Pushing and Pulling Film
The process of pushing and pulling film involves developing and shooting film at a different ISO than what the film was originally “rated” for. It is the art of using a different ISO speed for a more technical or creative approach used on black and white and color film. Due to the complicated process of what might seem like an intimidating start, we broke this process down to make it easy to understand and implement into your film photography.
Let’s say you want to push your 400 ISO film to 1 stop (+1 is how it will most likely be written out), place your camera’s settings to 800 ISO, and meter the whole roll as if it’s 800 ISO. When you’re finished with the roll, clearly mark the canister “+1” for your lab to know to push that film roll at least 1 stop.
There are several reasons why you might want to push your film. Low light is the most common reason people push their film images 1, 2, or 3 stops. Pushing can also be a fun and unique way to change the look and vibe of your Black and White canisters to receive more contrast or grain, a desirable look for monochrome photography. The hues tend to be more saturated with a few pushes for color film. Typically, you might want to push your 100-speed film, such as Ektar 100, 2 stops or more during a cloudy day to receive better shadows and contrast as it develops to 400 ISO.
Pulling your film applies this same concept, except in the opposite direction. If you’re shooting a higher ISO-rated film roll, but are in a super bright and sunny condition where the shadows and highlights might be blasted, then pull your film down -1, -2, or -3 stops to bring out those details and contrast in the shadows. For a more creative approach, pulling film mutes colors and flattens the image with less contrast.
A quick lesson on terminology:
- ISO - The sensitivity rate at which light is rated. This is also often referred to as film speed.
- Stop - A stop of either doubling or halving the amount of light let in when taking a photo.
- Push - Doubling the amount of light by 1, 2, or 3 stops.
- Pull - Halving the amount of light by -1, -2,-3 stops.
When shooting, you’ll need a camera that will allow you to change your ISO manually. Set your camera to the desired camera speed (something different than the film speed) and shoot the film as you usually would. The rest is done with your development lab.