Black and White Film Photography

Like I mentioned earlier, I had loaded up my Olympus XA with black and white film a few months back, in preparation for Beth’s wedding. I was curious about shooting black-and-white with my XA, and it’s great in low light. I had also planned to test out the proprietary flash, but I realized too late that I’d forgotten to put a battery in it.

When I saw how dark the reception hall was, I thought for sure that none of the pictures would come out with no flash. So, I only took half the roll, not wanting to waste a relatively expensive roll of Kodak.

That was a mistake.

Had I just gone for it, and not worried about wasting film, I could have gotten so many great images. As it was, I only got about ten. This is where digital has definitely spoiled me: had I been able to see that the images were in fact good, I would have continued to shoot. As it was, I shied away from using up my film, because I’d started thinking of it as such a commodity as compared to my reusable memory card. I can’t let myself do that when I’m shooting film instead of digital, even if I’m not positive the pictures will come out. I have to take chances. After all, it’s just money, right? Besides that, I ended up blowing the rest of the roll on pictures of trees and shit, just to finish it up and get it sent off for processing.

I can also see the allure of black and white photography now. The last time I shot in black and white was my very first photography class, I think, and I truly didn’t appreciate the artistic possibilities back then. Shooting in black and white forces your brain to look at the scene a little differently, to see the tones and the composition, rather than the colors and the literal scene in front of you.

It’s difficult for me to see what would make a good black and white image when I’m looking at a color print (or jpeg). I know that people say you should shoot in color, then convert the image to black and white later if you think it would work better that way. If left to my own devices, I would focus on isolating the subject of a given photo using depth of field (having only the subject be in focus, and the rest of the photo be blurry). Using b&w, though, I don’t necessarily find that the only (or easiest) way to isolate my subject. Lighting conditions and composition can help create a powerful image, as well.

I should set my Nikon to black and white mode and go out photographing. Get some practice, see some different compositions, so that next time I’m faced with a film-based situation, I won’t feel so frugal with my frames.