Increasing contrast in black and white film – Part 1.

My latest project whilst in lockdown is to increase the contrast of my black and white film photos. I’ve been reading about various new 35mm films that have come on the market that were designed for uses such as aerial surveillance or use in ATM machines. Even some that emulate the old black and white film stock produced for the movies in Germany. Many of these films are 2 to 3 times the price of my regular black and white films such as Ilford HP5+ or Fomapan 400.

This got me to thinking though that maybe I could emulate some of these films by using my regular film stock and altering exposure and development to increase contrast.

For a given film and developer the variables are duration of development, Temperature of developer and agitation. Activity (whether the solution is used more than once) can also be a variable but for these tests I’ve used one shot methods. Increasing development time increases both the density and the contrast of the negative image but also increases the speed of the film and the granularity of the image.

My test is carried out using a pair of my Olympus OM40s loaded with Ilford HP5+. I also used another roll in my Ricoh KR10 Super which I intended to shoot at box speed but then alter the agitation of the tank from 10 seconds each minute to 30 seconds each minute to see how that effects the final outcome.

The two Olympus Om40s that I used for the test.
The Ricoh KR10 Super which had the third film loaded.

The Olympus camera exposure meters are set to the normal ‘off film’ setting for centre biased exposure. One camera will be shot using an E.V. of minus 2 to enhance depth of the shadow areas. This gives an effective film speed of 1600 ISO. This film will then be developed in Ilford ID11 diluted 1+1 for the regular time plus 20% to enhance the contrast. This will give me a development time of 15.5 minutes. The second camera is set to an E.V. of zero and the development time in ID11 diluted at 1+1 will be the regular 13 minutes.

The Ricoh was set to 400 ISO and the dilution was 1+3 to improve sharpness and also agitated 30 seconds every minute. This in contrast to 10 seconds every minute which is my normal method.

Maybe semi-stand development might be the answer, but that’s another test for another day.

My first test day was carried out during a walk through Marks Hall Arboretum. I thought trees would make a reasonable subject during these times when my ability to get into London for some architecture is limited. The day was a bit overcast so I thought this might show up better any increased contrast.

The test using the Ricoh was conducted on a bright and sunny day taking photographs of a church and a local wood.

In part Two I’ll be looking at the results and comparing the photographs!

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