Pushing and Pulling Film

Everything you need to know about Shooting and Developing Pushed or Pulled Film

Pushing & Pulling is a technique used to compensate for an under or overexposure. Because the process can be confusing or be intimidating to start, this article outlines reasons to push or pull and instructions for shooting and developing push/pulled film. We’ve also included tips, photo samples and recommend film types to help you be successful in the pushing and pulling process.

An Overview

The pushing or pulling process involves shooting and developing film at a different ISO than what the film is rated for. Let’s say you want to push your 400 ISO film 1 stop (+1), set your camera to 800 ISO, and shoot/meter the whole roll as 800 ISO. When the roll is finished, clearly mark the push amount on the film canister and be sure to select the push amount when making your order at TheDarkroom.com.

Some Considerations and Variables

There are many variables that will affect the results of pushed or pulled film, like; the light you’re shooting in, metering, and film type.

Scene light – pushed film will typically do better in even light since it can have increased contrast.  A scene with very harsh/contrasty light isn’t always ideal for pushed film because it’ll make it harder to keep your highlights from blowing out and reduce shadow detail.  If you have enough light we recommend no push as box speed will typically preform best but if the light is very dark and you need an extra stop or two of light to get a good exposure with a shutter speed of over 60th, then a push can come in very handy.

Accurate metering always helps.  If you underexpose your shots you have increased grain, less detail in the shadows and mid-tones, and you may experience an unpleasant color shift with greenish shadows and off-color skin tones. So if you are shooting, say 400 iso film as 800iso then you will meter it as 800iso and it is till good to err on overexposure by metering for the shadows.

Film type – B&W is the most commonly pushed film and pushes the best as you wont have any color shifts.  Typically lower contrast film stocks like Ilford HP5 400 or Kentmere Pan 400 push very well compared to Kodak Tri-X 400 which which has higher contrast without a push.  Both color negative film and slide film can be pushed but know that there will be increased contrast, saturation, color shifts, and more noticeable grain and some color film will push better than other, especially Cinestill film which is designed to be pushed.

The best way to understand the effects of pushing is to push your favorite film in various lighting and see how it performs, take notes and over time you’ll get to know how that film reacts to pushing and pulling and what its limitations are.

Reasons to Push or Pull Film

Push – Low light and shutter speed not suitable for handheld photos. Low light is the most common reason people push. As a guide, when shooting handheld with an SLR, it’s best to keep your shutter at or above 60th of a second. With a rangefinder, you want to stay at or above a 30th of a second shutter speed—for anything lower you should either use a tripod or push your film a stop or two.
Push – Creative effects – Pushing is a fun way to change the look and many people push B&W and color film to get more contrast and increased grain – the more you push it the more contrasty and grainy your photos will be. Color film will have more saturation and possible color shifts.  
Push – An overcast day or the sun is going down. Shoot a 100-speed film and gain two extra stops (+2) by shooting at ISO 400 and develop it at ISO 400.
Pull/Push – You didn’t change the speed on your camera. You shoot 400 film at 100 ISO. Develop it at 400 (-2 Stops) and your photos should come out fine.
Pull – Sunny, bright, and high-contrast light. Pulling film reduces contrast and brings out details in the shadows.
Pull – Creative effects – Pulling film mutes colors and flattens the image with less contrast.

Terminology and Reference

ISO / Film Speed

Often referred to as film speed, ISO is a measurement of light sensitivity.

Lower numbers represent less sensitivity to light.  “Slow” film (low ISO) is a finer grain film, needing less light but requires a slower shutter speed, while “Fast” film (higher ISO) has more grain, a higher sensitivity to light, and can be used with fast shutter speeds.

What is a “STOP”

A stop is doubling or halving the amount of light let in when taking a photo.

A stop is a common term in photography and important in the pushing and pulling process, especially when you complete the film processing form. 400 ISO film set at 800 on your camera is 1 Stop (+1) underexposure because it’s doubled. But if you put 400 ISO film as 200 on your camera—that would be a 1 Stop (-1) overexposure because you halved it.

Push and Pull Chart

This chart simplifies how many stops a film is pushed or pulled when changing the ISO. For example, 400 ISO film set at 800 on your camera is 1 Stop (+1).

Push and Pull Film Chart


There are 2 parts to pushing or pulling film… 1) Shooting the image and then 2) developing the roll at the lab. This section details how to shoot and develop pushed or pulled film.

