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Introduction to Film Photography

Lesson 13 of 20

Professional Black & White Film

Sandra Coan

Introduction to Film Photography

Sandra Coan

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Lesson Info

13. Professional Black & White Film


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:11:53
2 Why Film Duration:10:59
4 Importance of Metering Duration:04:08
6 Metering for Color Film Duration:14:31
9 Metering for Indoor Shooting Duration:18:39
10 The Differences in Film Sizes Duration:11:05
11 Purchasing Film & Care Duration:05:04
12 Professional Color Film Duration:16:39
14 Consumer Grade Film Stocks Duration:06:31
15 Pushing Film Duration:18:44
16 Know Your Lab Duration:03:41
17 What To Look For In A Lab Duration:25:35
18 How To Find The Right Lab Duration:13:10
19 How To Safely Ship Film Duration:16:46
20 Get Started Using Film Duration:06:47

Lesson Info

Professional Black & White Film

So now black and white's a totally different animal. So whereas, when we're choosing a color film, we are choosing based on color profiles, like is it warm, is it cool, is it somewhere in between? How does it look at red or how does it look at green? All those different things, and we choose. We buy it based on those. With black and white, it's a little bit more nuanced. So, instead of looking at just color profiles, now you're choosing based on grain texture, contrast, is it a super contrasty film, or a low contrast film? Do you want really rich blacks and really white whites, or do you want more grays? All that kind of stuff comes into play. Which, again, is fun, because you can learn about the film stocks and figure out what you want to say. So, grain detail. There's a big difference in the film stocks. One way you know what kind of grain detail your film's going to have, and this is true of black and white and of color, but it comes into play more with black and white, is you can l...

ook at the ISO number. So, the box speed of the film is going to tell you what that grain detail of the film is going to be. And the lower the number, the less grain, and the higher the number, the more grain. So, for example, here, these are all shot in the same exact light, in the same studio. It's maybe not as easy to see, you gotta get on up there, but with an Acros 100, because it's that 100 speed film, there's super-fine grain that is so smooth. 400, you're going to have a little more grain detail, and then by the time we're up here at 3200, you have this really big, chunky grain, which, by the way, I love. I love film grain. I think it's really beautiful. The other thing you want to consider when you're shopping for black and white, when you're trying to figure out which is your film stock, is what is that film capable of doing? And again, this is different, depending on the stock. Remember when we had the exposure test up here of the color film, they all were pretty similar, where they looked great at overexposed, and then they fell apart at underexposed. Black and white film stocks are, again, a little more nuanced. It's not that cut and dry. Each stock can do something a little different, and has something a little bit different to offer. So, the Acros, up here, the 100, again, that beautiful fine grain, and it has a great latitude. Up here at plus three, we still have detail in the highlights, it's beautiful. And I would even go down to negative one. I think, once you get too underexposed with that, though, you're gonna start getting a lot of grain, and a lot of thinness, which I don't like. But, now look at the Kodak Tri-X, right? Down here at negative 2, that's still a usable image, you pull the blacks up a little bit, those are just deep collapsed blacks, there's no detail in there, but it's pretty. It could be pretty. And then, up here at plus three, you still have detail in the highlights. Isn't that interesting? Now, I love this, you guys. I could talk about this all day. Now look at this. Isn't this fascinating? So again, this is Ilford Delta 3200. It's a 3200 speed film. Very similar to Portra 800, though, what do we see? We see that it falls apart on those low ends, in the underexposed part, and honestly, it doesn't look too good up here either. Like, in the plus two, plus three, we are losing detail in the highlights with this film. This film will blow out. So, out of all of the films, this one has the shortest window for exposure latitude, but I love this film. This is my favorite film, because despite that, you can use what you know about it, and then use your metering, see, it's all starting to come together, to play with it. So, this film, I will intentionally blow out sometimes, because I want high grain, and I want that airy, ethereal look that you get with this film. I'll show you in a minute, but I can also shoot it in studio with my strobes, and get super contrasty and really play up on how it will just collapse in the blacks, and use that to my advantage. I know, we were talking earlier about creating more dramatic images with darker blacks, and this is one way to do it, is really getting in there and knowing your film stocks. Also, I feel like this is the happy place for this film. It just loves that one stop exposure. Whereas, here, again, you can play around, and here you can play around a little bit more. And this is just three. There's tons of different black and white stocks out there, but it really does make a difference, depending on which stock you're using, what it can do and what you can do with it. So, let's talk about each of these. So, the Fuji Acros 100, again this is available in both 35mm and 120. It's a super fine grained film. We know that because we have the 100 ISO speed. They are gonna have very little grain detail, but it also has really nice contrast, so you are gonna get really beautiful blacks, really beautiful lights, almost like silvery whites. So, smooth. Isn't it just smooth, it's like butter. So pretty, really nice blacks. This one I know I showed earlier. This was that beautiful Acros look. Look at her skin; it's just amazing. This was my favorite black and white for a long time. Then I jumped ship and now I've moved on to Ilford Delta. So there again. There again. And you can shoot it outside, too, and it's really pretty. Tri-X 400. This is a great film. This is the classic black and white film. This has been around forever, right? Forever. My dad was shooting this. But it's a fantastic film. It has a great latitude. It pushes like a dream, and we're gonna talk about that in a minute. But because it holds up so well down here, even underexposed, you can push it in processing, and really play up those contrasts, the brights and the darks, which is really fun, but it also does beautifully up here. So, this is a film stock, even though I tend to favor Ilford Delta 32 right now in my work, I always have this on hand, because it's so versatile, it can do anything, so if you're in a tight spot, this is a great one to use. So, say you're in a low light situation, and you do have to push your film, I know, I'm jumping ahead, I would always grab this film, before I would grab even the Acros, because it does so well on this end. Yeah? A question had come in from Van McCanus, online. What is a good film for indoor, low light conditions, both in color and black and white? So, would this be your choice for indoor, low light conditions? It just depends. So, if I'm in a low light situation and I'm shooting color film, I grab my Fuji. And I know that there is a lot of film photographers right now that are going, "What?" 'Cause people always talk about that Fuji's not great in low light situations, that's not been my experience. I feel like Fuji does a pretty good job, and if I'm shooting black and whit, definitely Tri-X is great if you're gonna push, but I would also go with the Ilford 32. Just make sure you are really precise about where you're metering that one. It doesn't have the flexibility that some of the other films have, so you need to just be a little more spot on. I hope that answers that. So here are some examples of Tri-X. It's a classic film. It has that classic black and white film look to it. It's beautiful. Nice blacks, beautiful highlights. Gorgeous skin tones, and not too much grain. So, if you like a lower grain, this might be your film, which I think a lot of people who are transitioning from digital into film, this grain thing can be kind of hard, 'cause we're used to those clear, smooth images that we get with digital, and with film, you do have more grain detail, so shooting something like this, or shooting something like an Acros is gonna give you less grain. But then there's Ilford Delta 32, which, like I said, is my current favorite black and white. It has a super limited exposure window. It will blow out highlights, you will lose detail in the shadows, but again, I play with that, and use it in my work. I feel like this film can be anything, despite it's little, narrow window, it's really fascinating to me. This is the only film that I ever rate at something other than box speed. So, I love it here. I don't even totally love it here at box speed. I love this one stop over exposure, and so I always rate my Ilford Delta 32 at 1600, and it's actually, a lot of people do. You'll hear a lot of film photographers talk about this stock and say, "It feels better at 1600," and I have to agree. So I always rate my here and just meter for the mid tones, so I'm not adding any extra exposure unless I want to blow it out, and sometimes I do. So, let me show you that for just a second. It's beautiful. It has that super chunky grain that, again, I love. So this image was taken with natural light, rated at 1600, just metered for the mid tones. This is an example of this film in studio, and I think it's so fascinating in studio, because, to me, I feel like you almost lose some of that grain detail when you put a strobe on it, and I don't know why that is, but isn't this cool. So, you get these beautiful skin tones, and then you can get these really nice, dramatic blacks. So, it can be that drama film, and then it can also be super light and airy. Isn't this amazing? So, this is what I'm talking about where she was back lit, I metered for the shadows, rated it at 1600, and metered for the shadows, so intentionally blowing this out into that higher end of that exposure test that I showed you earlier, to create that glowy, light, and airy look. This is a classic Ilford Delta look. But isn't it amazing how different it can look with one film stock? And again, a little more drama. I just love it. I'm obsessed with this film. I shoot it in studio all the time. This is my dad, by the way. Isn't he adorable? Hi dad. And again, metering for the mid tones, and on something like this, I would meter for the mid tones and have the lab scan for the highlights, which is gonna help with that drama.

