Instant film geeks rejoice!
The good people at Fuji Film empowered photographers to explore new creative possibilities with Instax Mini Monochrome instant film. The Impossible Project released black and white film for select Polaroid models a few years back, but it’s a lot pricier and fairly limited in terms of camera compatibility.
I haven’t tried any of the Impossible Project offerings, but I’m super excited to share my experiments with Fuji’s latest black and white product. I shot this film with my favorite every day camera, my purple Polaroid 300; the film also works with the Fuji Instax Mini 8, Instax Mini 70, Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic, Leica Sofort, Lomo Instant, Lomography L’instant Automat, and the Mint InstantFlex TL70.
Black and white Polaroid portrait fun
Overall, I give this film a solid 8. Reason being, I found the film performs well in both indoor and outdoor conditions. I just wish Fuji offered other ISO options as the 800 ISO can be tough to work with, especially on sunny days. The film is supposed to be calibrated for daylight, and costs a bit more than the color version. I think it’s well worth the extra couple of dollars considering other color Instax varieties run for about the same amount just for colored/decorative frames/borders.
Personally, I’ve never shot black and white film before. I’ve only used monochrome mode on my DSLR. So I started snapping indoors i.e. a controlled lighting environment. Instead of attempting standard portraits, I chose Hunter, our beloved Terrier mix, as my first subject. As you can guess, this presented the risk of wasting film due to doggy movements. Thankfully, Hunter managed to stay still long enough for me to capture a surreal scene with ambient lighting and a selfie with mommy:
Outdoor shooting: cloudy vs. sunny conditions
I received 4 packs of monochrome film as a Christmas gift from my mom—you rock! Since I got the film in December, I was able to photograph on both cloudy and sunny days. I found overcast conditions to be the easiest to work with, which likely comes as no surprise to any experienced photographer. Overcast days minimize shadows and brightness, a big bonus when you have little control over aperture and shutter speed. These architecture and train track pics were taken on a cloudy afternoon using the Hazy sunshine mode on my Polaroid (sun facing behind me and towards the subjects):
You may ask why I chose Hazy sunlight as opposed to the seemingly obvious Cloudy mode on my camera. In the 7 months or so I’ve owned this Polaroid, I’ve discovered that Cloudy mode often overexposes my shots. The overexposure ends up ruining color film photos, and I expect this effect would be worse given the lack of contrast in the monochrome film. I did take 1 snap of the building in Cloudy mode, which affirmed my instincts were correct. Sure, these shots may be a bit on the dark side, but at least they’re not totally blown out.
Speaking of blown out, I wasted the most monochrome film trying to photograph on sunny days. If you’ve ever tried to take a picture facing the sun without a DSLR, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The fixed shutter speed (1/60) coupled with automatic flash really work against you and make it almost impossible to capture images from such angles. To get around this, I shot in Sunny mode and carefully covered the flash with my finger. The results showed dramatic improvement:
I even managed to capture a sunspot in my favorite photo of the bunch:
The above shot took several attempts due to lighting conditions as well as framing issues. I’m happy I stuck to my guns till I got a good shot, though, because the graffiti you see in the picture is already gone from the new construction project. Just goes to show that you have to stay in the instant photography spirit and capture the moment when you have the chance.
I hope these photos inspire you to get creative with black and white instant film. Fuji, if you’re listening, I would absolutely LOVE black and white Instax Wide film for my Lomo Instant Wide. Imagine the monochrome light painting possibilities!