Should you push film in low light?

There are a few reasons why you may want to push film in low light. This could include finding yourself in a dark environment with an unexpected lack of light which would necessitate a higher ISO to allow more light onto your film, or aesthetic preferences such as contrast and grain.

Credits: clownshoes , randyweiphoto, ralphlindsen

When shooting in low light, one thing to consider is whether the film stock available to you will be able to handle how dark your environment is. For example, there’s a higher likelihood for underexposure with an ISO 200 or 400 film stock in a dark or overcast environment, while an ISO 800 or upwards film roll will be able to handle the lack of light a little better.

In this case, you may consider pushing your ISO 200 or 400 film stock by one or two stops to compensate for the limited light source.

Aesthetic preference is also one of the possible considerations for pushing film in low light. Pushing film increases grain and contrast which often results in a lo-fi appearance and a dramatic mood in photos which many photographers go for.

Pushing or pulling the film involves shooting a film stock higher or lower than the ISO it’s initially intended to be shot at, e.g. box speed, in order to let more or less light onto your film. To push the film, you can shoot at a higher ISO, for example shooting an ISO 400 film stock at ISO 800.

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