Tug Of War: Pushing and Pulling Film


Pushing film? Pulling film? Heard about it but not sure what it is? This small article may start you off in the right direction.

I must start this piece by telling you that I’m not an expert on pushing or pulling film, and to be honest I’ve not yet pulled film. But I have a decent idea of when to use the technique, gained through trial and error. So this isn’t intended as a complete guide to pushing and pulling; it’s more of a ‘this is what I messed with, see what you can do’.

So, what does it mean? Well, I’ll deal only with pushing film, so be aware that pulling is pretty much the same but in reverse. When I’m pushing film it means I’m developing longer than I’m supposed to. So, if the film is 400 ISO and it should be developed for 6:30 in Ilfosol, I’ll develop it for 13:30 instead. Why?

Well, say you’re in a poorly lit situation and you don’t have a flash. You’ve just got your Holga and some black and white film – in my case almost always Ilford HP5 Plus, which is rated at 400 ISO. You know it’s too dark to really capture everything properly but you shoot anyway, with the intention of pushing the film in development – you’re basically shooting as if you’ve got 800 ISO film in your camera.

This is because, when you push film (and in our case that just means developing for longer) the shadows on the negative get to spend more time developing, thus bringing out more detail. This means that although you have a mid-speed film you can still shoot in poor lighting, knowing that those details will be brought out by the extra development time (this also means that the highlights develop fully which often results in an image with a lot of contrast).

So, when would I personally use it? Well, for me the main reason I use it isn’t in dark conditions but in conditions where I feel a lot of contrast would benefit the final image. This is usually when the subject is in shade, or when the subject has a lot of detail against a fairly average background (like a dull grey sky).

I think the technique is particularly helpful if you live in the UK and like shooting black and white film with a Holga, as the light is nearly always poor (although it’s glorious sunshine as I write!) and pushing the film really helps get the most from your shot. The best advice I can give you is to just try it. Most film has a development chart on the box so just buy a roll of 400, shoot it in slightly less-than-perfect lighting conditions and then check the development times. Chances are it will tell you the development times for 800, 1200 etc. If it’s Ilford it almost definitely will and if not, just do a quick search online – the internet is your friend.

My first roll of pushed film was done without really knowing what I was doing and the top photo in this article is from that roll – super contrasty but in a good way! Oh by the way, this technique will also bring out more grain in your final image, which for me is another good reason to push the film. You can get a lot more advanced if you have a camera with adjustable ISO settings but this is the way I do it on a basic Holga – nice and simple.

And if it doesn’t quite work out… Oh well, that’s an excuse to go shoot another roll of film!

written by panchoballard on 2011-05-05 in #gear #tipster #tipster #pushing #pulling #development #holga #push #black-and-white #pull #developing #film-processing #home-developing


  1. disasterarea
    disasterarea ·

    Good introductory article. My personal favorite for night time shooting is Ilford XP2 400, shot at ISO 800 and pushed 1 stop.

  2. shinysilverdragon
    shinysilverdragon ·

    Wow! great introduction to a concept :) I had heard these terms, but had no idea what it meant! thank you for breaking it down so clearly!

  3. willyboy
    willyboy ·

    I've been pushed and pulled all over the shop!

  4. eremigi
    eremigi ·

    I pushed an Ilford HP5 up to 3200 ASA (see my Album "Night" if you are interested) - and I love the results: very contrastry and thick grain !
    I agree with you: Ilford HP5 is by far the best for this, at least in my experience.

  5. panchoballard
    panchoballard ·

    Thanks for the kind words. Eremigi, I love that album. I might try to do the same with some HP5 in the Holga. Thanks!

  6. pzjo
    pzjo ·

    very helpful :)

  7. freyfrey
    freyfrey ·

    Are photo labs able to help us out with this? I dont have access to a dark room :(

  8. eremigi
    eremigi ·

    Sure! All (semi-professional) labs should have no problem at all. You just need to instruct the shop attendant to develop your film at a different ISO. And to be sure, cross the correspondent little square on the roll itself - most films have this; Ilford certainly does.

