HP5 at 1600

Experiments Pushing & Pulling Ilford HP5 – By Holly Gilman

This is not groundbreaking stuff. I’m not the first to experiment with pushing and pulling Ilford HP5 but it’s my first time experimenting with it. I make no secret of the fact that Ilford HP5 is not my favourite film stock. However it’s versatility is brilliant and I will admit that some of my favourite shots that I’ve taken were shot on it, but it doesn’t wow me. I also find that it often moves too far into the realm of grain for my tastes.

The reason many people choose to shoot it is the fact that you can successfully pull and push the film and still get good results. There are many, many articles which deal with this but even so, I wanted to share my initial test rolls and my thoughts with you, as an amateur.

Shot and developed at ISO100

Overall I wasn’t massively impressed. It was quite nice in slightly darker or higher contrast situations.

HP5 shot at 100ISO

HP5 shot at 100ISO

HP5 shot at 100ISO

In bright situations it was quite flat and dull. The images appeared a bit washed out and I struggled to pull any contrast out of the negatives.

HP5 shot at 100ISO

At this speed I would be more inclined to reach for Ilford FP4+.

Shot at ISO200 and developed at ISO400

I really didn’t like this roll. Essentially I was giving the film an extra stop of exposure and developing it as normal. From my experiments I find that HP5 works better (for me) when it’s given a little less light rather than more. I tend to prefer the darker scenes than the bright ones with this film.

HP5 400 +1

HP5 400 +1

HP5 400 +1
One of the few from this roll that I like

I found that all the images on this roll felt a little flat and lifeless.

Shot and developed at ISO200

I think this was one of my favourite ways to use HP5. I’ve shot some of my favourite images on this particular roll. It reduces the grain that comes at ISO400 whilst retaining some nice contrast.

HP5 at 200
Available to purchase
HP5 at 200
Available to purchase

HP5 at 200

From this roll the macro shots of the dandelion clock and the fern leaf are my favourite. Prints of these two images will soon be available to purchase. I am having them printed by James Lane at Zone Imaging Lab and the profits will be going towards building my own darkroom. Therefore any purchases will be going towards supporting both an independent lab (James) and a little-known creative (me). The prints will be 5×7 and will be £45 to purchase plus PP.

Shot and developed at ISO400

I find this to be hit and miss. I’m not a big fan of grain and often images at this ISO come out very grainy, not always but quite often. Equally a few of my best shots have been on this.

HP5 at 400

HP5 at 400

HP5 at 400

I’d like to try other mid speed film stocks in 35mm to see what I like. In 120 I love Rollei RPX 400, it’s one that I’ll have to try in 35mm.

The shot below will be soon be available to purchase. As with the macro shots above, I am having a limited number of prints created. They will be 5×7 and will be £45 to purchase plus PP.

HP5 at 400
Available to purchase

Shot and developed at ISO1600

I don’t feel I did this roll justice. It was definitely an experiment – particularly in how the light meter in my Pentax ME Super coped with metering dark situations.

HP5 at 1600

HP5 at 1600

HP5 at 1600

HP5 at 1600

I think there is a lot of potential but I need to practice and experiment more at these high ISOs.


HP5 is still not one of my favourite film stocks but I do think that it is an important one. If I were going on an assignment with no idea what the subject matter, lighting conditions, etc… were going to be, I would stock up on HP5.

I’ll be experimenting more at ISO1600 so who knows, it may be my go to, low light film.

Having said that, I would like to try pushing and pulling other mid speed film stocks to see how versatile they can be. Particularly Rollei RPX 400 as I mentioned above. I’d really love to know your favourite way to use Ilford HP5 or your favourite alternatives and why!

If you’d like to see more of my work, or follow along with my learning journey you can do via my learning log or Instagram. Please get in touch via my website or instagram if you would be interested in purchasing a print.

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33 thoughts on “Experiments Pushing & Pulling Ilford HP5 – By Holly Gilman”

  1. Only last week I tried HP5+ At 800 and stand developed for two hours – the grain was massive! I quite like grain actually. What is your set up for macro? Extension tubes, dioptre filters? Cheers, Rock

  2. Okay, cool. I guess a genuine macro lens make a life a lot easier. I used to do a lot of close-ups about 5 years ago, trying different methods. I really enjoyed reverse lens photography and found I could get in really quite close. For example, an Olympus zuiko 50mm reversed on a Nikon body. Less cumbersome than extension tubes. I wonder if there is such a thing as a reverse lens adapter in the P6 mount?

  3. I tried HP5 @ 800 and developed in Xtol. The grain was very acceptable, RPX400 @ 800 developed in Rodinal certainly gives more grain. My favorite film is Rollei Retro 400S, I like the contrast at 400 and 800. I usually stand develop in Rodinal. If you don’t like grain, try Ilford Delta 400 and develop in Xtol or D76.

