How To Shoot Kodak T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

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Kodak TMax 400 Overview: Kodak T-MAX 400 is a highly versatile black and white film, producing solid contrast and low grain. It’s a great choice for almost all lighting conditions.

It does well rated in the shadows at box speed (400 ISO), but can also handle a bit of over or under exposure quite well. So versatile!

If you develop your film at home (learn how to develop film at home here!), T-MAX 400 is a low latitude film and sensitive to developing length and temperature to maintain contrast. 

You can pick up some on Amazon here: Kodak T-MAX 400 in 35mm and Kodak T-MAX 400 in 120


Shoot It With Film How To Shoot Kodak TMax 400

Kodak T-MAX 400 Film Review by Charlene Hardy

I started using Kodak T-MAX 400 in college. At that time, I was paying for college myself, working two jobs and going to school full time.

I was having a hard time making ends meet. I never let my boyfriend at the time (now husband) know how much I was struggling, but he had a small idea… After every date, I would go home and find a roll or two of Tmax 400 in my backpack, on the kitchen table, or sitting on the seat of my car.

He had no idea how much that meant to me and how his simple act of supporting me by buying film made it possible for me to complete the first year of college.

Fast forward to being married with four children and once again finding myself struggling with my photography.

Five years ago, for Christmas, my husband gifted me 20 rolls of Tmax 400 film and a note encouraging me to photograph with film again, reminding me it was ok to photograph what was special to me.

That year, I started a project called “One Roll a Week.” For 52 weeks, I shot one roll of T-MAX film, developing it and scanning it myself.

I learned so much about this film and what lighting conditions make it shine. I also was able to experiment with different developers and adjust the development times to get the results I want.

T-MAX 400 is my “go-to film” because I know how it will respond to different lighting situations, how to meter for the tones I love, and the history I have with it.

The tonality of this film is beautiful, the dark blacks all the way through the mid tones to the crisp highlights. I really like that the grain is there but not overpowering.

Shoot It With Film Kodak TMax 400 Film Review

What To Expect From T-MAX 400

I have found T-MAX 400 to be very versatile. I can get the soft images I love in the diffused light or the contrasty blacks and whites in harsh light.

The type of developer and developing times can also change the characteristics of the film. Personally, I typically shoot T-MAX inside using window light or studio light with a large soft box.

Shoot It With Film How To Shoot Kodak TMax 400

How To Shoot And Meter T-MAX 400

I meter with a handheld light meter. I have the bulb in and meter under the chin at 400 ISO.

If I am in harsh light, I will meter for the skin tone using the spot meter and adjusting the exposure based on the person’s skin tone using the zone system. You can read more about the zone system here.

Shoot It With Film Kodak TMax 400 Film Review

T-MAX 400 is an all around great film to use. It handles well in most situations. I really love using this film indoors with indirect lighting, either light coming through the window or a studio modifier.

Shoot It With Film How To Shoot Kodak TMax 400

Thank you so much, Charlene! Charlene is one of our favorite black and white film photographers, and we’re so thrilled to have her here on the blog with us. Her black and white portraits are a perfect mix of soulful and playful, all with gorgeous contrast and beautiful lighting. Check out more of Charlene’s work on her websiteInstagram, and Facebook, and if you have questions about Kodak T-MAX 400 film, leave them below in the comments!

Read all of our film reviews here, and you can pick up Kodak TMax 400 on Amazon here!

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Blog Comments

What developer do you prefer to use and what time/temp?

Hi Steve, I am using HC-110 dil. B. I develop my film at 68 degrees for 5 and a half minutes. I agitate once or twice every minute.

Hi Charlene

Could you explain a bit more about your metering process, particularly in harsh light. When you say you meter for the person’s skin, would that be in the direct sun or shadows? I’m always very worried about over exposing the highlights in direct sun.

Thanks Sean

When I meter in harsh light I use my spot meter and point the meter at the area that I find the most important. For example, the low key photo of my daughter I spot metered on the lighter side of her face knowing that I wanted the shadows to be dark. So metering her cheek gave me a Zone 5 value and from experience I know that her skin is one stop lighter than Zone 5. I took the reading I got from my meter and in camera I opened up one stop. You kind of get a feel for different skin tones the more you shoot. I know my skin reads closer to a Zone 5. I would suggest reading about the Zone system online or checking out Anselmo Adam’s book. I’m not the best at explains the Zone system without showing photos and the Zone scale. Let me know if you have any more questions.

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