choosing films: summary


Never listen to anyone who says "This is the only film you need." If they were right, there would not be any other films. And be extremely wary of using the same film as a photographer you admire, merely because they use it. There is a good deal of alchemy in which films work for whom, and even 'idiot proof' films such as Ilford HP5 Plus will work a great deal better for some people than for others. If a film doesn't work for you, it does not mean that you are a bad person or even a bad photographer. Just try something else.

In this module, which costs $2.50, we look at both the easily quantified aspects of film choice such as speed, grain and sharpness; at the much more elusive concept of tonality; at alchemy, as mentioned above; and at price and other considerations that are often ignored.

Both black and white and colour films are considered. The main emphasis is black and white; followed by slide films; followed by colour negative, where the quality of the printing is often far more important than the film you choose.


Illustration from the Film Choice module

It runs to 20 pages or maybe 7,000 words, and there are 25 pictures, divided roughly 15-10 between monochrome and colour. Most are 35mm but there are also roll-film and large format images. As well as the more usual conventional and chromogenic films there are IR shots (both colour and mono), ortho and mono transparency. For comparison a typical magazine article runs to 1500-2500 words and 4 to 8 pictures. Before you read it, you may find it interesting to read the following free modules:

Our materials (inevitably, there is some overlap)


ISO Film Speeds

Among paid modules you may afterwards want to read:

Exposure Determination for Negatives

Exposure Determination for Slides and Digital

Developer Choice

Film Development

As for books, the most useful books currently in print are probably:

Quality in Photography

Perfect Exposure

Black and White Handbook

but if you can find a copy (it is long out of print) you may also find it interesting to read The Film Book, David & Charles 1994

Film Choice Module


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Go to the unillustrated list of modules (in either alphabetical or date order)

or go to the illustrated list of modules

or go to the home page


last updated: 15/02/05

© 2005 Roger W. Hicks