1) Shooting – Pushed/Pulled Film

To start, you will need a camera that allows you to manually change your ISO.  When pushing or pulling you simply set your camera or meter to the desired speed (different than the film speed) and shoot the film as you normally would. Pushing film

Pushing film

Most common in low light situations the film ISO or speed isn’t fast enough to shoot at box speed or suitable handheld shutter speed. Increasing (pushing) the ISO a stop or two allows you to shoot at a faster shutter speed or with a smaller aperture to increase the depth of field. Pushed film has increased contrast in the lighter areas with minimal effects on the shadows. To preserve the details in the shadows, make sure to meter for medium to darker areas of the image.

If you have 400 ISO film and you set it as 800 on your camera, that will be a 1 stop underexposure. When you are finished with the roll, write “+1” on the film cartridge and the order form so the lab knows to push it a stop in development.

Pushing Characteristics: Increases film contrast, More grain, Lightens Image
When developed bright areas become lighter, but shadows stay more or less the same—increases the contrast and grain of the film.

Pulling film

While the pulling technique can be done on color film, it’s not recommended and it’s almost exclusively done with a black and white film.  Most people pull film in sunny, bright, or high-contrast light.  Pulling decreases contrast, but brings out details in the shadows.

If you have 100 ISO film and you set it as 50 ISO on your camera, that will be a 1 stop overexposure. When you are finished with the roll, write “-1” on the film cartridge and the order form so the lab knows to pull it a stop in development.

Pulling Characteristics: Less contrast with increased details in shadows, flat and overall dull negative, darker image

push pull marked film canisters

Metering Tip – The most common mistake we see with regular and pushed black & white film is underexposure.  When it comes to metering for color negative—and especially black and white film—be mindful of what you’re metering for. We recommend metering for the shadows in even light and metering for the mid-tones in high-contrast light.  This will help you get better details in the shadows.

Mark your film – Once you’re done with the roll, be sure to write the push amount (+1, +2, etc.) on the film cartridge with a sharpie so the lab knows that it needs to be pushed. Also, select and write in the push amount on the order form. This will help ensure proper development in the lab.

2) Developing – Push Processing & Pull Processing

When the film is developed, Pushed film is left longer in the developer and Pulled film shorter, compensating for the different ISO setting, underexposing or overexposing film. Because Push and Pull processing time matters, it’s important to give instructions to the film lab and have the canister marked.

If you shoot 400 ISO film as 800, that is a 1 stop underexposure which will require a 1 stop push in development by processing it as an 800 ISO film. If you shoot a roll 1 stop under-exposed and don’t push in development, your photos will be under-exposed.

Push and Pulled Film Examples

Cinestill 800T pushed 3 stops to 6400 Cinestill 800T +3 Not all color negative film pushes 3 stops well, but Cinestill 800T is one that is designed to do so. There will be noticeable grain and contrast. When it comes pushing up to 3 stops we mostly recommend B&W film.

Portra 400 pushed 1 stop to 800 color negative Portra 400 +1 Portra 400 pushed 1 stop will add some contrast, some slight color shifts, and if you meter correctly the grain shouldn’t be that much more noticeable than when shot at box speed.

Click on image to view details

Other examples of pushed film:

Dark Scenes

Pushing film for dark scenes

Dark scenes like this can be hard to photograph which why you often need to push your film or have a very fast lens, and in this case, both were needed! This is Kodak Tri-X 400 shot as 800iso and pushed 1 stop in development.  It was taken with a Leica M5 and a super-fast Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 that @kehcamera sent us!  This combination, along with a rangefinder that allows you to shoot at slower handheld shutter speeds is ideal for lowlight shooting.  All three of these were shot wide open at f/1.2 and produced very sharp results – we’re loving this lens so far and will be sharing more results in the future!

The Best Films for Pushing

While nearly all film types can be pushed, some have better results than others. Generally, pro-grade film stocks that have great exposure latitude will be best for pushing.

Pushing B&W film

True black and white film is the best and most common type of film to push.  Pushing film will both increase the film grain, making it more noticeable, and will add more contrast to your photos.  In fact, many people push black and white films solely to get more contrast out of certain film stocks.

Pushing Color negatives

Color negatives are the second most commonly pushed film.  Pushing color negatives results in slight color shifts from increased contrast. Grain is also more noticeable.

