B&W successful secrets

Joined
Dec 14, 2009
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Ajman, United Arab Emirates
Hi all,

I would like to start a thread here discussing about what are the things or secrets or whatever you call it that can make a B&W film shot to be a successful shot.

We all may favor or like one shot to another, some like it with more tones, other prefer it contrasty, some may want it to be less grainy, and so on... so what is your factors or preferences to judge if the B&W shot you did or saw was a successful one???!!!

When i look at my B&W shots i scan and processed by myself i feel there is something missing, something i feel my B&W is not contrasty enough as it should, another time i see that my black is not a true pure black or my white is not white, it is like black or white are going closer to gray zone, so i feel my B&W is flat somehow.

If i try to have my B&W contrasty then i lose details either in shadows or highlights, so if i try to keep the details out there then i feel my B&W is not contrasty as i like, so i feel maybe i care more about the DR but then i feel i don't like my B&W, i can add contrast to my B&W but then if i show them to some people then i may hear some comments or critiques that i lost details there, really tough decision if i have to go with what i like or with what others prefer!!!

Now with all that, what can you tell us about your impressions about B&W film shots you like [either taken by yourself or by others]?

I hope if you can show examples of which B&W you really amazed with, i am sure all or many of you will show the legendary and masters works, well, i know, but that doesn't mean they must be the top best, because i look at the look of the film and not the story or the message behind the shot, so be sure to look at the shot as B&W result and not as an artist view and feelings of the shots talking about.
 
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About the last line i posted above, i saw many of Ansel Adams and Henry B&W shots, honestly speaking, not many of their work i like or impressing me, they do great job as composing and moment capture, but the B&W results not always what i really like of their work.
 
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Texas
Strange. I have been in intimate galleries filled with Mr. Adams' work on two occasions in the past few years. The first time, the prints were small. Contact print size. The second time, 16x20s. There was some overlap of photos between the two exhibits. Both times I was humbled. I feel very fortunate to have seen these photos. My only regret: I didn't see them decades ago.

Back to reality. Tell us the steps you go through to scan a negative. Perhaps we can point out ways to improve.
Tell us what software you use to edit the scan files. Again, there are many ways to do this. The more minds we have sharing ideas the better.
Show us examples. What works. What doesn't work.
This will be a great learning opportunity for everyone.
 
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Strange. I have been in intimate galleries filled with Mr. Adams' work on two occasions in the past few years. The first time, the prints were small. Contact print size. The second time, 16x20s. There was some overlap of photos between the two exhibits. Both times I was humbled. I feel very fortunate to have seen these photos. My only regret: I didn't see them decades ago.

Back to reality. Tell us the steps you go through to scan a negative. Perhaps we can point out ways to improve.
Tell us what software you use to edit the scan files. Again, there are many ways to do this. The more minds we have sharing ideas the better.
Show us examples. What works. What doesn't work.
This will be a great learning opportunity for everyone.

Yes, sure, i understand.

In fact this is the points i was going to discuss:
- Pre-developing, shooting and exposure values
- Developing or processing film
- Scan if we want to go digitally
- Print, either digitally or wet in the darkroom

So how can i tell if my development/processing is fine if i am sure my exposure values were correct or accurate nearly perfect?

Scanning can be tweaking or adjusted so it may correct some mistakes there with B&W like shadows or contrast or blown away highlight or whatever.

I heard that printing in the darkroom is the only or best way to judge if the B&W neg was done properly.

Sure i will post examples of what i did, but maybe my examples not that perfect to be discussed, and what we can discuss about my examples to make it perfect next time anyway! And as i said above, printing is the key to tell not the scan, am i correct? If not then i would like to know how to get that great adequate scan then.
 
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Here are few examples i've done which i am not sure if i am happy with or not

img227e.jpg
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img228.jpg
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img229v.jpg
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img230a.jpg
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img231w.jpg
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img232n.jpg
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And here are examples i really like of what i did

20114242344441197.jpg
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2011424234546838.jpg
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20114242346301696.jpg
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20114242348302881.jpg
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2011424234856993.jpg
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Minneapolis
I think Your negatives and exposure values look very good. There is only so much you can do with a negative. I don't think you can ever capture everything perfect. If you start with a good solid negative than the real magic happens in the print. Ansel Adams was a talented photographer, but was also a master in the darkroom. Every print that has that pop out there has been burned and dodged to some extent. Its not an easy task and takes a true talent to master it. With new scanners You can achieve this on the monitor through photoshop a little easier. Maybe practice with some localized burning and dodging on your scans to give them the pop you are looking for, but dont be over critical, I think your pictures look great.
 
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USA
Chemical or Wet -Printing (not necessarily in the darkroom) is a world to itself. I am so glad that I decided to pursue it. It is so rewarding.

It cannot be compared to scanning and/or photoshop -> inkjet printer methods because it's a different experience yielding a different result.

But I don't agree with the notion that you *must* do the above to get a successful B&W image. I've seen and created B&W prints digitally that are excellent.

The success of a B&W image depends on the mood and message of the image itself. Technical perfection (exposure, dodging-burning-toning, photoshop, ink-calibraition, etc.) are nothing if the image itself is devoid of mood and/or messages.

