FTTW Photography
by Shawna Black

FILM AND DEVELOPER - Shooting in black and white film.
Every other Saturday, by Shawna

Year: 1988
Class: Advanced Black and White Photography
Assignment: Portraiture
Subject: Felicia

The one subject that I have always been praised for by various photography instructors and observers of my work is portraiture. I have shot many portraits over the years. The most recent are of my kids and you’ll be seeing many more of them in the future.

Today, though, I will tell you what I love about this shot of Felicia. She was my friend, Jerry’s girlfriend; very pretty girl. She had long curly blonde hair, beautiful eyes and perfect skin. And I had an assignment. I asked her if she’d let me photograph her and she agreed. The idea for this shoot had already been composed in my mind. I knew I would take the shots in the dining room of the apartment that I shared with my sister, using one floodlight as my light source and a white sheet tacked to the wall as the backdrop. I also knew that she’d be wearing a black lace shirt that I owned, lost somewhere in the back of my closet. I knew that my Grandfather’s antique chair would be involved, the same chair that is still floating around the family somewhere.

I experienced my first photography class when I was a freshman in high school. That was a long time ago, twenty-four years to be exact. My first “real” camera was a Canon that my father bought me. I wore that Canon out throughout high school. When I started my college photography classes, I decided it was time for a new camera. I bought a Nikon FM, a completely manual model, on the recommendation of my instructor. I have always shot by manually setting the f-stop and shutter speed based on the lighting conditions. I got very good at judging light. To this day I don’t own nor do I know how to use a light meter.

It wasn’t long after I started my second semester of photography classes at the local community college that I got the bug for a square negative. I’d read articles, talked to my instructors and paid attention to what the other students were using. I found a Hasselblad for sale in the paper, called the guy and made my purchase about three days later. I was now the proud owner of a medium format camera.

I used the Hasselblad when I photographed Felicia. I attached the camera to the tri-pod, set up the floodlight and filled that square to best of my ability. I shot one roll of 12-exposure t-max 100. When I was ready to take the picture, I composed it in the viewfinder, filling the entire square. As I was taking this picture, I knew I wanted to print it without losing any of the image in the neg. I knew that if my negative carrier were slightly larger than the negative, the result would be a ragged black border around the perimeter of the picture. Those black lines worked perfectly with my subject and composition. The composition turned out exactly as I had hoped. The lighting was as perfect as the exposure itself. As the image came to life in the tray of developer, even under the red light of the darkroom, I knew the shot was exactly as I had envisioned.

This is Felicia. She is one of my better portraits. [click for larger image]

Shawna writes and shows off her photography at My Opinions are Free

Film and Developer appears every other Saturday. On alternating Saturdays, we feature:

FTTW PHOTOGRAPHY - Digital photography. How we do it. Why we do it. Photo sharing. Every other Saturday, various artists


you have an awesome eye for that

great pic


Viewing it small in the text really does the image a terrible injustice. It's a fantastic image and really must be seen large.

Great shot, Shawna.


Thanks Guys!

And I agree, Cullen. The blacks aren't as rich on my screen as I'd like them, but I guess everyone is going to view this differently depending on how their monitor is calibrated.


Very cool!! I love B&W pictures



I loved your photograph. You captured the essence of Felicia very well. Great shot. I enjoyed your well written peice on your experiences as a photographer.



Thanks Sally! Look everyone! Sally stopped by....

Thanks Kyle. Thanks for stopping by, bro.


Great article this week. Can't wait for the next one. :)


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