  4. Good morning Holly,
    I quite enjoy your postings – they remind me of myself when I was exploring & learning photography back in the late 1960’s (gasp!) Nothing is a failure, you push against boundaries, you see if they work. More importantly, do they work for you? keep your journey going.
    There are two types of people who take photographs: one person likes to take photos, the other must make photos. I’ve been at this now for 50+ years. I must make photos – it’s now in my DNA. I have a feeling you fall into the second category yourself. Our daughter is an artist; she needs to make art every day.
    I like HP-5. I like the grain. I grew up during the the 1960’s when LIFE & LOOK published b&w photo stories – grain, glorious grain! But, different strokes for different folks.
    However, I never pushed film that much. A fast f/2.0 lens and the light on the subject was sufficient enough. Now I’M beginning to experiment with pushing HP-5 to 1600 and downrating T-MAX 3200 to 1600. Never too old to learn. I guess. Your posting was helpful to me.
    I use my camera (M2 Leica) as a sketchbook. Anything that catches my eye I’ll try and photograph. Many near misses and outright fails, but I hit the mark often enough to keep me going. I use a Leica and bulk load my film (HP-5) because it fits my style. I try and avoid the whole illogical Leica “thing.” Wasted breath. People should take that time and energy for the act of taking pictures.
    I’m glad you’re committed to building a home darkroom. Time in the darkroom slows down. You’re creating much like a craftsperson. Your blood pressure drops, you engage your mind. It’s therapeutic. Time spent in a darkroom is never squandered. And, you can always order take out (away.- been there, done that!) if it’s getting near mealtime.
    Continue your work and continue to give us updates. Merry Christmas. You and your family keep healthy!
    Dan (flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574)

    1. What a lovely comment, thank you Dan! I’ve always wanted to create but just cannot seem to make much headway with pencil or paintbrush and so I’m beginning to see the photograph/photography as my artistic medium – as you mention, my sketch book! And yes, I think you may be right, without photography my mental health suffers and so I must make photographs.
      Merry Christmas

  5. I feel like you might have better judgement of the results regarding push/pull if you standardized each shot to the same subjects and lighting conditions.

    You shouldn’t feel unimpressed with the results of an experiment! Now you know pulling hp5 to 100 is not for you, not for general photography at least, but maybe you find yourself in a situation with extremely harsh lighting and you need to minimize the contrast.

    It is good to create these tests and we can learn a lot when thinking outside the box speed. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I did wonder when someone would mention the lack of continuity between the shots haha. I appreciate those who do those tests but I think I would find the act a waste of film… Yes it does make my results a little less useful to compare but I still find value in rolls.
      And yes, I completely agree on your point about it being useful to be able to pull to 100 and why I say that Ilford HP5 is a really important film stock. It’s a fantastic creation ☺️

  6. anyone shot it at 800, and used filters? i have a yellow and orange filter, and a roll of hp5 rated at 800 in my camera, but slightly concerned the yellow would make it over contrasty.

    i love the RPX films but have mainly shot RPX 100 – if you nail the exposure the tones are wonderful but i’ve found that in very high contrast scenes and/or if you miss the exposure it loses the magic.

    1. Yes 800 is one to try too! Not shot with filters except for one roll of film that annoyingly got completely exposed to light and ruined so I have no idea what the results were!

    2. Hi,
      Experiment! Shoot @ EI 800 and develop it normally. Too much contrast? Next roll underdevelop by 10% @ see if that works. Keep a darkroom log. Tweak the process to fit your needs.
      The good thing is you’ve never really ruin a roll.
      Run your own tests, don’t rely upon other people’s results.

      1. Hmm, what about shooting @ 800, developing @ 800 and using a yellow filter – would this bring nice contrast?
        I’m new to BW but enjoy more grain, more contrast images

        1. Interesting thoughts – I previously shot a roll of film testing different filters only to open the back and realise it hadn’t loaded properly and therefore I hadn’t actually shot anything. I was so disheartened by the amount of time and energy I had put into exposing and noting what I’d done and shooting appropriate scenes for the filters (i.e. trying a green filter with plants etc…) that I haven’t tried it again.

          Good reminder for me to try that again. 🙂

    3. I’ve been shooting quite a lot of HP5 at 800 recently (in Pentax 35mm SLRs, much of it thru’ a 28mm f3. 5 ‘original K-mount’)- this is to get a feel for it in shooting and dev for shots where I want an extra stop of speed, specifically for some hand-held building-site photography for work (or day-job at least lol).
      It comes up very nicely and prints quite easily, comparable to shooting at 400, with a nice feeling of being there as opposed to merely documenting the scene. This is compared to Fomapan which goes a lot more crappy- could be in a good way- when pushed. Grain is obviously a bit coarser- I’d try Delta if that was a serious concern.

      Thanks Holly for the post. I like a slightly grumpy take on trying to get the best from stuff you suspect you don’t like… HP5 has limitations for sure, but I’m starting to know it quite well- it seems to really sing for me in medium format. Tri-X arguably a bit easier to get nice stuff out of but not enough to justify the additional cost in my opinion.