I think you are already competent technically, but the process of creating the images that speaks to you, is an ongoing one. I hope that will never become "easy" for me, because then it would be boring, wouldn't it?
 
Joined
Dec 14, 2009
Messages
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Location
Ajman, United Arab Emirates
I think Your negatives and exposure values look very good. There is only so much you can do with a negative. I don't think you can ever capture everything perfect. If you start with a good solid negative than the real magic happens in the print. Ansel Adams was a talented photographer, but was also a master in the darkroom. Every print that has that pop out there has been burned and dodged to some extent. Its not an easy task and takes a true talent to master it. With new scanners You can achieve this on the monitor through photoshop a little easier. Maybe practice with some localized burning and dodging on your scans to give them the pop you are looking for, but dont be over critical, I think your pictures look great.

Thank you very much!
As i said, sometimes my B&W scans are really nice, another time my scans just sucks, so i really don't know if it is my scanning method/process or it is the neg to begin with.
 
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Messages
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Chemical or Wet -Printing (not necessarily in the darkroom) is a world to itself. I am so glad that I decided to pursue it. It is so rewarding.

It cannot be compared to scanning and/or photoshop -> inkjet printer methods because it's a different experience yielding a different result.

But I don't agree with the notion that you *must* do the above to get a successful B&W image. I've seen and created B&W prints digitally that are excellent.

The success of a B&W image depends on the mood and message of the image itself. Technical perfection (exposure, dodging-burning-toning, photoshop, ink-calibraition, etc.) are nothing if the image itself is devoid of mood and/or messages.

I think you are already competent technically, but the process of creating the images that speaks to you, is an ongoing one. I hope that will never become "easy" for me, because then it would be boring, wouldn't it?

Thanks for your points.
I said that if we take out the mood or the story and keep just the technical part of it, and i am talking about film analog B&W only, not the digitally taken shots, i have great amazing digital B&W, even if the scan is digital process but i still talk about using film, so what do you do to get B&W film great decent?

I know that printing in darkroom is another world or study itself, i took long time to have one print only that is impressive!!!
 
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BTW, i noticed that the negs or films[even slides] out of my Mamiya RZ and GSW690III are the sharpest i have with MF, my Hassy 501cm is softer or less sharpness than both two cameras, i hope my Mamiya 7II work one day [as it doesn't work since i bought the only one lens] then i will see if that one is sharper than Hasselbald, too bad that i like the handle of Hasselblad more than Mamiya RZ, but Mamiya7II and GSW are super nice for handling, but GSW is fixed lens and no changing back, Mamiya7 is changing lens but no changing back, so only Hasselblad and RZ are accepting digital backs or changing backs.
 
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netherlands
Sentences too long! My brain can't process! What is the question!? :confused: :wink:

If you don't like the pictures you posted, I can only say this: dodge&burn. In a print, but it can be done digitally too. Your negatives should be fine, it seems you properly captured the entire brightness range of the scenes. B&W captures so much information that if your highlights aren't blown and your shadows not blocked, the exposure was fine. However, the scans look flat, boring, they don't pop. You can't do a straight scan with only like 7 stops DR of scenes like the ones you posted and get a nice image. Can't do it with a print either, so you dodge and burn.

Two minutes turn this...
2011424234856993.jpg
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...into this. Bring out the faces and expressions (the interesting part of the image), create contrast between the wall and their garments.
2011424234856993a.jpg
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In the ones you're not so happy with, I don't think the scenes are all that interesting, so I don't think processing is the issue there per se. But overall, your images are perfectly exposed, but the scans are too flat. And your sentences are too long ;)
 
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Sentences too long! My brain can't process! What is the question!? :confused: :wink:

If you don't like the pictures you posted, I can only say this: dodge&burn. In a print, but it can be done digitally too. Your negatives should be fine, it seems you properly captured the entire brightness range of the scenes. B&W captures so much information that if your highlights aren't blown and your shadows not blocked, the exposure was fine. However, the scans look flat, boring, they don't pop. You can't do a straight scan with only like 7 stops DR of scenes like the ones you posted and get a nice image. Can't do it with a print either, so you dodge and burn.

Two minutes turn this...
http://www.ilfordphoto.com/Photos/2011424234856993.jpg

...into this. Bring out the faces and expressions (the interesting part of the image), create contrast between the wall and their garments.
http://koenlageveen.nl/download/2011424234856993a.jpg

In the ones you're not so happy with, I don't think the scenes are all that interesting, so I don't think processing is the issue there per se. But overall, your images are perfectly exposed, but the scans are too flat. And your sentences are too long ;)

You are right, maybe the lack of interest in my B&W shots making it boring, and i also meaning the flatness of my B&W, and when you edited my shot above you brought the face brightness up but the bottom of the shot became a bit underexposed, watch the sandals [the black one], but i know what you mean to increase the contrast to make it pop.

I think it is not how i scan or capture the exposure first place, it is also about how the shot interest me or others, i may have perfect exposure and great scan but the scene is nothing interesting, that is why i don't shoot these days, i don't want to waste my films on boring shots and posting here against your interesting lovely shots.
 
