Posted on October 29, 2012
Ilford XP2Essay length: 467 words.
Reading time: ~ 2 minutes.
What can I say... I really love this film.
I know what you’re thinking: I just said the same thing about “xyz-film.” Well, the answer is I love all the films I shoot...each in their own special way. XP2 is no exception. The special thing about Ilford XP2 is the beautiful, creamy skin tones and the lack of grain.
Back in my custom photo lab rat days, we used to bang our heads against the wall with this film. Many an hour spent in the darkroom trying to pull out some contrast in a print from an XP2 negative with none to find. Use this film in the wrong setting, and you’ll capture a whole lot of flat and boring. If you want to try this out (not sure why you would), take a roll to the beach and shoot pictures of the waves and you’ll see: grey, grey, grey. Think the Pacific Northwest coast in January and you get my drift.
Many consumers thought XP2 was the answer to their black and white dreams. Since it is processed C-41, the same chemistry as color film, it was the one black and white film readily available just about anywhere (pre-digital, that is) and easily processed at one- hour labs. For that reason, everyone was using it. And so, when a client would come to the lab with negatives like this and ask us to make some prints with high contrast, we just knew we would be spinning our wheels in the darkroom. However, when the professional photographers came to the lab with XP2 negatives, we expected those images to be special. Beautiful close-ups of brides, cherubic baby faces, senior portraits, maternity shots, etc. We knew they would be special because we knew the beauty of XP2 done right.
Shoot Ilford XP2 in the right setting and the magic happens. This film is my choice for close ups where I really want creamy rich skin tones, or when I’m not trying for moody or environmental images. It really is about something more simple than that. Sometimes as simple as emphasizing the richness of a moment or the detail in an image, without contrast or grain getting in the way. My favorite example of XP2 at its best is when I use it to capture images of babies and children. Children glow with innocence, they are flawless because they are so young and untouched by the troubles of the world. XP2 serves to highlight that flawless beauty with awesome creamy skin tones.
Just look at the pictures of children in this blog and you can see the pure innocence looking right at you. And, the best part of all, is that the film carries this quality around with it...so, the rest of us older folks can benefit from the creamy qualities of XP2 also.