If you have been shooting film for many years or are just a beginner you have probably heard of Kodak Tri-X black and white film. As the price of film rises it seems to be pushing people towards using film emulation presets such as VSCO. Whilst I think this is a great alternative for quick turn-around projects, I belive there is still a case for shooting the real deal on the street.
In this article I would love to share with you a few benefits to shooting with Kodak Tri-x for street photography projects.
The first thing we notice about tri-x is the grain and grittiness, there is a subtle bite to images captured on tri-x that you just dont get through digital recreation or other film stocks.
Digital street photos are just too clean, I believe they need the chaos and grittiness that film offers to make them feel more real. It is likely just a nostalgia thing but the images we are inspired by can drive use towards replicating the processes used to create them.
Kodak cameout with Tri-X on November 1, 1954 in 35mm and 120 roll film sizes. At ASA 200 (160 for Tungsten), it was faster than any other film available. It changed where photographers could take their cameras and what they could shoot.
The Tri-X formula underwent a major modification in 1960, when its the sensitivity of the film was doubled to ASA 400 for daylight and 320 for tungsten. Now low-light situations, action and motion could be captured with outstanding results.
There are both artistic and technical reasons why street photographers over the last 60-plus years have embraced Tri-X. Its graininess, contrast and exposure latitude may be aesthetically pleasing if you’re trying to get that gritty, street-smart look–but those features also serve a practical purpose, covering up a multitude of sins that are inevitable in the chaotically uneven, uncontrolled lighting and shooting situations that come up on the street.
Tri-X is said to have a wider than usual exposure latitude for a black-and-white film (anywhere from 5-7 stops, depending on who your source is). For street photographers who deal with open shade, direct sunlight, cloudy skies and streetlight illumination as well as flash, and often have to make split-second decisions regarding exposure and when to press the shutter release, this has been a godsend. Tri-X can be underexposed by three stops and you can still get a good exposure with push processing, according to Kodak’s technical data for the film. At ISO 1600, this ISO 400 film can produce outstanding, if somewhat grainy, images.
Kodak Tri-X is incredibly easy to shoot, there is so much latitude in the film that you can under or over expose and still get great images, you can push the film to ISO 1600, stop down your lens and zone focus to your hearts content.
(information on kodak tri-x’s history sourced from the thephoblographer)