XP2, super expired, fresh, purchased online, found in a expired film matter, I shot it. I would shoot, send it out - rinse and repeat.

One variable changed over the past year.  I started developing and scanning my own film, so I could lower the cost, increase my flexibility and speed my workflow. I'm starting to take film photography more seriously.

One thing became obvious.  The different film stocks and ages meant I had no consistency or reliability in my work.  Some films fit the mood, some didn't.  Some worked great, some were a disaster. Some curled so bad when drying I couldn't use it, some were flat as glass. One roll had rich colors some were flat.

Therefore, I've decided once I work my way through my current stock I'm limiting my film selection for most of my work.  4 film stocks will be "go to".  My decision is not based on deep study or sound technical review. It may not be a final decision. Many will disagree, but for me it's a start. Here is what I'll use.
  • B&W - Ilford HP5+ 400, rolled from bulk - primarily street photography film
  • B&W - Ilford XP2 Super 400, rolled from bulk - when I want deeper blacks and want to use C-41 chemistry
  • Color - Kodak Portra 400 - everyday use and street photography when color is needed
  • Color - Kodak Ektar 100 - studio work when I use my studio strobes and bright days when I want punchy colors

These are my planned go to films.  I am using all 4 today, but they are mixed in with other stocks.

However, I'll still shoot other film stocks for creative or special uses.  For lower light situations where color is needed I'll use Kodak Portra 800 (box speed or pushed).  Ilford Delta 3200 for B&W low light situations.  When the creative urge kicks in I'll use REVOLOG specialty films, CineStill, and some of the Lomography colored films. 

One note, I'm testing a couple of B&W films, JCH Street Pan 400, Bergger Pancro 400 &Arista EDU. Based on the results I might add it to the list or replace XP2 on the list.

An upside to this decision should be more consistent processing & scanning and more confidence in the end results.  

Let's see if I can stick to this plan, or slip back into my film "look a squirrel" mode that I'm currently enjoying. Time & results will tell!

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