Black-and-White Film

Shooting in black-and-white eliminates the distraction of unexpected or unwanted colors in a scene. Since color is eliminated, such factors as composition and contrast become more important. Special filters that lighten some tones and darken others can manipulate contrast while shooting. You can also play with contrast by increasing or decreasing the film's developing time, by using different exposures when printing it, or by printing it on different kinds of paper. Since black-and-white film records light in various shades of gray, it can be used with all light sources. Most black-and-white film available today is print, but slide film is also available.

Making the Most of Black-and-White Film

To realize black-and-white film's greatest potential, most photographers who shoot it process and print it themselves, giving them complete control over how the final image will look. If you aren't the do-it-yourself type or don't have the equipment to do it, you can buy chromogenic black-and-white film, which can be processed using conventional color print chemistry. Prints from chromogenic film, however, will look a little different from those made with traditional black-and-white film in terms of contrast, sharpness, and grain. Some will even have a strange color. If you're going for the true black-and-white look, shoot with real black-and-white film.

More Advantages of Black-and-White Film

True black-and-white negatives and prints will last decades longer than color because they contain silver, which doesn't fade like color dyes do. However, the pollutants or chemicals emitted by some storage materials, such as nonarchival mount board, cardboard, and wooden frames and drawers, can damage them. Chromogenic black-and-white negatives and prints are more like color negatives and prints in that they can fade or change color over time.

Special types of film are in a class of their own. This group includes infrared film, which records part of the invisible light spectrum the eye can't see, often resulting in images with odd or false colors. Another special-use film is copy and duplicating film, which is used to make copies of color slides and negatives.

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