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Hey, you got wonderful stuff in there, like the ones with these guys in them. Nobody ever got any better by not shooting anyway. I always refer to something Bruce Gilden once said. In a question about what makes him successful he answers questioning his succes, "... how many really good shots have I made? 25? And I've been at it for 40 years". I think we have to come to terms with the fact that a ridiculous percentage of what we shoot is worthless.
 
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Hey, you got wonderful stuff in there, like the ones with these guys in them. Nobody ever got any better by not shooting anyway. I always refer to something Bruce Gilden once said. In a question about what makes him successful he answers questioning his succes, "... how many really good shots have I made? 25? And I've been at it for 40 years". I think we have to come to terms with the fact that a ridiculous percentage of what we shoot is worthless.

We are thinking different than you, and i don't know many many names of those famous or successful photographers out there, but i know we all have points, i can say many points and advices about photography as well, but when it is coming to apply, i find that what i said is not what i did.

Anyway, this is normal about my shots, i lost the interest in photography in my country, all people or say 98% told me that my best shots i have are from out of my country, i still have nice great shots from my country but my winners top fav set were 90% for my travel shots, i swear and guarantee you that if i live in USA or Europe for 1 year, i will have shots that i may not have in UAE in 6 years, so i have to take what i have even not the best, and i can't beat the world to have the best shots in my country over others on another countries, check Hasselblad and Phase One galleries and Masters, you may never see shots from Arab World, check the film top shots galleries, you may see 1-2% shots from Arab world, and i can't travel now due to bad situations, so it seems i will not have those amazing perfect shots to be proud of here in my country, regardless if i use film or digital, and in fact i asked questions here or started the thread is to see if i can turn a so-so normal shot to a decent amazing by the look and adjustments, and B&W sometimes amazing me for the look and tones more than the story/mood behind it, and on digital forums people liked my HDR shots even they are nothing more than just normal scenes where all of them can shoot better than i do.

Well, i hope i can find something interesting in my country to shoot with B&W rather than shooting my indoor house or few neighborhood locations where i don't see people care to photograph as well, and i will tell you honest, the only thing that will keep me posting and get interested to shoot more is when i post my work and get many comments liking my work and would like to see more, i just got bored to read posts repeated such as "Nice shot, i prefer #x", "That is awesome image, you win", "Fantastic". Sure those comments are so nice to hear, but hearing it same or similar for 4-5 years will not make me to feel i want to do more and more again, i wish if i win in a competition, or if i sell prints, or have my work on well-known magazine,..etc then i will be very happy to shoot more, i am not feeling interested in to shoot more for myself joy anymore nowadays, so my hope now here is to find how to make my B&W popping or appealing better regardless of the content or the compose/theme in there.
 
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Wow, I think you just broke a record for longest sentence. Dude, use the . ...it's there for a reason.

If you want a lively discussion on the merits of your images and aesthetic tweaks and tips, you could try joining in the 1x.com critique section. I don't find the imagery on that site very interesting, but the post processing skills of people joining in is top notch. And people are very friendly and go way beyond "I like #x".
 
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Wow, I think you just broke a record for longest sentence. Dude, use the . ...it's there for a reason.

If you want a lively discussion on the merits of your images and aesthetic tweaks and tips, you could try joining in the 1x.com critique section. I don't find the imagery on that site very interesting, but the post processing skills of people joining in is top notch. And people are very friendly and go way beyond "I like #x".

Ok, sorry for that........ next time ....... i will use the dots and commas.

I am a member there [1x]..... but i submitted one photo to be published there........ it was almost 2 months and they didn't respond at all with accept or reject....... i know i can submit for critiques...... but the work there have different aspect and theme than what i do..... and i hope they can tell me how to do the workflow and not to change my theme or work on a project.
 
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Its interesting that all of the images you do not like are inside locations, they do lack interest to grab the viewer. The ones you like are all outside and have folks or have better subjects and lines.

I think your images look fine, however, I think you lack visualization and perhaps few of the images look like they were taken out of boredom for the sake of burning film. I think adding a light modifier or better locations that can bring out
more pop to your images is needed so they do not look flat. I hope you do not take my words as ill-mannered.
 
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Its interesting that all of the images you do not like are inside locations, they do lack interest to grab the viewer. The ones you like are all outside and have folks or have better subjects and lines.

I think your images look fine, however, I think you lack visualization and perhaps few of the images look like they were taken out of boredom for the sake of burning film. I think adding a light modifier or better locations that can bring out
more pop to your images is needed so they do not look flat. I hope you do not take my words as ill-mannered.

Perfect, you got the point, in fact this is what happened to me, i just go out to shoot whatever to burn film and keep shooting as many people told me and come back to post, whatever i got i post, so i think i see myself before you do that i just do photography to waste/spend/pass my time, not to have new ideas or creative things.
So if that is what happening, it means i will stop photography for a while until i have something really matter and worth to photograph, since my dad died and i left my job i lost my interest in photography, just i shoot anything to keep in the field.
 

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