Chapter 3: Film stock, what film stock?

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The journey into 35mm does not just start with the camera, choosing the right film stock is very important. Being clear on how I wanted to shoot would allow me to pick the film stock that would work for me. However, the issue I had, is I had no photographic identity, I simply did not know how I wanted to shoot.

In my simplistic mind I thought I could walk into a local photo shop and pick up some easy off the shelf 35mm stock, load it into the camera and start shooting. I was so wrong! Firstly I needed to decide wether to shoot colour or black and white, I opted to shoot black and white. This was for two reasons really; I enjoy the depth of black and white photography as well as the timeless approach the medium gives you.

“I enjoy the depth of black and white photography as well as the timeless approach the medium gives you.”

Now I had decided to shoot black and white I needed to research what stock to use. I picked up a fantastic book from Amazon called ‘The 35mm Photographers Handbook’ which had a great amount of detail and choice for black and white film stock. Throughout the research I kept coming back  to the Kodak TRI-X 400 and the Ilford XP2 super 400. The deciding factor for me was the reviews on the Ilford XP2 were great, they were also readily available in my local photo store and online. There was another huge factor in that it was the go to film stock when everything is against you. If you are battling light, bad conditions or want upmost flexibility when learning, the highlight range and the organic grain in the image give you, in my opinion, the best starting point to become a successful 35mm photographer. It allowed me to comfortably move away from the world of digital.

I have been using the stock for many months now and I do not regret my choice. The mistakes I made early on was trying to push the ASA on the camera, the film stock really has no flex, you must shoot at ASA 400 and work in your filters should you have a creative preference. I have now become much more comfortable with what the film will give me. I know I can push it in daylight and the detail won’t be lost, I do also know that trying to shoot in low light conditions without flash simply will not work, you will end up with a mass of blur.

“The mistakes I made early on was trying to push the ASA on the camera…”

The Ilford XP2 super 400 film stock in the Minolta SRT202 is giving me, now, better images than I ever could of hoped for. However I do not want to be single minded in my approach, nor do I want to believe my first choice was the best choice. I have in the past few weeks purchased some Kodak TRI-X 400 and will offer my opinion and comparison on the two in a later chapter. If it competes with the Ilford image I will be one very happy snapper!

“The Ilford XP2 super 400 film stock in the Minolta SRT202 is giving me, now, better images than I ever could of hoped for.”

I would support and urge anyone using 35mm stock and wanting to shoot black and white to invest in some rolls of the Ilford XP2super 400. Give yourself a good 4 – 6 rolls until everything starts clicking, but during that time take notes of how you are shooting and learn were you can push the boundaries.

Should you have any questions or want to speak to me, please comment below, tweet me @Visual_Alex or Instagram me @journey35mmfilm .

Ta for now – Alex

Photo above is my wife, daughter and dog out for a walk in the countryside, shot on a Minolta SRT 202 with Ilford XP2 Super 400 35mm film stock.

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