  9. panchoballard
    panchoballard ·

    As eremigi says, most pro or semi-pro labs will do this. Your local supermarket probably won't do it but it's always worth asking, there might be a Lomo-friendly assistant working there!

  10. sharanmccarthy
    sharanmccarthy ·

    Nice one, lad! Good article, and thanks for sharing Bolton on t'internet :)

  11. jojo8785
    jojo8785 ·

    I have a question, can you cross process AND push a film? I've found that my slide films once x-pro are very dark...perhaps a push would help? (until I can learn the adjustments for my camera with this kind of film).

  12. panchoballard
    panchoballard ·

    @jojo8785 Good question! I must admit I don't know the answer but my instinct is to say, probably. Ask your lab beforehand to be sure.

  13. hewzay
    hewzay ·

    Great article. I've recently been pushing Tri-X 400 up to 1600 and I'm loving the results. A great resource for finding out dev times. www.digitaltruth.com/devchart.php including if you want to push or pull.

More Interesting Articles

  • Change the Destiny of Your Film

    written by emrekskn on 2014-10-07 in #gear #tipster
    Change the Destiny of Your Film

    The scale of what Tudor and Fuji film can offer you is certain. But have you ever thought about pushing the boundaries?

  • Tutorial: Tetenal Colortec E6 3-bath Kit - Develop your own color slides

    written by sandravo on 2014-05-29 in #gear #tipster
    Tutorial: Tetenal Colortec E6 3-bath Kit - Develop your own color slides

    This is a tutorial for the adventurous Lomographers, for those brave enough to do their own B&W and C-41 work but lacking the confidence to move onto E6. Fear no more! I am an enthusiastic home developer, just like the rest of you, I am not a chemical lab wizard! So if I can pull this off, so can the rest of you. Take a deep breath, relax, and read on. By the end of this article I hope you'll have mustered the courage to give it a go yourselves!

  • Fresh Portraits Taken with the New Petzval Art Lens

    written by chooolss on 2014-06-26 in #lifestyle
    Fresh Portraits Taken with the New Petzval Art Lens

    As you may have already heard of, the Lomography X Zenit Petzval Art Lens works not only with Canon EF and Nikon F mount SLRs, but with their digital counterparts as well. In this gallery post, we're putting the spotlight on these lovely portraits that our DSLR and Petzval-lens toting community members have taken!

  • Shop News

    Feed your LC-A 120 the finest emulsions and save!

    Feed your LC-A 120 the finest emulsions and save!

    Shoot more with LC-A 120 without breaking your budget! The Phoblographer Editor’s Choice Award Winner now comes in a Bundle with 120 format film at 15% off!

  • Perfect Combination for a Hazy Day: Lomo LC-A and a Pushed Ilford HP5+

    written by sirio174 on 2015-05-06 in #gear #reviews
    Perfect Combination for a Hazy Day: Lomo LC-A and a Pushed Ilford HP5+

    In this article, I'll show you how the Lomo LC-A loaded with the versatile Ilford HP5+ can make the most out of a hazy morning. To capture the whirlwind of a bicycle race, I pushed the film to ISO 800. The legendary Minitar 1 lens and this classic Ilford film are a perfect combination if you love black and white photos.

  • Word On The Street: A New Mystery Product Will Be Unveiled Soon!

    written by shhquiet on 2015-04-27 in #gear #news
    Word On The Street: A New Mystery Product Will Be Unveiled Soon!

    Pssst, have you heard the latest? We're unveiling a brand new product very soon, and while we can't give you any strong clues right now, we hope that you can still try to guess what it is. In honor of this mystery product, we'd like to reiterate why Lomography's 10 Golden Rules is perfectly applicable to street photography.