Pushing slide film

E-6 slide film is the least common film to push but can be pushed with good results. As with color negative film, you will see an increase, in contrast, possible color shifts, and slightly more noticeable grain.

53 replies on “Pushing and Pulling Film”

Hey sorry to bother you guys quick question, If your camera doesn’t have the setting to push or pull film is there any benefit that may come from pushing potentially under-exposed film?

Hello Ted. It sounds like you are talking about a camera that automatically reads the speed of the film? you are correct -you would just have to consistently over-expose (push) or under-expose (pull) and develop accordingly to achieve those results.

I’m trying to understand push/pull. Pulling is overexposing, while pushing is underexposing. I’ve watched and read several how to’s and from what I understand pushing is almost exclusive to B&W (certain color negs don’t handle underexposing over 1 stop well). Pulling is almost exclusive to color neg (most color negs do better when overexposed.) Is this right?

Thats only roght if you Push the film while taking your picture WITHOUT pushing it in developement as well.

If you Push while shooting, like you said, you are underexposing the film. However when you then go ahead and Push in the development you are basically “balancing out” that underexposure by giving the film more time in development.

Hope that helped

Thanks, Tracy!! I’m back to film after a 20+ year hiatus and I don’t recall ever incorporating pushed/pulled film into my shooting style. I don’t think I’m ready to begin pushing/pulling during the development process, but I would like to consistently overexpose my shots by 1 or 2 stops. If I understand correctly I can set (in camera) an ASA of 200 for a 400 film and get the 1 stop overexposure that I’m looking for, correct?

Dumb question, but can I change the in-camera ASA setting mid-roll so that my meter handles a specific frame differently or is it recommended that an ASA setting be the same for the whole roll? I wouldn’t be asking your lab to push or pull – it be developed at base ASA.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again.

Depends on how hard you push it. B&W is better, but if you push too hard, you’ll see a lot of blown out highlights and grain. Pushing film shot at box speed can definitely help you get more shadow detail if you exposed for the highlights and your shadows are on the darker side.

Ted, if you’re shooting expired film and your camera doesn’t allow you to override the DX coding, then pushing during development can get you some exposure improvement, but will also amplify grain.

How about in the processing. If I am pulling two stops and the chart says 5 mins in the developer, amd I right in thinking I develop for 1.25 mins?

Hello there! I have a question related with all these. I’m a beginner but I know (more or less) how this works already. The thing is that I can’t change my camera’s ISO manually, it seems to be somehow broken, and my question is: if I don’t use the cameras photometer but an external one, does it matter if I do not change the ISO? I suppose we change the iso on the camera in order to use its photometer, to have to correct exposure. But since I don’t use my camera photometer (I don’t even use batteries) it shouldn’t matter, right? If I have a portra 400 I will shoot putting 400 ISO on my external photometer. I have tested the camera and it works perfectly well, the photos came out right (but I used a 100 ISO roll and the camera was set in 100ASA), that’s why I’m asking, I wanna use a Portra 400 now, but as I said, it shouldn’t matter. Hope you can help me, thank you so much!

Hi! So in an extremely sunny environment, using portra 160 color film, I measured my light slightly wrong. Using a shutter speed of 400, iso 160 (box speed), and F22 while it actually should have been F11. Am I then pulling or pushing my film?

I am a beginner in film photography. This article really helps. It is simple and straight to the point. Thank you very much for the effort.

[…] In my opinion, the main difference between Film & Digital is the process.You don’t know if you’ve got a good photo until you print it or scan it. Everything can be so random that the process itself is something so exciting for me. This feeling is something that you really can’t have with the digital.You could achieve a lot of different results just by changing the developing time or the chemicals or if you push or pull the films. […]

Is it possible to push in 1/3 stop increments? I have a Nikon L35AF that has a max iso of 1000. If I put in 400 speed film, technically it’s a 1.3 stop push if I set the camera at 1000.

[…] is generally cheaper to buy than Tri-X and is widely regarded as responding beautifully to being pushed. The affordability, versatility, and similarity makes it an attractive alternative to Tri-X. As a […]

I have some Ilford 400. I shot it at 200. Do I need to put -1 on the canister? Or will it be fine at developing at box speed? I also did the same with Fuji Provia 100F. I shot it at 50.

Thank you so much for this informative article. I’m a beginner at photography who is much more interested in learning more about my FE and B&W film. I heard someone at the lab one day talk about “pushing” but not “pulling.” Now I have an idea of what these terms mean.

