January 16th, 2013 1 Comment

Weddings with Liz Banfield: Keeping the Art of Black and White Film Photography Alive

The black and white photograph has a powerful way of rendering a scene that is uniquely enduring. By taking color out of the equation, everything is simplified and the viewer can focus on the moment without  distractions such as a busy background or a spray-tan gone wrong.  At every wedding I always shoot true black and white film throughout the day to create these timeless images. Beyond an artful chronicle of the day I’m looking to take photographs that could live on someone’s wall forever. To make my point, I chose pictures from different times throughout my career – only two of these shots were taken recently. One of them – 12 years ago!

Stylistically, I’m in love the atmospheric quality of film, especially black and white. The grain has a softness unique to the medium. I feel as though film has a touch of the human hand in a way that digital does not. It’s sort of like the difference between a hand-woven rug and a machine-made one — the slight variations are part of the beauty. I am devoted to keeping the art of black and white photography alive.

If you too are a lover of black and white photography, you may want to focus on photographers who shoot film or use a hybrid of film and digital. Then, sit back and observe their favorite work, i.e. the work they present to you on their website or in their studio. Are they showing black and white images that resonate with you? Not every photographer “feels” it when it comes to black and white and it takes a certain amount of experience to know how an image will turn out when shot with black and white film. Importantly, I advise against ever trying to “coach” a photographer into shooting in a style or medium that is different from their existing portfolio.

I’m often asked if a color photograph (film or digital) can be converted to black and white. The answer is yes. And no. The conversion can be tricky and never looks as good as if the image was taken originally in black and white film. A conversion from a color digital file is especially difficult, even if artificial “grain” is added to the image. Furthermore, certain lighting situations are more suited to black and white so not every shot will suddenly look better or more classic by simply taking out the color. I’ll just summarize by saying, sigh, it’s never the same.
One more tip – if you do splash out for a film photographer, consider having your favorite shots printed on traditional “fiber” paper. These prints can only be made from a negative on an easel in a traditional darkroom. They have a beautiful, rich depth, that is truly timeless. – Liz Banfield
Photographer Liz Banfield has several books available to purchase, most notably Weddings by Tara Guerard and Southern Weddings: New Looks from the Old South. Another book that Liz’s work appears in that you might like is Wedding Photography Unveiled: Inspiration and Insight from 20 Top Photographers.
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