How To Push and Pull Your Film In The Subway

If you have ever heard of pushing or pulling your film, but have yet to try it, you are in for a treat. Pushing your film involves underexposing the film when shooting, then giving it more time during the development process to compensate. The results are usually garner more contrast and grain in the resulting photographs. You might choose to push your film for various reasons: if you are shooting indoors and need the extra ISO, you desire more contrast in your images without adding it in post production, or you are just taking creative license…the choice is yours. Some people will often push expired film as well. Pulling your film is the opposite; overexposing the film and decreasing the amount of time during development. You’ll generally see the reverse results of pushing such as, less grain, muted colors, an overall flat look in the resulting photographs. 

Here is an example. I shot a roll of Fuji C200 (natively ISO 200) and rated it at ISO 400. During the development process, I added an extra min or so to the standard time 3.5mins (times may vary based on the chemistry you use). If I took the film to a lab I would ask them to push the film +1 stop. The images shot at box speed and developed normally on the left and the pushed photos on the right.

Most films will do fine with up to a +2 stop push. However, many low ISO films (25-100 ISO) tend to not be as flexible with pushing from my experience. You may need to consider the following when pushing your film: loss of detail in the shadows, blown out highlights, and unplanned color shifts. The same considerations generally apply for black and white film, minus the color shifts. Films like Cinestill 800T and Ilford HP5 Plus are highly regarded for their ability to be pushed and pulled, I recommend those for starters.

When planning to push your film for the first time, do your research and see what results others have gotten…the last thing you want is to waste your precious film. Remember, film choice is important, and have a goal you want to achieve from pushing. Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment with cheaper films first to test the waters. Happy creating fam!

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