How Ilford Black and White Film is Made

To any photographer who started out in black and white film photography the name Ilford Photo will always have a special place in their hearts. Ilford is a British black and white film, papers and chemicals company and has been manufacturing at various sites in the UK since 1879. It is probably most famous for its three black and white films: PAN F, FP4 and HP5.

  • PAN F is a high contrast, super sharp ISO 50, black & white film with very fine grain ideal for studio photography and bright, natural light.
  • FP4 is an all-purpose ISO 125 film with fine grain, medium contrast and outstanding sharpness. Ideal for most shooting scenarios in good light conditions.
  • HP5 (my personal favourite) is an ISO 400, medium contrast, all-purpose black & white film. Ideal for action, documentary and available light photography.

When I started out in photography in the late 1970’s my goto film was Ilford’s HP5. I loved the contrast and the grain it produced and would spend many a happy hour in my “darkroom” (AKA my mum & dad’s spare bedroom) developing film and printing images on a Paterson enlarger. Those days are long gone as are the Nikon cameras I used to make the images. I still have many thousands of negatives however (I’m pleased to say they have stood the test of time) and keep threatening to buy a scanner one day to digitise them so I can once again paly around with the images, now in Photoshop.

All of these memories came back to me having discovered this lovely short film by Exploredinary on how Ilford film is made today at its factory in Mobberley, Cheshire. It’s wonderful to see the process as well as the dedicated staff that continue to produce the Ilford Photo products, some having done so for 30 years or more.

Although I am currently unable to use the actual product as I do not own a film camera anymore it’s nice to be able to create the look and feel of these classic films using the Silver Efex Pro plugins from DxO.

Here are some images, using the film simulations of the three classic Ilford films PAN F, FP4 and HP5, of the model ‘Mal’ taken in 2018.

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