This young lady’s mother asked me several months back about shooting graduation photos. Despite not being a pro by any stretch of the word, I was confident that Olivia’s natural beauty would make up for some of my inexperience and that I already knew her well enough that we’d at least have fun shooting! We did formals and casuals in both B&W and colour as well as some family photos.

My weapon of choice these days is my Canon A-1 relying mainly on my Canon FD 70-210mm f/4 zoom lens, which serves me well for close-up and mid-length portraits. I chose to shoot the B&W formals with ILFORD Delta 100 Professional. This was a new one for me as my standards are HP5 PLUS (often pushed to 1600) and FP4 PLUS. I was hopeful that the Delta line would give me the quality I’ve come to expect from ILFORD but with a bit more clarity and a bit less grain. In this, I was not disappointed (more on that below).

Canon A-1 and Canon FD 70-210mm f/4 zoom lens
Canon A-1 and Canon FD 70-210mm f/4 zoom lens

The weather on the day of the shoot was far from ideal. It was mainly sunny, not very warm, and incredibly windy. However, we made the most of it. If pro fashion photographers bring in huge fans to give supermodels that windblown look, surely the actual wind would work for us! The sunlight was another matter. She thought she looked better with her glasses and wanted to wear them. That just meant that I had to take care to avoid reflections and unflattering shadows.

One great location was a narrow walkway between two old buildings, but the sun right overhead was not helping our cause. In the end, rather than abandon the spot, we waited and waited for a wisp of cloud to cover the sun and got the shots we wanted.

I was really impressed with Delta 100 Professional. It’s SUPER sharp. I also thought the dynamic range was excellent. It was able to capture dark details in her hair and dress without blowing out highlights. The grain is notably less than FP4 PLUS, but there’s still enough to maintain a pleasing film look. I’d have to shoot some more rolls, but my experience here leads me to believe that it wants a bit more precise exposure than ILFORD’s “PLUS” range films. I do most of my own B&W developing, but since I wasn’t as familiar with this one, I sent it to the lab along with the colour stuff from this project. I’m always pleased with Don’s Photo/The Lab Works and their work.

I was pleased with the results, but I think Olivia was thrilled. Shooting senior photos might not seem terribly profound but there’s something special about helping someone feel beautiful and confident at an important milestone in life.

~ Josh

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