Ilford HP5 Plus 400 has been my staple ever since I began shooting with black and white film. Black and white is the main way I work these days, but I actually shot primarily in color up until a little over a year ago. The way I look at photography was changed completely after I read Sally Mann’s memoir, Hold Still. I saw the full potential of working in black and white for the first time, and I picked up some Ilford HP5 Plus 400 shortly after finishing the book.
The two rolls featured in this post were shot on different days. The landscapes are from a trip to Marfa, and the portraits are from an afternoon with my sister. I photographed her wearing a sweater vest I had just finished knitting.
Portraits are my favorite type of photography. Ironically, they cause me the most pre-event anxiety. Landscapes are simple because you’re on one person’s time: your own, and no one is watching you as you create (not to disregard the skill it takes to create a strong landscape image). Portraits can be overwhelming because you don’t want to waste your subject’s time and your subject is actively watching you while you work. For a newbie (or even a well-versed photographer), that can feel a bit like someone breathing down your neck. Luckily, with time, the act of making someone’s portrait does get easier.
In full transparency, I’ve tried out other films (see my TMax review here), but HP5 is still my favorite.
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This film is low contrast with medium grain. It is made by Ilford, the company that leads in production of black and white film stocks. Ilford has been in the game for a long time, and its makers know what they’re doing.
What We Love:
This is a forgiving film.
Because it has great exposure latitude, even if you under- or over-expose a few of your shots, your film will still come out usable.
This is a flexible film.
You can push this film multiple stops and your film won’t come out overly contrasted.
This is a classic film.
Ilford HP5 Plus has been shot by photographers for almost 100 years. It started out as hypersensitive panchromatic plates in 1931 and is now available in 35mm, 120mm, 4x5, and 8x10 film.
What It Has:
- High speed ISO 400
- Textured Grain
- A classic contrasted look
What It Does:
- B&W 120 Film
- Great results in varied lighting conditions
- Wide exposure latitude
- Film Base: Acetate
- Layer Thickness: 110.0 µm
- Standard Black and White Chemistry