Simple Film Lab is offering three new Black and White film tonal distribution profiles for black and white film sent in for processing and scanning.
The new tonal profiles are meant to be applicable to black and white film sent in for processing to normal contrast and is meant to provide a look similar to what you can get if you were to do an analog darkroom print using a split grade printing technique to punch in the shadows and blacks with a grade 5 filter and also control the rolloff of the highlights using a grade 0 or 00 filter.
So, let’s take a look. As a frame of reference, first a frame of Ilford HP5 in 120 format exposed (with an incident meter) to ISO 400 and developed to ISO standard 0.615 contrast and scanned in with a matching tone profile to make the straight line part of the characteristic curve land on Gamma 1.0.
Contrast wise, it’s pretty much what I’d expect of a linear black and white digital image, and is basically what you’d expect to see if you just did a straight print at grade 2.5 in a darkroom.
There isn’t anything special about it, and in all honesty, the floating point DNG that you get from Simple Film Lab is insanely malleable and can have a huge amount of dynamic range that you could recover any number of ways in either Adobe ACR or Adobe Lightroom.
So the first profile is called BWSG1, which is short for “Black and White Simple Grade 1”.
This tone curve starts with the standard normal contrast curve of the image above, but includes the equivalent of adding a couple of extra seconds of exposure at grade 5 if this where being printed onto paper in a darkroom.
This is what it looks like:
Just like with adding a couple of seconds at grade 5 in the darkroom, the mid-tones and highlights are largely unaffected, but the blacks and shadows punch down a bit and make for a significantly more punchy looking image while still retaining the same contrast in the rest of the image.
The second profile is called BWSG2, and is a progression of BWSG1. In this tonal distribution profile, we keep the same look of BWSG1, but include the equivalent of a grade 0 rolloff on the extreme highlights. The effect here in this image is very subtle, but in images where there are lights in the frame or very high contrast specular highlights, it provides the same effect of burning in the highlights at the lowest possible contrast so that you retain as much detail in the highlight areas as possible when printing in the dark room.
This is what it looks like:
The difference in this image is admittedly extremely subtle, however, if you look closely, the cloud cover is not the same luminance level as the BWSG1 image because it is just at the bottom part of the grade 0 rolloff. So everything brighter than the cloud cover (i.e. light sources etc) would have a nice gentle rolloff to pure white.
The third profile is called BWSG3 and is a progression of BWSG2. In this tone profile, we start with BWSG2, and add the equivalent of even more exposure time at grade 5 so the increased contrast amount moves a bit up the tonal scale and starts to effect what would be zones 4 and 5 if this were printed on paper in a dark room. Likewise, on the highlight side, we move the grade 0 exposure down the tonal scale ever so slightly and introduce an equivalent of a grade 00 exposure at the extreme top of the characteristic curve.
This is what it looks like:
Again, the mid-tones are mostly intact, but the image is rendered in a significantly more punchy manner while still retaining very legible details in the important parts of the image.
It should be noted that if you want maximum post processing flexibility, these three tone curves may not be for you, as they bake in a specific look that is meant to look similar to what you would get with a well rendered analog darkroom print.
These tonal distribution profiles also are not as good of a fit for films that don’t have particularly flat characteristic curves. For example, JCH StreetPan has a very S-Curve shaped characteristic curve, and so these profiles won’t necessarily render the same way.
These tonal characteristic curves are also meant for films that are developed to “normal contrast” (i.e. ISO standard 0.615 contrast), and therefore won’t have the same visual effect with films that are normally push processed like Kodak TMAX P3200 or Ilford Delta 3200.
Since these are specifically developed looks, they are not available for free because every frame needs to be individually looked at and adjusted to provide the best rendering into the selected tonal profile, just like with doing an analog dark room print, where you have to adjust for every frame to best fit it onto the paper while still providing nice punchy blacks and lovely highlight rolloff to white.
So with that being said, I also want to provide affordable pricing, so if you’d like your black and white film that you send in for processing and scanning to have this look applied, it’s not a huge additional expense, so the pricing is an additional $5 per roll, and can be added to the straight scan through the deluxe scan options. I’ll be updating the downloadable order form to reflect the new profiles in the coming days, but if you want these looks sooner than that, just send me an email and request it and we’ll work out payment at that time.
In the future I’ll be adding a handful of new tone profiles that will provide a few more variations on what has been released so far, and to better address film developed to other contrast levels.
Till next time!