Class Description

Stop with the excuses, grab your film camera and get out there and make amazing images! If you’re comfortable with your DSLR and post processing, then learning to use your film camera is easier than you think! In this beginner course, Sandra Coan walks through how to shoot with film so that you feel comfortable, confident, and excited to take the best pictures! She’ll talk about choosing your film and how to find and work with a lab to process your images.

This course will cover:

  • The differences and similarities between film and digital
  • How a camera meter works and how to meter for film
  • The different film options and how they affect your photo
  • How to find the right lab to process your images

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of using film. Sandra will show you how to slow down during your photo shoot, focus on what you’re trying to capture, and ultimately get a great image straight out of camera.


a Creativelive Student

Sandra is a gifted teacher!!! I've been following her work for years and know what an incredible photographer she is - but to be able to teach the way she does is truly a rare gift! I've been shooting film on and off for years and was amazed at how much I could still learn from Sandra's class. She presented the information in a way that was so easy to follow that you couldn't wait to get started. It's wonderful to learn from someone who is clearly passionate about their craft - but who is also excited for others to succeed at what they're teaching.


Amy could not have said it better in her review of this class! I am also a film shooter (have been shooting film personally for 8 years and professionally for 4) and even as someone who understands a lot of what Sandra was talking about, I STILL found this class to be incredibly helpful and learned a lot. Sandra is such a great teacher and an inspiration to so many film photographers. Great class! Thanks Sandra and Creative Live for putting this together for us.


Sandra is not only an insanely talented photographer but she's a gifted teacher. I've been shooting film for weddings and portraits for 5 years and even studied it in photography school so I'm not new to film by any means. But I've allowed myself to be so intimated to create portraits with film using strobes for far too long. But not anymore. I'll be 100% honest when I say that the information she teaches in this course, to a seasoned COMMERCIAL photographer mind you, may be insanely simple. But that's the beauty of it!!! There is no reason to over complicate shooting film with strobes. It's the simplicity and straight forward, clear as day information that Sandra teaches that's essential to rejuvenate today's overly 'tech obsessed' world. Film is alive and well! Sandra's course is gold when it comes to getting that appreciation for our craft back! I'm jazzed and ready to slow my roll down! Thank you, Sandra and CL! The value of this class is far more than that of the strobe kit I finally invested in (HOURS after the class!). : )