Against the Grain…

Shooting 3200 ISO Film for the First Time:

239) Skyscrapers 1

Kodak Pro TMax 3200

I know what you’re thinking: why would I shoot a collection of perfectly good photos only to sandblast them with chalk before I scanned and posted them? But, believe it or not, there’s a reason why all of these pictures look grainier than mini-wheat cereal. It’s because I used Kodak Pro TMax 3200 B&W film. 

This venture into film photography has been a learning process, and I’ve gone out of my way to explore new methods using different film types to learn more about the medium.

I learned a valuable lesson shooting 3200 ISO film: that is to avoid using it.

214) Leah and Leaves

200) Stairs
193) Aderhold Hallway 1

I traveled to New York recently to attend my great-grandmother’s hundredth birthday party, and I was excited to bring my camera to capture the moment. 

I wanted to take some pictures at night, and I knew that a high-speed film would benefit me. So I bought two rolls of Kodak 3200. Rolls 6 and 7 are shot with this high-speed film.

Despite the high film speed, I was not limited to only night photography. My Nikon FM2n–Lensy– is known for its max shutter speed of 1/4000.

If I set my camera’s shutter to 1/4000, I could shoot at “box speed” (The film’s ISO # on the box) and still utilize the “Sunny 16” trick. But I wanted to experiment further.


The film doesn’t need to be shot at box speed. You can “push” and “pull” film in the processing stage. I’ll make a post about this sometime soon, but for now, all I will say is, I pulled each roll down one stop (to 1600 ISO). I pulled the film for two reasons. First, I learned that pulling film softens the contrast, allowing me to flexibly adjust the contrast in post-processing.

I also thought that pulling the film would mitigate the expected film grain. I explained briefly in my blog post, The Trinity of Film Photography, that the higher ISO, the grainier the final product will be.

So to think that lowering the camera’s ISO would lessen the grain–boy, was I absolutely wrong. 

219) Bike Light
147) Rabbit
232) Butterbeer

I’m torn because the photos look interesting, and the excessive grain gives each exposure a bit of character. However, the detail takes such a heavy hit. It looks like someone rubbed sandpaper on every shot. 

Take these two photos for example 147 and 232. Exposure 147 was taken using Ilford HP5 Plus, 400 ISO B&W film, and 232 with the 3200 ISO film. They’re very different pictures but both of them are chock-full of activity

147, being shot three whole stops below 232, has a much finer grain and allows for more detail. If you’d like to compare more between the Ilford HP5 and the Kodak Pro TMax, you can check out my gallery.

176) Foot

Despite my comfort with higher definition photos, some of the exposures in rolls 6 and 7 benefitted from the dense grain. Take exposure 180 for example.

#180 is a picture of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. It was shot in BROAD DAYLIGHT! If this were shot on a lower speed film–say, 200 or 100 ISO– I’m sure it would’ve been an okay picture

It’s woefully underexposed and the heavy grain gives the exposure an art-punk kind of vibe.

It’s so grainy that you can practically make out distorted faces off of the spires. It doesn’t do justice to the beautiful gothic architecture but it’s still a crazy picture.

180) St. Patrick’s Cathedral

226) Statues

At the end of the day, I don’t think I’ll ever want to use Kodak Pro TMax 3200 film again. It’s just too grainy for my taste–not that I don’t like the film grain or anything like that. It’s just that if I ever get rich and famous off of my photos, I wouldn’t want people to assume from these pictures that I took all of my photos in the 40’s, and that I died of old age in the 70’s only to have my art recognized post-mortem… like Van Gogh.

Next time, I’ll just stick with longer exposures for night photography. But what about you (I ask the three or four people that accidentally found my blog)? Am I being too harsh on the Kodak Pro TMax? Comment if you can and let me know what you think about these sandy pictures.

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