In praise of Ilford postcards

I have long been a fan of Ilford’s Portfolio postcard paper.

Here is a copy of the Ilford website blurb;

ILFORD MULTIGRADE IV RC PORTFOLIO is designed for impact. This double-weight, black & white variable contrast paper has a bright white resin coated base which delivers stunning cool to neutral images across a full tonal range.

With exceptional image quality throughout its wide contrast range of grades 00-5, this darkroom paper has the touch and quality of a double-weight fibre base paper, yet retains the ease and convenience of a resin coated paper. This makes it ideal for beginners and advanced users wanting extra special, premium quality prints for clients, portfolios, or exhibitions.

MULTIGRADE IV RC PORTFOLIO is also available as back-printed postcards to make a unique gift or promotional material for your photographic business. – Order size 10x15cm (4×6″).


I think I first came across this unique paper 23 years ago following the birth of our first child, I had built my first darkroom in the corner of a garage (a tradition I have continued) and had, of course, been shooting loads of pictures of him in those early years with either an Olympus trip or my then trusty OM1.  Family and friends found postcards regularly dropping through their doors, I don’t think we went overboard but you never know.

On the back of the paper you have this……


Yes, it’s a postcard!

In recent years the Ilford postcard has found its way back into regular use, sending images to internet friends, family and my daughter who lives in Liverpool.

Monica Smith

runs a monthly postcard exchange and it’s a load of fun.

I find the Ilford postcards the perfect partner from a day out with a 35mm film camera, pretty much whatever film you use the grain is minimal as the enlargement is minimal compared to the 35mm area and mostly I seem to make straight prints, so its quick and easy and cheap and you can share prints with friends…..what’s not to love?

I attended a walk via the awesome photo meet up website ( organised by Lomography and @LondonCameraProject (, I have to say the biggest photo meet up I have ever attended as 30 odd photographers met at the Photographer’s Gallery then went for an organised and planned wander in the rain around the streets of London, with pubs.

I had taken my Nikon F2 loaded with HP5 and a 50mm f2 lens. For years I have used HP5, mainly in 120 and 4×5 and ALWAYS rated it at around EI320 to ensure good shadow detail, my development regime would usually be to reduce the indicated time by 20% to reign in highlights. So, to rate HP5 at 1600 was almost a sacrilege as far as I was concerned. I had done it once or twice with MF film and was pleasantly surprised and got lovely results with Ilford DDX, but for these shots I had it in mind to use Ilford Microphen stock.

The beauty of a fast film, or a slower film rated to a higher speed is that under somewhat dull light, you can still set a fairly small aperture and set up a camera for zone focusing using the lens hyperfocal distance, what this means is all is acceptably sharp from “X” feet to infinity, focusing becomes a variable that you can forget, set exposure in advance and allow the flexibility of HP5 to work its magic.

Stock Microphen was a revelation, it is a fine grain developer but has the benefit of squeezing extra detail out of the deep shadow areas, effectively getting a bit of extra speed from the film and doing a great job of retaining shadow detail.

35mm film, darkroom contact sheet, mark up with a sharpie and make postcards.

Do yourself a favour, if you have a darkroom in whatever form, buy some postcard paper and send some love through the post in these times of fear.

Thanks all






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