Yellow & Orange filters vs pushing B&W film

Yellow, Orange, Red etc. are contrast filters for B&W films. Most modern film is panchromatic, meaning it's pretty much sensitive to all colors we can see with our eyes. This is great, the first black and white films were orthochromatic and didn't see red, which would just show as black no the print (clear on the film). Actually exactly what your black and white paper does.

People call these black and white contrast filters. It is true that they change the contrast of black and white images but not the overall contrast, just selected contrast. Panchromatic film sees all colors more or less at the same brightness, meaning a blue sky and light grey cloud of the same brightness appear almost the same shade of grey. We see color contrast between different colors and on top of that the color yellow will always look brightest to us, blue always darker. Even though the blue sky may have the same brightness as the cloud it will always look darker to us and hence the white cloud stands out. A person against a grey concrete wall is another good example. The grey wall may be the same brightness as the skin of the person, but the skin will always look brighter to the human eye. What you want to do with your b&w film is mimic this. You add a yellow filter for example and all light that hits your film now has to travel through the yellow filter first and will mix to a different color. 

The opposite of yellow is somewhere near blue on the color wheel. So the blue sky will now look very dark on your film. The white cloud is a mixture of all colors so a lot of that light will pass through and it will look very bright. A yellow leaf will almost pass through 100% and hence look white on the film (actually black on the film, white on the print)  Human skin has a lot of yellow and hence will look much brighter when adding a yellow filter. This works for all races by the way. Human skin regardless of tone always follows a mixture of Red>Green>Blue or Cyan<Red<Yellow.

Some people may say that pushing film will give you a similar effect but that's not quite true. Pushing film will increase the overall contrast of the picture. Filters will selectively increase contrast. 

For really interesting results, try pushing Tri-X two stops with a red filter. Have fun!

Pushing Black & White Film

I have recently gone through some re-organization of my film archive and noticed that one of my first few rolls of film, in fact number 2, was Tmax 400. I shot it in my Ricoh GR1v and had it developed at a local lab. I was new to film and new to the GR1v, which is now broken beyond repair. The GR1v reads the Dx code on the film canister and sets the ISO speed automatically. I thought I had no choice but shoot it at that speed. I now understand that you can just set the exposure compensation to -2 stops for example. 

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How to be cool


  • Don't scan your film because scans don't look good
  • Print your negatives because prints look nice
  • Shoot Tri-X because it's romantic
  • Develop in Xtol because it's awesome
  • Make contact sheets, avoids having to use Lightroom
  • The only digital pic you take are smartphone snaps of your prints
  • Pray for Kodachrome to come back at least once a week
  • Fix your Tri-X in a neutral rapid fixer
  • Use acetic acid to stop film
  • Use citric acid to stop paper
  • Own an enlarger
  • Don't push film!
  • Keep a yellow filter on when you shoot B&W
  • use very few hashtags should you ever post on social media
  • don't sell stuff that you end up buying again later anyhow
  • Lift weights

I will probably have a follow-up post sometime in the future on how to be cooler.

Thanks and good luck with the above.

Update: Solution to pink, purple and magenta Tri-X

So after searching forums online and asking friends how to get rid of the tint on Kodak's Tri-X I finally decided to actually ask Kodak itself. 

If you follow Kodak on Instagram and/or Twitter you may have noticed their recent enthusiasm for film. What can I say? I like it! So I thought if they are so pro-film now maybe they actually care and will answer if I ask them. So I went to Kodak's website and clicked somewhere on "contact me" and sent them an email.

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Extra Resolution from the Frontier

Disclaimer: Technical Tutorial. This has nothing to do with the art of photography.

The Frontier is one of the most popular film scanners. Most people prefer it over the Noritsu for the colors it produces. I am not sure which one I like better. I think I kind of like them both. The Pakon also does an awesome job but doesn't seem to be used by any of the big labs. Probably because it's not supported by Kodak anymore...

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