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  1. #1

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    How to learn a type of film?

    Hello folks,

    I read through some posts about 'learning a film' which on a high level seems like a sensible thing to do. However, I'm not confident I understand at micro level things that I need to observe/ note to achieve that goal.

    I'll soon attend a customisable/ self driven hands on workshop at the local darkroom about film processing and want to come up with pointers/key questions for discussion/ hands-on exercise to make the most of the scheduled session.
    I also need to take a few exposed negatives (still life) with me that we'll work on during the workshop.

    I'm really looking forward to hearing from the gurus things I should definitely have an understanding of if I'm looking to 'learn a film'.

    Do you recommend a certain type/ sets of exposure that would make it easier for the instructor to illustrate those key points?

    Planning to shoot a lot of FP4+ and some Foma 200 before the workshop which seems to have had the majority of the votes for good starter films.

    If this question doesn't make sense, or if I should be asking different ones to achieve my goals- please feel free to let me know.

    Thanks,
    Vinay

  2. #2

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    Re: How to learn a type of film?

    To add, I've shot colour 135 film but had them processed at a lab. Have developed some black and white at home here and there but never attempted to learn it with some proper structure until now.

  3. #3

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    Re: How to learn a type of film?

    The unhappy reality is that the 'learn one film' cant is a load of auto-exculpation from people who can't manage to work out one end of a light meter from another (or at least manage to work out how to expose neg film reasonably competently without relying completely on the designed-in latitude). What you need to know is really very simple: how to key exposure to detailed shadows for neg films. And don't restrict your film choice - try them all & bracket them a bit - that'll make it much clearer which ones get you into an aesthetic region that you might want to explore further. Most 'testing' is an extension of the problems outlined earlier. Make negs, process them, print them, use some common sense to understand what went wrong, correct that, repeat. If you need more controls, learn basic sensitometry (not hard in this day & age), not the Zone System (or other 'buy-my-workshop' types of supposedly magical solutions).

  4. #4

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    Re: How to learn a type of film?

    For large format (ie where image structure is largely irrelevant), there really isn’t very much to learn about the majority of general purpose black and white negative films. Many of them do very similar things under most circumstances from a sensitometry/tone reproduction perspective, and even where they are different, it doesn’t take much to “learn a film” at all. I don’t mean to say randomly shooting a new type of film every shot is a good idea. It’s just that the old “learn a film” thing is mostly waaayyyy overblown nonsense. Try to be consistent in your methods (metering, processing etc.), and the rest is working on printing.

    You mentioned FP4. Excellent medium speed film (among several) which will work perfectly well for virtually anything.

    Enjoy!

    Quote Originally Posted by endley View Post
    Hello folks,

    I read through some posts about 'learning a film' which on a high level seems like a sensible thing to do. However, I'm not confident I understand at micro level things that I need to observe/ note to achieve that goal.

    I'll soon attend a customisable/ self driven hands on workshop at the local darkroom about film processing and want to come up with pointers/key questions for discussion/ hands-on exercise to make the most of the scheduled session.
    I also need to take a few exposed negatives (still life) with me that we'll work on during the workshop.

    I'm really looking forward to hearing from the gurus things I should definitely have an understanding of if I'm looking to 'learn a film'.

    Do you recommend a certain type/ sets of exposure that would make it easier for the instructor to illustrate those key points?

    Planning to shoot a lot of FP4+ and some Foma 200 before the workshop which seems to have had the majority of the votes for good starter films.

    If this question doesn't make sense, or if I should be asking different ones to achieve my goals- please feel free to let me know.

    Thanks,
    Vinay

  5. #5
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    Re: How to learn a type of film?

    Quote Originally Posted by endley View Post
    If this question doesn't make sense, or if I should be asking different ones to achieve my goals- please feel free to let me know.
    What are your goals?

    Will you be printing your negatives in the darkroom, or scanning for some other form of output?

  6. #6
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: How to learn a type of film?

    "Knowing" the film is knowing how it prints and how it responds to your meter settings. The best way to rapidly learn is to print the images the night they were exposed.

  7. #7

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    Re: How to learn a type of film?

    I would second Oren's questions. While it is true that structure (grain, etc.) is not the issue in LF that it can be in smaller formats (assuming, at least, prints of moderate magnification, and 4x5 takes only about 4x to make a 16x20-inch print), I am not quite so quick to dismiss the film differences. I don't mean to repeat what has already been said, or strongly implied, but I would say that, as in all experimentation, control of variables is important in determining the behavior of a material under examination. From this standpoint, much can be learned from choosing a single film to make it a constant, while learning how other changes (one at a time) affect it. These range from exposure under different circumstances to different developers and development approaches.

    Full circle back to Oren's questions. If your subjects are going to require very long exposures, getting into the reciprocity-failure range; or if your subject brightness ranges are typically "extreme"; or you're looking for maximum, sharp detail -- these and other such considerations can lead you in one direction or another.

    I agree that you're fine with the films you mentioned. Have fun and post back as your journey proceeds. We're all learning.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  8. #8
    Niels
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    Re: How to learn a type of film?

    I am probably guilty of proposing to "learn a film" if not on this forum, then probably in some of the other forums where I hang out.

    The advice is normally given in a context of learning a new process where some newbies feel tempted endlessly adding new parameters in hope of achieving better results.
    It is advisable to make an effort to understand your tools and processes sufficiently in order to make an informed choice of change and improvement.
    The advice is not intended to limit the joy one can have from exploring film emulsions.
    ----
    Niels

  9. #9

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    Re: How to learn a type of film?

    Niels is spot on...the best reason for "learning a film" comes early - during the foundation-building process, not typically the time to "jump around" from film to film...especially if such jumping is born out of frustration with results.

    Best general rule if there was one...choose one film and stick with it to build a solid foundation - then after this explore further as needed and/or desired. Another way to look at this - after foundation knowledge and its application becomes second nature...there are no longer any rules.

  10. #10

    How to learn a type of film?

    I have been using Ilford FP4 plus since 1990, developed in PMK Pyro. It’s a fantastic combination and one that’s very consistent. I will make it very simple: The old expression “expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights” is still relevant today, in spite of what naysayers might say. What that means quite simply is make sure you have enough light hitting the film so that your shadows have enough details to print, and that your highlights aren’t over exposed. You develop the film with time and temperature, both of which affect where the highlights end up on the scale. If you develop for too long or in too warm of a temperature developer, then the highlights will gain density. Contrarily if you develop for slightly less time than normal you can lessen the highlights. There are entire books written on the subject but I will say that that simple rule of thumb, if practiced over time, will get you to know your film.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by higherres; 5-May-2022 at 20:50.

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