      1. I will certainly be continuing my experiments and also experimenting in 120 as I did like it better at box speed in that than 35mm.
        I always want to be honest in my articles so glad you appreciate it!

    1. How interesting! I loved Rollei RPX 400 in 120 but I wasn’t a fan of kentmere 100. I also loved the rolls of agfa APX 100 I shot back in 2015/16 – perhaps I need to revisit this!

    2. not sure about that. RPX is pretty different to Kentmere. you can also buy Rollei Superpan 200, which can be developed as b&w slide film. there are other stocks out there.

  7. I’ve pushed HP5+ to 1600 and developed it in HC110 and am certainly pleased with the results. I tried to like HP5+ but at 400 it never impressed me. I personally feel that pushing HP5+ gives it a bit of character definitely not found when shooting it at box speed.

  8. Nice article. Thank you. You did not indicate the developer used in your tests, but one of my favorite combinations is HP5 @ 200 in Perceptol. The tonality is wonderful and the grain stays under control. It still does not have the contrast of Tri-X, but in the right lighting, it can be quite nice.

  9. For Hp-5, you’ll only get good result if your exposition is right. For me it has to be developed in D-76 or preferrably in Microphen.
    Then the scanning part plays a big role too

  10. I used to have issues with HP5 in 35mm, like you, I found the lack of contrast a pain, rather than experiment I just found another stock that more suited my needs. Then i tried HP5 in 120 and found it a completely different kettle of fish, probably due to my metering methods as opposed to letting the camera do the work. It’s now my go to when shooting with my Rolleiflex, using a handheld meter. I’ve just bought myself a Dynax 7 though and thought id get my head around shooting HP5 in 35mm, have a play with filters/developers. It’s a really good film, very versatile, with many years of R&D behind it, happy shooting! 🙂

  11. Thank you for your review. After the recent increases in prices, I had to abandon Tmax400 and switch to HP5. I will always prefer Tmax400 for its tonality and lack of grain but the HP5 is much cheaper, more versatile and very predictable. I have developed it in Rodinal, ID-11 and HC110 and the HC110 has given me my favourite results. At 400asa is my preferred speed, lacks a bit of contrast but that is easily adjusted. At 800 and 1600 i have found it to be less predictable – my results can show more grain than I like or dark areas get block easily – not always but i cannot predict when it will happen. It might be the case that I haven’t found the right developing regime but I am happy with the way it performs at 400 so I am not tempted to experiment more. On my blog I have some examples at 400 and 800 ASA.

  12. 90% of analogue photographers make use of pull or push completely incorrectly.

    1. make a contrast measurement
    (Your night shots have a high contrast and pull would be appropriate!
    Mostly brightness is also confused with contrast. At midday in the sun there is often low contrast -> see your ISO 200 shots, e.g. of the tree. Push would be better here. With Pull the upper tonal values are compressed too much, i.e. not differentiated enough).

    2 Adjust the ISO accordingly
    (The purpose of this adjustment is not the sensitivity, but so that zone V remains as such with push or pull!
    In the original Ansel Adams method for contrast adjustment, the ISO is not changed, only the development time. This shifts the upper zones, which does not matter for landscape shots, but it does for portraits – zones IV to VI, depending on the skin type).

    3. adjust the development time.
    Pull reacts insensitively to exposure errors, but very sensitively to small deviations in the development time.
    With Push it is the other way round.

    4. If you want to increase the sensitivity without changing the contrast significantly, you should use a two-bath.
    HP5+ @ ISO 25,000 is no problem then.

    5. Every film has a different spectral sensitivity, which you should know and correct with colour filters depending on the motif.
    There are no good or bad films.
    There is only a lack of experience.

  13. I would take these types of tests and articles, with a grain of salt. Everyone’s camera, and development are different and if you don’t calibrate your tools to each other, you don’t know if you’re actually shooting , in the way you think you are.

    Example,: Your camera at 200 ISO may be a totally different exposure than my camera at 200 ISO. They may be DRAMATICALLY different in exposure. In school we calibrated our cameras, to our enlargers, to our development styles, using a Varity of tests before learning to print in the darkroom. To get the same Prints some of us would need to shoot film at 800ISO vs others who would shoot the same film at 400 ISO, just because of light meter and shutter differences in our cameras. Film Cameras are mechanical and there are deviations in performance and exposure settings. Even if we both shoot a Nikon F2, my exposures will vary from yours with the same settings, although they may be slight OR dramatic.

    So, your camera at 200 ISO with HP5 may be a totally difference exposure value than with my camera, thus changing grain, exposure, etc. Although everyone agitates differently, no matter what you do, thus changing contrast and grain.

    Also Philip Perkis shoot 400ISO film his entire career at around 100 ISO. worked for him.

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