More confessions and part of my subversive agenda to get people to shoot at least a little bit of film. I will put the confession part right up front. I am lazy and negative films, both color and black and white, are easy. Crazy easy. Let's take the above shot as an example of what I am prattling on about.
When I see light that inspires me to make a photograph I want to just take the picture without a lot of fuss. With film this is a no brainer even in what would be considered horrible lighting conditions with digital. This particular shot is mostly backlit with all of the light coming from the window behind daughter #3. There is a bit coming in from behind her and camera right as well. Just enough to be caught in her left eye. The rest of the room is very very dark as you can see in the lower part of the frame. The walls are painted navy blue.
There is a tiny bit of fill coming from the floor due to the lighter colored carpet but not much. With negative film you point your camera away from the light. Set the shutter and Aperture. Then fire away with not a care in the world. Trust me it will look great. If you are not sure what to do in this kind of circumstance just dial in a bunch more exposure and don't worry about it too much.
If you wanted to grab this on digital good luck. You either get black with reasonable detail in the hair and skin on the side of her face or you get a blobular white awful looking mess with some detail in the front of her shirt and shadow part of her face. When digital goes off the edge it not only looks bad, it looks horrible and starts creating nasty looking artifacts in things like backlit hair.
Of course you could just use auto-fill-flash - yea that would look great. Wrong - it would completely destroy this image. What you would really have to do is take an amazing amount of time and gear and fiddling around to attempt to recreate this look. Most likely using really giant v-flats to bring up the shadow side just enough so that none of the hair or skin would blow out. If you didn't use a really really really really big fill source you would produce a very unnatural looking secondary catch light. You would also have to shoot it flat and fool with it in post to completely avoid jaggy crappy digi artifacts in the hair/backlight transitions.
I am not trying to fool you with this - I just know what recreating this kind of look takes with digital capture. I have done it countless times for commercial work and it's a pain in the ass to make it look natural. With most negative films the process is like falling off a log. Step one - see light. Step two - set exposure for the shadow areas which should give you nutty detail everywhere in the image. Step three start shooting and don't worry about it again until the light actually changes. Hummmmm. Shoot it without worrying about it. Now you can actually pay attention to your subject and not be forking around with your camera or looking for blinkies, or messing with your fill, etc, etc.
So… What kind of film might you want to use to try using natural light in a care-free way? If you want color just about any of the lower contrast "pro" films will work wonders. Think Kodak Portra 160 or 400. Maybe Fuji 400H. With black and white you can use just about anything and be fine but if you want to stack the deck with impossible to block up highlights then a film like I used here will work great. This happens to be Ilford HP5 Plus developed in Pyro. Personally I think it makes fantastically beautiful images. What the hell would you want a $3000 digital for when you can make images like this all day with a $100 camera and $4 film?
More confessions coming - I shoot film because I am lazy.