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.
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.
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.
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.
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 website, Instagram, and Facebook, and if you have questions about Kodak T-MAX 400 film, leave them below in the comments!