Soliciting project ideas


in Daily updates, Photography

If a colleague leaving town gave you 15 rolls of black and white negative film, what would you use it for? It is AGFA film, between 25 ISO and 400 ISO.

It has been a while since I broke out my Elan 7N. Indeed, I don’t think it has ever been used with my 24-70 f/2.8L.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt November 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Is it C41 process?

I mention it because I’ve only used C41 Black and White once, but it had terrible contrast.

Milan November 9, 2010 at 6:48 pm

No, it is ordinary B&W negative film.

alena November 9, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I would make a portrait of all the people that I know and care about and make an album of it. I would also take pictures of the downtown East side and make a collage.

BuddyRich November 10, 2010 at 6:40 am

B&W Night photography… Do a whole Film Noir project… Lots of good old buildings around Ottawa (and people and shadows) to capture some nice and moody images.

Milan November 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

I am trying to save up for the Toronto move, so the prospect of paying to process and scan many rolls of film is not very alluring.

There might be places in Ottawa that would let me do the developing myself (though processes dependent on precise timing and temperature are much better done with robots), but that might actually increase the cost of scanning. Most places will scan a roll they developed for about $5, but charge much more to scan developed film brought in from elsewhere.

Milan November 10, 2010 at 11:52 am

Maybe I could find people who want to have photos of themselves or something else shot on film, and who are willing to handle the processing themselves.

I would be OK with putting in the time and film, provided the subjects are intreresting.

Tristan November 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I would suggest that you emphasize the different possibilities for film vs digital. I.e. self process (or find someone who can do the developing for you privately), perhaps try to borrow some odd-ball film cameras – maybe a Lomo which has been modified to take 35mm film. Maybe look into pushing the film to get different effects, i.e. pronounced grain. And definitely enjoy the different “approach” which film shooting has as compared to digital.

Milan November 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Another possibility would be a project that somehow highlights how much better film is as an archival medium. Unless actively cared for, digital files will become useless in a few decades, at most.

Maybe I could think up some sort of photo project that stresses how old-fashioned negatives can be dumped in a closet for a couple of hundred years, and still be perfectly good after.

Neal November 10, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I like Buddy Rich’s idea. I would use the 400 speed pushed one stop for that (if shooting moving subjects, that is).

Try putting tinfoil on the pressure plate. The reflecting light should overwhelm the anti-halation coating on the back of the film and the scattered light should re-expose the emulsion, giving that ethereal glowing effect of IR film. For further IR emulation, shoot with a deep red filter.

I would see if you could buy some time in a darkroom and develop and print it yourself. If you’re not feeling that ambitious, maybe just print it yourself. Buy some fiber based paper and make prints of a quality and permanence that you can’t find commercially.

If that isn’t an option, and the cost of processing and printing is prohibitive, you could mail the exposed rolls to me. I could develop the film and get scans to send to you (I find most places that offer cheap scans with processing will give you a steep discount on scans if you give them an intact roll). Then, you could pick your favorite shots, I can make prints, and send them back to you with the negatives.

Matt, with regards to C41B&W, I agree that most minilab prints will come out muddy, however, C41 B&W is a marvelous and versatile medium when used appropriately, and with a little tweaking in the darkroom can produce bold, high-contrast prints. There is a reason it was the mainstay of wedding photographers before the move to digital (beyond the convenience of minilab processing and because it’s 400 speed film with a fine grain). High bit-level scans will give you a lot of latitude to play with the curves in PS until the contrast is what you’re looking for. Higher contrast filters when printing on B&W paper will typically get the print as constrasty as you want it, even if you are going for blown out highlights and inky blacks.

Finally, there are some subjects for which C41 B&W is ideal: scenes with lots of natural contrast. Instead of low-contrast or muddy, think of it as high dynamic range. Perfect for shooting in broken shade, or say, black dogs playing in snow.

Milan November 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm


That’s a generous offer and those are good suggestions. How do you process B&W film? Do you do it yourself, or rely on a lab?

On a different note, I was playing around with my Elan 7N the other day and found that my expectations of cameras have been transformed by the 5D Mk II. When I got the Elan 7N, I thought it was incredible large, heavy, and professional-feeling. It seemed like a super sophisticated piece of photographic equipment. Now, after months of carrying around the 5D with a battery grip and heavy lenses, the 7N seems much less impressive. Of course, my Rebel G feels like a toy compared with either.

While the 7N no longer feels overly impressive, I am sure it will take great photos when paired with good lenses and film.

Neal November 10, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I would be processing the film myself. The community darkroom I am a part of is going to be purchasing a large amount of Xtol, which only makes sense if we all commit to processing on average 10+ rolls in the next few months. The timing works out perfectly.

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