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Not enough light? Push your film !

Published : 12/16/2015 12:41:16
Categories : Lab news

Not enough light? Push your film !

Yep, winter is upon us again, and light is getting scarcer and weaker. Does your stock of summer films have to sit months in the fridge waiting for spring? The answer is no. You can "push" your film, whether it’s black and white or color. It's very simple and you’d be surprised by the results!

Some films yield even more interesting results than usual when pushed to be shot at a higher ISO speeds. This is particularly the case of Portra 400 which can be pushed up to ISO 1600 and still produces beautiful results with faithful skin tones and fine grain.

Let’s say, for instance, you’re shooting a picture towards the end of the day. It’s twilight and it’s beautiful, but an ISO 400 film is not sensitive enough to record the subtleties and delicate atmosphere of this late afternoon light. Switching to 1600 ISO is perfect, and allows you to shoot without worrying too much about exposure times.

Portra 400 pushed to 1600 ISO :

How do you “push” a film ?

“Pushing” a film is very simple!

With a manual camera, all you need to do is adjust the settings (shutter speed and aperture) as if you were shooting with a higher sensitivity film. Set the ISO speed to a higher sensitivity if your camera allows you to do so. You can also use an external cell. If your device automatically recognizes the DX barcode on film canisters (the black and silver checkerboard on the side of 135 film canisters, which indicates film’s sensitivity, the number of views, and the exposure latitude), switch off the automatic ISO reading and set it manually. If your device does not allow you to switch off the automatic ISO reading (in the case of compact entry-level point-and-shoot cameras for example), this video will show you how to easily tinker with your film to change its DX code.

(NB: Please note, you can only use one ISO for the entire film: for example, you cannot shoot half your film at 400 and the rest at 1600 ISO.)

By following these steps, you can use shorter exposure times, even in low light.

When you drop your film off at Nation Photo, just specify what ISO you shot it on. We will then adjust the development times accordingly.

Below are examples of results produced when “pushing” different films:

Ektar 100 pushed to ISO 400




Ektar 100 pushed to 400 ISO :



Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600 ISO :



Tri-X 400 pushed to 3200 ISO :



Photo credits :

Photo 1 : Maximilien Steinberg

Photos 2,3,4,5 : Corentin Contal

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