  • I am a Mad Analogue Scientist: New Experiments with 35mm Films and Chemicals

    written by blackfairy on 2014-08-07 in #gear #tipster
    I am a Mad Analogue Scientist: New Experiments with 35mm Films and Chemicals

    Unfortunately, it happens sometimes that your resulting pictures are not what you expected - the image doesn't look that good, the colors are bland, and the subject is banal. Indeed, it couldn't be picture of the year! Herein I propose a second chance for your pictures by modifying your 35mm negatives. Just pick up some ideas from here, experiment, and scan your negatives with the Lomography Smartphone Scanner. Anything is possible: burning, scratching, putting on hydrochloric acid, balsamic vinegar, nail polish, bleach, or raspberry juice... use your imagination and write down your new film soup recipe! You can find a sample of the effects in this article.

  • Shop News

    Lubi Scooby Doo! Save 15% on Lomography film in the Bundle with the Lubitel!

    Lubi Scooby Doo! Save 15% on Lomography film in the Bundle with the Lubitel!

    This beautiful camera features such ability to let users choose and switch between 35mm or 120 formats! Shoot more, save more! Get this Lubitel camera and get 15% discounts with Lomography Films!

  • Camera Summer: What is 'Sunny 16'?

    written by dopa on 2014-08-12 in #gear #tipster
    Camera Summer: What is 'Sunny 16'?

    As an analogue photographer, you have probably already heard someone speak about the "sunny 16" rule when it comes to determining the correct shutter speed and aperture combination. But what's this about? Read on and I will tell you.

  • Pushing Boundaries: Multiple Exposing Film Soup

    written by Amber Valentine on 2015-04-21 in #world #tipster
    Pushing Boundaries: Multiple Exposing Film Soup

    As you may have read in my previous article, I truly fell in love with Lomography when I combined my Fisheye camera with an old Canon AE-1 for magical photographic results. Last summer, I took so many pictures of flowers that it started to become almost boring for me. My waning interest and the coming winter meant that I had to figure out something else to do with my 35mm film.

  • The Hipster Tipster

    written by andie_sollmer on 2014-07-28 in #gear #tipster
    The Hipster Tipster

    Have you heard about this new style? Now is your chance to take advantage of your bearded friends, flower them up a bit and take some bloomy shots! Here is how to do it in four sunny steps.

  • Shop News

    Colorsplash your World!

    Colorsplash your World!

    At 30% off you can now color your analog images with 12 different color gels. Experiment with 35mm slide film and play with the built-in color flash for the most intense colors!

  • Fresh From the Lab: The Lomography Redscale XR 50-200, My First Medium Format Film

    written by sinema on 2014-07-07 in #lifestyle
    Fresh From the Lab: The Lomography Redscale XR 50-200, My First Medium Format Film

    This is my experience with the Lomography Redscale XR 50-200 (120), my first medium format film. It's an adventure that started when I got a Lubitel 2, to finally shoot with it. In this article, you'll find detailed information about color schemes, the advantages of shooting in medium format, and the differences between standard redscale films. Here are the results of a day of shooting outside, which I recently got back from the lab.

  • The Analogue Quiz: What B&W Film are you?

    written by andie_sollmer on 2014-10-20 in #news
    The Analogue Quiz: What B&W Film are you?

    Did you ever think about the myth that we actually dream in Black & White? No colors, maybe no truth behind it anyways. But we know for a fact that you can create the most dreamy photographs with an analogue camera. And for that you need the right film. Scroll down and find out which B&W film is the film of your dreams!

  • Transient Living: The Craft and the Craftsmen of Denver, Colorado

    written by maliha on 2014-12-10 in #world #locations
    Transient Living: The Craft and the Craftsmen of Denver, Colorado

    The people of a city, to me, speak volumes about its culture and sense of community. And that is why I sought out the people who make Denver that much more interesting after the initial period of settling down. My search lead to a few establishments that have contributed to making Denver what it is today. In the second story on Transient Living, I present to you two of such establishments: The Craftsman & Apprentice, and A Small Print Shop.