Hey All! I don’t know if this will get a response, but I need help! I just shot a client shoot and forgot to change my light meter to the right ISO. The film is Portra 400, and I shot it at 140. When I send it to the Darkroom for processing, what should I do? For context, it was very even lighting around 7 pm, color negative film. Thank you!

If you shot Portra 400 at 140 it means you would have overexposed by 1.52 stops. Each stop increase is “double” the light, each stop decrease is “half” the light. If you want to know the difference between two ISO ratings in stops, the formula is as follows. Suppose the first ISO is ‘x’ and the second ISO is ‘y’, then the difference ‘s’ in stops is:
log_2(x/y) = s

This is a logarithmic function. These play an important role in calculating stops because they aren’t linear, they’re about doubling or halving the light. log_2(a) means the power to which to raise 2 to get a. For example, log_2(4) is 2 because 2² = 4. log_2(8) is 3 because 2³ = 8. log_2(0.5) is -1 because 2 to the power of -1 is 0.5.

Let’s verify this. Suppose you want to know the difference in stops between ISO 800 and ISO 100. This gives us…
log_2(800/100) = s
=> log_2(8) = s
=> 3 = s
800 is thus 3 stops higher than 100.

Let’s try in reverse. The difference in stops between ISO 100 and 800:
log_2(100/800) = s
=> log_2(0.125) = s
=> -3 = s
100 is thus 3 stops lower than 100.

Applying that to your settings, you shot Portra 400 at 140 meaning an overexposure. The camera assumed a lower ISO than the film really is, meaning it’s shutter speed was slower and/or its aperture wider than they needed to be. So with the formula we get…
log_2(400/140) = s
=> log_2(2.8574) = s
=> 1.52 (rounded)
You can check this by doing 140 * 1.52² which is approximately 400.

Enough of the maths. So to get the proper development you’d need to *pull* it by 1.5 stops. A lab might not be able (or willing) to accommodate this, so you may need to choose between 1 or 2 stops of pulling. For digital cameras overexposure is usually a problem because blown-out highlights can’t be recovered well, while underexposed areas can often have some detail extracted from them to get proper shadows. For film it’s the opposite. Film is very light-hungry but tends to cope better with overexposure. Even when overexposed you can usually get enough definition from the highlights, which roll off elegantly with film.

So the best bet would be to go for a 1 stop pull. Your film still ends up 0.5 stops overexposed but that’s hardly a problem. Film also usually has a higher latitude for overexposure than underexposure. A 1 stop pull instead of 2 would also result in less colour shifts and less flattening of the contrast. The necessary corrections can be done when making prints or scanning.

By now your film may already have been developed and printed or scanned. In that case I hope this sheds some light for others on the maths behind push/pull processing.

@Greg Shaw
In both cases you would indeed want to have the processing pulled by one stop. The effect would be more pronounced with the slide film than the Ilford B&W.

@Stephen Caserta
That is indeed a correct calculation. The film is 1.3 stops underexposed. Labs often will only push or pull in full stop increments. If you develop yourself you could try to extrapolate the correct development time based on the data for a 1 and 2 stop push. But when in doubt just going for a 1 stop push will probably be just fine, provided it isn’t slide film. Most colour negative and B&W film will be forgiving enough not to have a 0.3 stop underexposure matter a great deal.

Shooting an ISO 160 film at an ISO 400 setting makes the camera think a more sensitive film is loaded. So you would have underexposed. That means push processing is the way to go. In this case you’ve underexposed by 1.3 stops. f/22 would be two stops lower than f/11 by the way. Maybe you meant a shutter speed of 1/400th second and using f/22 instead of f/11? Then you’d need 2 stops of push in development.

If you can put the camera in full manual control, setting both the shutter speed and aperture, then the correct settings according to an external light meter would work just fine. After all that is sort of what the light meter of the camera does anyway. But you need to make sure to use the light meter properly. In some cases you may want to measure reflected light, in other cases incident light.

@Andrew Lindsay
It would depend on the developer. The relation between proper development time and ISO isn’t always so clear-cut. For C-41 colour processing you usually can’t mess with the temperature so the timing is the variable to control. For B&W processing you can also vary the temperature. Your best bet here is to experiment to find what works. When working in B&W stand processing could also be a good route to explore.

