Heather Chang on Pushing Film for Artistic Effect

Hi Everyone out there in Little Bellows Land! Heather Chang here!

I am here to chat with you today about pushing film for artistic reasons.

There is always a lot of talk about pushing and pulling film in film community and it can get confusing! So what is pushing? Pushing film means that you develop the film for longer than than the standard development time.

A lot of the time, people talk about pushing when they underexpose their film. Sometimes, this underexposure is on accident (oops!). But, it also happens when there is less light to work with and the photographer chooses to underexpose to keep the shutter speed and aperture where they want. However, it’s important to remember that pushing does not add more exposure to your negative. Whatever amount of light you exposed your negative to was completed at the moment you pressed that shutter.

So, what does pushing really do?

You can read a really great article about that HERE on Little Bellows. Basically, pushing increases the density of the negative. On a negative, your highlights will have the most density and will look dark on the negative and the shadows will have the least density and will be light on the negative. When we push film, the midtones and highlights gain more density faster than do the shadows. You end up with a negative that has a bigger difference between highlights and shadows and that is a negative with more contrast! Also, colors can be more saturated and grain is also increased with pushing.

So, while pushing can help compensate when shooting film a bit underexposed, you don’t always have to use it for this reason. You can use pushing as an artistic choice to manipulate a film stock to look the way you want. In ample light and normal exposure, or even over exposure, you can still choose to push your film.

I shoot color negative film in bright sun and push film just to add the contrast and saturation. For example, many times when I shoot Fuji 400h, I will meter at box speed, overexpose one stop and then push 1 stop in development, (see examples in this blog post). I love the way it looks in the light I shoot in. Give it a try! Try different methods of exposure and combine it with different amounts of pushing to see what you get! You may just find a look you love!

Heather Chang is a family photography based in Texas.  
She is also a mentor and teacher, sharing her love for both digital and film photography with others.

See more of Heather's beautiful work:  Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter