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Is it possible to make a color image with black and white film and chemicals? This photo from over 100 years ago proves that you can. This isn't painted in either, the color are determined in-camera by the film, but how? Let's find out.
Hi my name's Azriel Knight and in my darkroom I run all sorts of experiments, if you're new around here, please consider subscribing, I promise to save you some film and time. Okay, so how do we make an accurate color photo with black and white film and chemicals? Here's what you're gonna need. First, black and white film and chemicals, or access to a lab that does black and white. There will be no special developing instructions, and you can just use whatever black and white film and chemicals you're accustomed to, in my case, I'll use Ilford HP5+ and Kodak HC110. You will need a camera that shoots on manual, and a sturdy tripod. The photo that you're gonna take also needs to be shot in a very controlled environment. If you're doing a portrait, your subject needs to remain incredibly still, and if you're shooting a landscape, I would not do this on a windy day. Finally you're gonna need 3 lens filters, a red, a green, and a blue one. You may already know by now where this is going, but if you don't, that's okay too. Set up your camera, tripod, and scene, make sure everything is locked down, including your focus, aperture, and shutter. Meter and then compensate by 1 f-stop for the filters. While some filters or film call for a more compensation for each one, that's not what we want here. You can compensate for more depending on your film or situation, but make sure you compensate each filter by the same amount. Once everything is in place, take three photos. One with the red filter, one with the green filter, and one with the blue filter. And the reason why I do it in that order, is because it's easier to remember RGB. Careful not to bump your camera during the process, it helps to tape your focus in place and hold the filter in front the lens. Develop and scan as normal.
Once you have these three images, this is where the fun part comes in. Open your editing software, in my case I'm doing it right here Premiere, but Photoshop is no different. Take the red image and create a red mask, and blend using multiply. Then take those layers and them merge them together, then do the same thing with green and blue. Finally, blend each merged layer using screen mode. Now, stack them. Presto, a full color image using black and white film. Again, this isn't painted in, these colors were determined by the film before we used the software. We only use the software to interpret what is already there. Now, while you can argue there was a digital process, I can argue that people scanning their photos with a DSLR is a bit odd too, I mean if I take a photo of a Polaroid with an Instax camera, is it a Polaroid or a Fuji? I mean where do you draw the line, obviously there are some limitations here, the scene and your camera have to be perfectly still, even a variation in the way each negative scans will effect the way it overlaps, also everything is multiplied by three, grain, dust, scratches, so while I used HP5 this time, I might try something like TMax or Delta 100 the next time. My shot isn't perfect, and quite boring, but I wanted to showcase a variety of colors, especially ones not found in nature. I also wanted something reflective to see how it handled that, and I was really impressed. I actually originally got the idea to do this from The 8-Bit Guy when he did something similar with an old black and white webcam. I think I can wrap my head around how this all works, but it still feels like magic to me. I mean, being able to use this classic process has just been a fascinating experience.
Well that's all for now, I really hope you enjoy this episode, if you did, maybe you'll consider supporting me on Patreon. Through my Patreon, I offer things like early access and exclusive prints. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and until next time, stay classic.