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Friday, 14 June 2013


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Do us a favour, and buy a 50mm lens for your Nikon !

Do I notice a film like border rendering on the upper left?

A lovely image, Mike. You do these well.

It's possible that on the rare occasion, you worry too much. If digital doesn't have a natural look, then shouldn't the artist give it his look? That seems natural enough to me. Good shot.

Gorgeous! And you added the black border using one of the familiar plug-ins, via some automation, manually?


With all due respect, nonsense. Technique is just technique, a choice of tools and methods. Integrity lies within the photographer and their relationship with him or herself and their relationship with the subject of the photograph.

Looks like an honest photograph to me. After all, you didn't clone tool out the clutter on the counter behind Rebecca...

Anything that requires taking a file to your negative carriers is not a "natural" look! :-)

(It's a look I kind of like, except for the pictures that just weren't 2:3, though.)

Integrity doesn't come from technique, it comes from the mind. I would venture to suggest that your work has integrity, as it has always done.

One can create a black border digitally. But I hate when folks do that just to mimic film; do what's right for the pic, regardless.

When I look at this wonderful portrait your statement "my technique used to have integrity and now it doesn't" has no meaning for me. This is an excellent portrait in every sense and I have a strong emotional response to it. It's overflowing with integrity. I'd be very happy to have done it myself.

I used Tri-X for over 20 years, and when I first switched to digital I was obsessed with getting "the Tri-X look". I tried many software packages that claimed to emulate the Tri-X color response, tried every Photoshop color-to-BW conversion scheme I could find - nothing worked.

I struggled with this, unhappily, for over two years until one day it dawned on me that it wasn't ever going to happen, that digital had it's own kind of beauty, and that if I'm ever going to be a happy photographer again I should immerse myself in digital, learn as much as I can, and learn how to make beautiful ink prints from it.

It made an immediate and profound difference. I was able to relax more, my pictures got better, and my Photoshop and printing skills began a strong upswing which continues to this day.

I'm convinced now that my personal Tri-X look was a combination of the film's color response, how I exposed it (ASA 200), how I developed it (a very dilute HC-110 at 68f for 5.5 minutes), and heaven knows what else (agitation, P67 lenses, etc). No possible way someone's software was going to match that.

I was in a self imposed prison for over two years. I finally let myself out and discovered that digital indeed has it's own wonderful brand of B&W beauty.

Another thought-provoking text. Especially as I am reading it two days after I lost my mind and bought myself an Olympus OM-2n, which I loaded with a Kodak T-Max 100 roll.
Initially I felt tempted to ask why you don't use a film camera if you want to get that film look, but you've kind of answered that when you mentioned your twenty years' worth of prints. Obviously you're not willing to go backwards and want to make the most of digital gear and post-processing.
My view is that nothing can replace black and white. There's something about it that could lead me to spend the rest of my days shooting (or converting) black and white. Taking colours out of the equation shows the forms and textures in a way that would otherwise be lost.
About your picture, I think you got the tonality spot-on. It seems nowadays everyone is favouring excessive contrast and underexposure, turning their pictures into chiaroscuri, but the tonality you obtained is very well-judged and balanced. Just like good old film, as you say.

I print my digital images and my film scans with a thin black line, and I display them that way on my website too. I don't see it as a film-only or film-specific thing, its just a visual element to demarcate the edge of the composition.

It's very nice - a lovely photo. You would be right to be proud to have taken it.

Maybe it's the subjects - because these people are American - and there is a cultural story in the way they hold themselves.

"Lately I've been wanting my digital pictures to look like my film pictures so that they all go together."

Me too. In fact, I'm unwilling to upgrade my DSLR because the graininess of its high ISO noise is rather film-like. I'd like more pixels, but I want to keep the noise, too.

I've also finally got Kallitypes from digital negatives mostly working, so I'm close to a hand-pulled process for all of my work. It would be nice to have consistency, even if it is a hobgoblin of small minds.

Just go back and reshoot on film.

I'd love to hear more from you regarding your concern over integrity (or lack of it). I took your comment to mean something about digital vs. film picture-making. If you mean that using a digital workflow somehow allows a photographer to 'cheat', I'd tell you that's a silly idea in my opinion. Yes digital allows us to do more, but it doesn't allow us to subvert the ability (or inability) to select and compose a beautiful image. Your portrait of the mother and daughter is beautiful, and no amount of digital hokus-pokus could have improved the relationship between photographer and subject that I see in that image. Period.