Yes. If you shoot at box speed with correct metering and settings, then push processing will result in overdeveloped negatives. The contrast would increase, highlights could be blown out but shadows get more defined and you could see increased grain. For colour negative film or slides you might also get a colour cast.

Setting the camera at 200 for a 400 film would indeed result in an overexposure of 1 stop if metering is kept accurate. It’s best to keep this consistent for the entire roll. After all the roll will be developed in its entirety. Deliberately overexposing just some shots and then developing for the rated box speed will just result in those shots being overexposed. An overexposure of 1 stop wouldn’t make a huge difference for most B&W film and colour negative (it would be more profound for slide film) but unless you plan to pull the development by 1 stop it’s best to stick to the box speed. Manufacturers have carefully determined that it delivers the optimal results. An exception would be some very fast films like the 3200 ISO stuff that is often actually a slower film but well suited to pushing. Deliberately shooting that at 1600 or even 800 and pulling the development can give nice results. You can end up with a film that’s still quite fast but with reduced grain.

I’ve had you guys push Kodak Ektachrome E100 3 stops, and have gotten fine results. Fujichrome Provia 100F pushes 2 stops well, but the color tends to fall apart with a 3 stop push, so for low light photography with slide film, Ektachrome is my go-to.

Thank you for the overview and examples. I’ve only used pushing to deal with low light so far, I’ll try pulling sometime.

Question: Many big labs in Germany don’t offer Push/Pull anymore, probably because of automated development. Little photo labs do, but are currently closed due to corona lockdown. I have a pushed film, but can’t develop it right now.

But I found a source online who claimed that you don’t have to adapt the development time to push/pull exposure, because all film negatives are scanned and digitally corrected anyway in big labs, and that would compensate the push/pull exposure on the digital side.

Can you confirm / do you have an opinion on that?
Thanks a lot
Patrick (Munich, Canon A1 w 50mm 1.4; , Yashica Samurai X3)

Hello ! Very informative article thankyou. I’m hoping to shoot in a very low light setting on Ilford delta 3200 with a mamiyaflex. I read the chart but I need someone to spell it out for me (after reading this I’m a lil more confident but still a bit unsure), which way would be the best way for me to go with pushing for intense grain without being underexposed. I usually push in dev. To 12mins …… always worked out well for me but any tips would be much appreciated. Cheers, seki.

[…] For my latest video, I have attempted to describe and explain what it means to “push” or “pull” your photographic film. In a nutshell, pushing and pulling is a technique of setting your camera to a different film speed than that of the film you’re using. Effectively under or over-exposing it. You might do this because the environment you’re shooting in has too little light. Or perhaps just for artistic reasons etc. Whatever your motivation, the process can be simple if you remember a few basics. Watch my video and be sure to check a much more detailed explanation found here. […]

I don’t know that anyone has ever encountered this, but I have a student that under exposed film of a crucial event five stops. To add to it, it’s Kentmere film, not HP5 . Any ideas out there? Using sprint developer

I’m trying to wrap my head around this:

“Pull/Push – You didn’t change the speed on your camera. You shoot 400 film at 100 ISO. Develop it at 400 (+2 Stops) and your photos should come out fine.”

In this case, shouldn’t you develop the 400 film at -2 stops in order for it to come out fine? Wouldn’t developing it at 400 ISO create a 2-stop over exposure?

I read allll the article and there is not a singel line on how much time xtra 1 stop push is ?? For exampel pushing kodak pirtra 400 to 800 . How much xtra time do you use ?

Pushing and pulling film is a crucial technique in photography, allowing creative control over exposure. Pushing increases sensitivity for low-light shots, but grains may appear. Conversely, pulling reduces sensitivity for better quality but requires ample light. If you’re planning to start a wedding photography business, understanding these nuances is essential. Check out this comprehensive wedding photography business plan example at https://www.ogscapital.com/article/wedding-photography-business-plan-example/ to learn more about how to incorporate such techniques into your business strategy for stunning wedding photos

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“Your post on everything we need to know about shooting and developing pushed or pulled film is an absolute treasure trove of information! Your meticulous attention to detail and comprehensive explanation make it easy for both beginners and seasoned photographers to understand the nuances of this technique. Thank you for sharing your expertise and insights, it’s evident that you’re passionate about the craft and dedicated to helping others improve their skills. Your contribution to the photography community is truly invaluable. Looking forward to more enlightening posts from you!”

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