When we take creative control with our photography, we learn to adjust and be prepared for any situation we might encounter. No more despair if the weather is not favorable or the hour of the day seems wrong for your film stock. By learning as much as possible about film photography, you'll be ready for ( almost ) any scenario.
If the hour of the day is not in our favor, or if weather conditions have a sudden change, we can turn disadvantages to our advantage. A classic example is tricking your meter to compensate in case your ISO needs it; an old trick up all photographers' sleeves. It's called pushing and pulling.
It can be quite confusing at the beginning to understand how the reaction works, but we are here to make sense of it with you. For this article we tried pushing and pulling Lomography Color Negative ISO 400 film.
We proceed to shot Lomography Color Negative 35 mm ISO 400 five times: at box speed (400ISO) -1 stop 200 ISO, -2 stop 100 ISO and +1 stop 800 ISO, +2 stops 1600 ISO. To adjust your ISO, you must use a camera that allows you to shoot in full manual mode.
There are different situations where you might need to trick your meter. For example: during a bright sunny day, where 400 ISO is too sensitive, or right after sunset, when the opposite problem puzzles your exposures.
In the first case, you would rate that roll of film one or two stops down, and it's called pulling. In the second case, you would push your film, one or two stops up to gain more sensitivity. It is important to remember that you will have to keep the same setting for all 36 pictures. This is just the beginning of your ISO manipulation. To only overexpose or underexpose is not the sole point, as your job is not over yet.
When it's time to develop your film, you must inform your lab that your film was pushed or pulled, and tell how many stops. According to the number of stops, they will compensate by adjusting the temperature during development.
When the film needs to be pushed, the temperature increases by one or two degrees. When pulling, it will be lowered one or two degrees. This will alter the look of your film.
Pulling is useful during bright hours of the day. By lowering your ISO you will get less grain and lower contrast in your images. When pulling one-stop images also gain some brightness and vibrance on the colors. Details in the shadow will be more visible.
However when pulled down to two stops, it can look dull or washed out. We gain information in the shadow areas, but we suffer the consequence of highlights blown out and lost details in bright areas.
The pushing technique seems to be used more often among photographers online. It is worth it to push when you are out shooting at sunset, and increasing speed really helps you gain control. We shot during summer days, and as a consequence we had better results when we shot in situations with less light available.
Pushing two stops will drastically increase your grain and contrast. Where your meter for your picture will also make a difference: highlights can be totally blown out, as well as shadows, being completely dark.
For this comparison, we went on our photo walk during summer days when the sun was still high. However, for -2 stop and + 2 stop, we also had some clouds in the sky creating overcast conditions.
At box speed, Lomography Color Negative 400 ISO worked really well, creating good contrast and brightness of the colors. Among the pull and push, due to the lovely weather condition, it is evident that the pulling worked really well, especially -1. We were not impressed with the pushing, even though + 1 stop is more favorable than +2 stops. Perhaps this is because it's use performs best in the hours before sunset rather than during the afternoon.
Pushing and pulling can either lower or add the amount of work in post-production for a photographer. In both cases, nowadays especially, we all get the scans from the lab, and if we are not satisfied with the results, we can still adjust our pictures with editing software. Perhaps exploring pushing and pulling can help you develop your signature style.
Which are your favorite results? Are you going to try these two techniques? Share your comments below.