By maintaining your style, you are, in fact, ensuring the integrity of the whole. You're in the clear!

I've shot some 6x6 on my Mamiya C330 where the borders have gotten messed up in development. So I cropped slightly to kill the borders. But then I'm left with something that looks like I either shot it on digital or cropped it. It doesn't fit in with the other stuff from the same series that has the film borders. I'd have a hard time respecting myself in the morning if I put in a fake border.

For instance:

It's on film! I swear it!

I put a key line around a lot of my digital photographs for similar reasons -- it is part of how I presented my vision of the world in the film days and the aesthetic remains appealing. On the various photo fora this approach gets a lot of . . . flak, is the most polite way to put it. But you know what? They are my pix, and the practice doesn't need any more defense than that.

I think good friends make the best portrait subjects, and this just proves that point, beautiful.

It's a lovely and rewarding photograph, Mike, and has a delicate grace to it. Lillian is the understated beauty, just coming into her own, and apparently unaffected by the camera's presence. Rebecca reveals herself as a mother who is presenting her daughter to the lens, proud of the young woman she has nurtured, and simultaneously part-friend and part-protector. I found my attention drawn to both of them.

The black frame is nice and ethically fine, in my view. It's not like you've placed the image within sprocket holes.

Two very nice ladies, I am sure - interesting how differently mother and daughter present themselves to the camera.

In terms of the image: tonally it look pretty good - does remind me of Tri-X - but your lightsource has given them panda eyes and I don't understand the need for the off-centre composition; the assymetrical positioning adds nothing to the image and makes my eye drift off to the framed print on the right.

But . . . maybe you didn't want a crit?

Funny you should say that. I realised a while ago that I've been making adjustments in both directions: stuff originates on either film or digital and gets tweaked to my satisfaction, whatever view of reality that might give.

Lovely portrait with a long, smooth tonal range that I think would have been hard to achieve with 35mm Tri-X.

Use DxO Film Pack to convert to B&W: they measured the photometric response of Tri-X (amongst others), as well as the grain structure. If their Tri-X conversion is good enough for Salgado, it's good enough for me. Admittedly, I prefer Ilford FP4 (but then, I'm a Brit), though my biggest photo project was on Tri-X, pushed to 800 ASA or higher using either Paterson Accuspeed or May & Baker Promicrol.

["Digital film" mimicking doesn't work for me. I don't have any experimental evidence of this, but I suspect it's because they mimic the film and not the film and paper. The paper adds another curve and its own qualities and characteristics.

Besides, there's no such thing as the "Tri-X look." I could get many different looks from Tri-X (or any B&W film), depending on the exposure, developer, time and agitation, enlarger light source, and the paper. There's no one film look for any one film, so the chances of mimicking it with a preset are zero because they're just shooting for one target when there are ten or twenty targets to hit. Even if they could hit the one they're aiming at, which they can't, the chances that we're both aiming for the same target are slim. --Mike]

It's just a couple of posed people. I'm not interested in who they are posed to be so intriguing about. That failure of posing is what's bothering you.

Having taken up photography as a hobby well post-digiluvian (sorry to mangle your latest coinage Mike), my shortcut indicator of "tonality" is a histogram that is shaped like a normal curve. My view is that a bell-shaped histogram indicates rich mid-tones and no clipping at either extreme. Is this correct?

I have yet to meet a bell-shaped histogram from the color photos I've taken OOC. The better ones are usually skewed to the right or to the left. These I keep and tweak till their histograms resemble a bell shape, more or less. The middling ones have multiple peaks. The worst are either, flat, U- or L-shaped (the reverse L have blown highlights) which I discard (except for L-shaped night shots).

My guess is that the wonderful "Lillian and Rebecca" portrait has a bell-shaped histogram. It must (or my rule-of-thumb flies out the window). (g)


I see the potential of youth and the hopes and pride of parents in this photo. Digital/film and +/- a black border doesn’t change much.


What is fascinating in this type of photography is to feel - beyond the appearances - how the project of living of L. is under the influence of R. Or not. Complicity / Tension. Superbly touching without pathos.

Nice shot.
I am a film shooter and will always be.
The only digital I shoot seriously with is my nikon d1 in the b&w setting mode.

