Shooting concert on film: examples, suggestions, opinion
My name is Andrew and I am a fine art destination wedding photographer in Italy (Lake Como, Amalfi). I shoot film and digital however this article is about film photography only.
P.S. I assume that my reader is interested in film photography and this is why you are reading this. I do not want to go to basics here so I assume you know different types of film, you know what it means to push and pull and you know what is 35mm film and medium format. All the mentioned features are related to what I am going to tell you in this article.
It is important to say that before starting my concert film photography project I was aware of some film that I used at weddings which is mainly Fuji 400h and Portra family. I also had some experience with other cheaper film but I have never tried night photography, pushing film or even pulling film, I had no experience in that at all. I once happened to review Ilford Delta 3200 in my blog but this was very general review since I just shot it at one concert from behind the crowd while being pushed here and there. This time I decided to raise my level up and come to a professional concert as a representative of media with full access to preparation room, behind the stage, general rehearsal and the front lines during the concert. My goal was to test as many different film and various technics to learn more about it and to tell you in my articles. I am still half way there so I will be updating this article with more results as soon as I get them from the lab. Just to mention that the lab that developed all the images is PhotoLab.lt and I used Mamiya 645AFD and super cheap Canon cameras (300n and 500v) with Canon L lenses. So now I will show you my best 2-4 examples of each film that I used and you can make decision on which film brand you like the most and use my experience for your own projects. You are also free to contact me and ask if you have any questions. My personal opinion and suggestions can be found on the bottom of this page. We are going to review these film:
Kodak Portra 800 (medium format)
CineStill 800T (medium format)
Fuji 400 + 2 push (medium format)
lford HP5 +2 push (medium format)
Ilford Delta 3200 (medium format)
Kodak Portra 400 +1/2 push (35mm)
Kodak Tmax 3200 (35mm)
Kodak Tmax 3200 -1 pull (35mm)
Ilford HP5 +2 push (35mm)
Ilford Delta 400 +2 push (35mm)
Kodak Portra 800, medium format, shot at ISO 800:
CineStill 800T, medium format, shot at ISO 800:
Fuji 400 + 2 push, medium format, shot at ISO 1600:
Ilford HP5 + 2 push, medium format, shot at ISO 1600:
Ilford Delta 3200, medium format, shot at ISO 1600:
Kodak Portra 400 +1 push, 35mm , shot at ISO 800:
Kodak Tmax 3200, 35mm, shot at ISO 1600:
Kodak Tmax 3200 -1 pull, 35mm, shot at ISO 1600:
Kodak Porta 400 +2 push, 35mm, shot at ISO 1600:
Ilford HP5 +2 push, 35mm, shot at ISO 1600:
Ilford Delta 400 +2 push, 35mm, shot at ISO 1600:
My personal opinion:
Kodak Portra 800 (medium format)- excellent film that may need no push for its high ISO. Too expensive though. I have read that Portra 800 pushed is not that good as pushed Portra 400. I did not try to push it as it is too expensive to buy in the first place.
CineStill 800T (medium format)- very low/fine grain film. One of the best films but even more expensive than Portra 800. Really hard to get and shipping costs in Europe are up to its half price.
Fuji 400 + 2 push (medium format)- I felt like +2 push is a bit too much for this film. I had only few good results from that film being pushed by 2 stops. Portra was a way better choice.
Kodak Portra 400 +1/2 push (35mm) - one of the best results. Taking in account its price - it is the best colour film for concert photography especially when it is pushed by 1 or 2 stops.
Kodak Tmax 3200 (35mm) - the film is quite grainy, I treated it as Delta 3200 by overexposing it by 1 stop (shot at ISO 1600). Not a good idea. See the next try below.
Kodak Tmax 3200 -1 pull (35mm) - I shot this film as ISO 1600 and asked the lab to pull by one stop this time. Good result, but still grainy. In any case better than without pull when overexposing.
Ilford HP5 400+2 push (35mm) - very nice b&w film, when pushed is still excellent. Not that much grain as in other higher ISO film.
Ilford Delta 400 +2 push (35mm) - very nice b&w film, when pushed is still excellent. Not that much grain as in other higher ISO film.
My personal suggestions:
If you are going to a concert with some film and you are on a budget - I would strongly recommend Kodak Portra 400 pushed +1/+2 stops for colour film and Ilford Delta and HP5 400 ISO films pushed to ISO 800 or even ISO 1600. Remember while working at concert you will need ISO 800 - 1600 so be prepared to make you final decision on push process when you arrive at location. Just make sure you understand what you do. YouTube has tens of videos explaining push process.
What also do you need? Light meter is of no value unless you arrive earlier and the light engineer provides your with the test light on the stage. Definitely have a permanent marker to mark your film for push and pull and have some light for you to replace the film. I use my cell phone flash light and I replace the film in my camera bag so my light would not distract other people.
If budget is not your problem - just go ahead with medium format. The films that I recommend: CineStill 800T, Kodak Portra pushed by +1/+2 stops, Ilford HP5 pushed by +1/+2 stops, Ilford Delta 400 pushed by +1/+2 stops.
Help me to keep going with more 35mm and medium format film reviews by donating from 1 to 3 Euro:
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