Exposure & Push/Pull Guide


Troll Extraordinaire
Mar 15, 2005
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I'm not necessarily recommending that this become a sticky, but I thought it would be nice to have a member guide to different films, outlining their exposure latitude, and giving recommendations on when it's appropriate to push or pull during development. I think some useful tips could go here, for people to try shooting differently with a film in a way that they might not think to or be used to, or for people to consider when selecting a new film to try (without having to shoot off several bracketed rolls in order to figure out what works and what doesn't). While it may be true that most black & white films tend to have a good amount of exposure latitude when shot and processed properly, this guide will attempt to give some more specific information about each different film. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be limited to black and white. I'd welcome anyone to post information about slide film, especially if they've had good results. Ill kick it off with a few of my own personal observations.

Fuji Acros (Neopan 100): A relatively contrasty film when shot according to the meter and developed normally. However, in flat light, prints can be slightly flat as well. Acros has a decent amount of exposure lattitude, but overexposing or pushing too much will completely darken portions of your photo and send you crawling to the shadow/highlight tool. Acros can produce wonderful results when there are heavy shadows and/or bright light, especially if you want a lot of contrast. Tips: Try shooting a half-stop slower (ISO 64) and developing at 100 for very sharp, dark shadows and lots of contrast. Try not to shoot reflections or towards sunlight, as this will definitely overexpose (more than you'd like) and blow out parts of your photo. Another tip, which is a great way to increase the exposure without losing detail in the darker portions of your image, is to shoot half a stop faster, and push half a stop during development.

Agfa APX100: This film can produce abnormally contrasty results when shoot in very bright sunlight, even when shot and developed at/for ISO 100. My recommendation: If you need or want to use this film in bright sunlight, shoot at one half to one stop faster. Correcting the exposure during enlargement is better than trying to work with a negative that has lost detail in the lightest and darkest parts.

Ilford PanF (ISO 50): This is one of my favorite black and white films. It performs beautifully under normal conditions, and has a deep, smooth tonal range. It is, however, slightly sensitive to mildly reflective surfaces, and can in some instances blow out light areas when shot in bright sunlight. Under bright sun: IMHO, shooting this film faster and developing for ISO 50 tends to flatten the image and lose some of the detail than PanF is known for. If you need lots of contrast, shoot at 64, push a half stop. If you need to equalize the effect of the sun, shoot at 50, pull half a stop.

Ilford Delta100 & Delta400: The Delta line is often recommended to beginning photographers because they produce very even shots and tend to be quite forgiving. In short, it's difficult to shoot a poorly exposed roll. Compared to other Ilford films, such as HP or FP (but certainly not PanF), the Delta line also tends to have noticeably finer grain (until you get up into the high speed range). While producing such even tones may be a god-send for beginners, the results often tend to be relatively flat. So what's the upside? The fact that it's hard to poorly expose a roll is the same reason why the film is forgiving when playing with the exposure. I'd say just about anything is fair game with these films except for very heavy overexposure. However, when it comes to the Delta 400 (as with any moderately fast film), too much pushing during development can bring out grain that you never even imagined could be present in Delta. You definitely have more leeway with the 100.

Fomapan 100: This is an interesting film. It's manufactured in the Czech Republic. You'll notice that the negatives tend to have a distinct blue tint to them, sort of like Plus-X. The tone is relatively even, if slightly on the contrasty side. The grain tends to hold up quite well to pushing and pulling, but overexposing can quickly send the contrast level too high. If you want lots and lots of contrast, i'd say Acros would probably be a better choice, but this is definitely an interesting film to play around with. Over-exposing and then pulling FPan (not to be confused with PanF) IMO can yield some relatively mediocre results. In sum: when working with this film, you should be doing more playing in the darkroom than with your shutter speed.

Anyway, that's all I'm gonna write for now. I'd love for anyone with something to say, to add on new film, add on to what i've already said, or even argue with some of the advice i just gave. The only thing I don't want is for this to turn into an argument about people's personal film preferences. It's supposed to be an informational resource, not a debate.
I've been experimenting with Ilford FP4+. I use a handheld spot meter which I set to EI 125 (the box speed for that film) and then in normal conditions (say 5 stops of contrast in the scene) I'll meter the deepest shadow where I need some detail to appear and shoot at one stop less than that reading. This is one stop more than the classic Zone System method, but I find that at two stops less I'm beginning to lose a bit more shadow information than I would like. Developed normally this gives a full range of tones from shadow to highlight.

I have done film tests with under and over development, but haven't really used that in the real world. In theory if you have a low contrast scene (three stops and under) that you want to extend then you under expose and over develop. So, you would expose the shadows at two stops under the meter reading and then develop by 20% or 30% more than Ilford's recommendation. I've got to go to a meeting now, so I'll edit this later and add some more information.
It's good to hear other people's experiences, so keep posting, but...

The problem with relying on other people's film tests is that there are so many variables. There are variables in the cameras, the meters, the techniques, the chems, processing method, temps, times, etc..., let alone different opinions as to what looks good. All of these things can add up to big differences from photographer to photographer.

Some links with info:





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