It s an excellent portrait, I think because the tones are great (and this is your tech, ability) and more important because they seem relaxed in front of your camera but also involved in the photography process (and this is because your attitude to human relationship). I do not care so much about how the black border is done, if you think it is necessary to complement your existing body of work it's ok to add it digitally. But "the photo" is inside the border"

Sebastiao Salgado has his digital images converted to film after manipulating them to have a Tri-X look. Then printed in wet darkroom. A good example of this technique's effectiveness is viewing his latest book "Genesis" which is a mix of digital and traditional.

No need for all your work to look similar. Imagine if Picasso had tried that! Or if the Beatles had never recorded Sgt. Peppers!

Careers in anything creative are a stew, not a gazapcho haha.

@david paterson - great photos of Scotland on your Photoshelter account. Capture the essence of the landscape - I single these out because I'm a local BTW! (or used to be)

Considering Sebastaio Salgado is now shooting digital and has it looking like Tri-X, it can be done. Take a look at some of the info on his technique for post processing to get 'the look'. That may help.

Re the borders: I also used to apply this Silver Efex border, but then I noticed that is always the same "irregularity". Since knowing this, it felt pretentious or cheesy to me. So at the moment, I just apply a black border in Lightroom before printing, which is honestly regular ;-)
But I may think differently 3 months from now...

Very nice photo.

As to the readers' questions about adding a border -- if you're using Photoshop, expand the canvas after working the image by two pixels, three pixels, whatever you want, and have the color selection box set on black.

Are you not tying yourself in knots? If you scanned your Tri-x with the objective of putting it on the web, to go alongside your new digitals, would you manufacture a border for it? The border is a printing artefact, so anotehr consideration is should you make digital prints from your digital images that look as though they were printed in the darkroom? Murky stuff. Best not to bother

I think it's a lovely portrait, and the gradation id beautiful right back to the broght window. Everything about it says 'real' and 'honest'.

I've been on both sides of the camera for a long time, 20 years ago I hired the great Chicago shooter Marc Hauser to do an ad campaign of portraits- just so I could watch him work.
He used a wider than normal lens on his 6x7 and shot amazingly close and lit very close as well.
He confided that the short lens (thus short camera-subject distence) gave a roundness and realness to faces.
It did then , and yours has that look.
I assume it was your 28.
Really nice.

Mike,...lets cut straight to the essentials (with absolutely no wish to offend).....never mind the subleties of film/digi differences, are you happy with that womans head being deformed like that?.....wide angles can give immediacy but when the distortion is ignored like that the shot is devalued.

A suggestion:
If you change the "size" slider in the Image Border dialog box to 95% , or so, you can save yourself the cropping step back in Photoshop. It's automatically even all around, and NIK remembers the setting next time you open it.

@Alan, no need to be British, I love FP4 as well at 200 ISO in a Nikon F3 with a period 35 2.8 if possible. Developed in Neofin Blue. Verry sharp grain especially using a Vivitar IV with light pipe.

Greets, Ed.

And now I'm just in the proces of trying out DxO filmpack et je suis très enchante de se connaitre(pardon my (lousy) French).

Is good. Is beautiful. I don't care if you shot it on a pinhole or a Diana. It's a real picture. Tri-X or pixellated, who gives a rat's bottom? I wonder why we worry about that stuff when it is the world, not the camera, that matters. Luvvly jubbly.

I'd argue that filing out an negative holder to get the black line in the first place is a bit of manipulation in itself - but wow, the greys in this sing - more like medium format than 35.

Salgado uses Dxo Filmpack to emulate his old film stock (Kodak Tri X 400 and TMAX 3200) with digital cameras but then closes the processing loop in an interesting way.

His assistant processes the digital images with FilmPack to generate contact sheets. Salgado makes picks and selects from the "contacts" then he prints "working prints" of the selects.

The final printed images are made by "printing" to intermediate negative that I presume a technical black and white film with a linear response. That internegative is then printed by his old (Parisian) printer in a converntional darkroom using conventional techniques on silver-halide paper. I presume along with with "hand waving" dodge and burn instructions.

All this effort allows him to keep the look he wants all the way to the final silver gelatin prints (which he also wants for sale as he already know the archival and visual qualities of those prints).

So you can do accurate film emulation if you wish but most people don't go to Salgados lengths to get it "right". Like most people, just take it as a starting point and leave out the grain (after all it's not "true" to the sensor). After all that's the way people did it with film.


Another Salgado link (as I know how the spam system likes to eat posts with more than 1 link :-)


So what camera did you use for this portrait and the shots in the later post?

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