When I returned to film a couple of years ago I shot black and white films and had them professionally processed. The results were OK but the cost was high, too high to simply establish whether my rapidly increasing number of old cameras actually worked or not.

Some research suggested that colour film processed with black & white chemicals would work, albeit with sub-optimal results. Well, I’m not into film for ‘optimal’ perfection, I’m searching for a look that I like and the idea of souping colour film in b&w chemistry had lodged in my mind. I had to try it. What could possibly go wrong?

My first attempts were in Rodinal and this gave very grainy results. Later I discovered that HC110 gives finer grain and that’s now my go-to developer. Fuji Superia gave visibly better results than C200 or Agfa Vista (Poundland film).

My purpose here is to show the sort of look you can expect if you go down this route. I’ve used various cheap colour films always with results that were attractive to me. I should mention one thing though: When I tried this the first time I thought the negatives were a total write off, dense, almost opaque. But scanned in raw into my digital camera and imported into Lightroom the tones can be teased out.

The shots below come from a roll of Fuji Superia I shot on holiday in Venice. They were developed for 5:00 minutes in HC110(B) and then scanned using my Fuji X-Pro and processed in Lightroom.

My knowledge is not yet good enough to comment on the technical aspects of all of this but there are a couple of points worth mentioning. Firstly, this technique allows me to shoot a film and decide after the event whether to process as colour or black & white. And secondly – a personal preference – I love the way the film paints skies and that this requires no filters.

~ Graeme Tregay

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