Different Ways to Shoot and Develop Ilford HP5 B&W Film by Jennifer Stamps

B&W film image of a bridge - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
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Written by Jennifer Stamps

When it comes to black and white film photography, my go-to is always Ilford HP5 Plus.

My love for this film stock started in 2018 when I decided to shoot one roll of it in my Olympus OM-1 each month for the year.

You really get to know a film stock (and camera for that matter) when you commit to shooting it for a long period of time. 

Find Ilford HP5 Plus on Amazon.

Different Ways to Shoot and Develop Ilford HP5 B&W Film
Different Ways to Shoot and Develop Ilford HP5 B&W Film
B&W film portrait of a girl - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot on the Diana Mini, developed at 800

I was first drawn to the stock because of its price.

It used to be about $3 (USD) cheaper than Kodak, but unfortunately, now they are both around $8 (USD) for a roll of 35mm 36 exposures (on third-party websites).

I keep coming back to Ilford HP5 Plus because it really is an incredible and versatile film stock. 

Ilford HP5 Plus is a 400 speed film stock that has fine grain and medium contrast.

You can purchase 35mm rolls in 24 or 36 exposures, 120 medium format rolls, and 4×5 sheet film. However, for the purpose of this article, I’ll be referring to 35mm and 120 rolls.

B&W film image of a house - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 400
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Rating and Shooting Ilford HP5

As you probably expected, rating, metering, and developing Ilford HP5 Plus in different ways yields different results.

As mentioned, Ilford HP5 is a 400 speed film. When shot and developed at box speed, you can expect finer grain and medium contrast (lots of grays).

But if you’re looking for a little more punch and contrast, you can rate a variety of speeds. The faster your ISO, the more contrast and grain you’ll see in your photos. 

You can also push HP5 for different results. The more you push this film, the more grain you’ll see. If you want bright whites and true blacks, I recommend pushing the film one or two stops. 

B&W film image of a girl twirling - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot on the Holga 120S with flash, developed at 800
B&W film image of a girl blowing bubbles - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated at 500, developed at 400

Rated At Box Speed (400 ISO)

400 is such a great speed for shooting in a variety of lighting situations. It’s fast enough to shoot is less than ideal lighting and yet slow enough to shoot in daylight. 

When you shoot at box speed outdoors, you can expect brighter grays and whites.

Indoors, your blacks get closer to rich black. However, you’ll notice that you still have mostly shades of gray instead of pure white and black.

Black and white film image of barn doors - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 400
Black and white film image of film cameras 0 Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 400

Pushing Ilford HP5 Plus

Probably my favorite way to shoot Ilford HP5 Plus is to shoot it and develop it at 800.

It gives you a wider range of blacks, whites, and grays, and your images have more contrast and more grain. 

B&W film image of flowers - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 800
B&W film image of a dinosaur - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 800

Pushing it two stops (shooting and developing at 1600) intensifies the contrast and grain even more. 

B&W film image of a girl drawing - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 1600
B&W film image of a street - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 1600
B&W film image of a basketball hoop - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 1600

Rating and Developing at Different Speeds

It’s fun to rate your film at one speed, but develop at a different speed. Doing so can give you brighter whites, moodier tones, or more grain. 

Shooting at 320 ISO and Developing at 400 ISO

I used my in-camera meter for these, and set my ISO to 320 – telling my camera I had less light than I actually had.

It’s not drastic, but you can see a little more detail in the images and slightly more contrast.

Notice the color of the sky? It looks almost white. Both of these photos were taken in bright winter sunlight.

B&W film image of a bridge - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated at 320, developed at 400
B&W film image of a path through the woods - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated at 320, developed at 400

Shooting at 500 ISO and Developing at 400 ISO

This gives subtle differences as well, but in the opposite direction.

The tones seem to be more gray than black/white, and there is a little less contrast.

Look at the sky and snow and my daughter’s cheeks with the bubbles… Those should be closer to white, but they are definitely light to medium gray.

We seem to lose some of the details (since there isn’t a lot of white). But the film still performs very well.

For these, I also used my in-camera meter at 500 ISO. 

B&W film image of a girl in a snorkel mask - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated at 500, developed at 400
B&W film image of shoes out of a window - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated at 500, developed at 400

Shooting at 400 and Developing at 800

This one is fun! Especially if you like bright images. In my opinion, pushing Ilford HP5 Plus is when you can really see it shine.

For these I used an external meter and metered for highlights. There are still a wide range of grays, but the brightest whites and darkest blacks really pop. 

B&W film image of a truck - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated at 400, developed at 800
B&W film image of a street - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated at 400, developed at 800

Using Ilford HP5 in Plastic Cameras

So what happens when you shoot Ilford HP5 Plus in plastic cameras where you have less settings to control?

Magic, of course!

For a while, my go-to combination was Ilford HP5 Plus and my Holga 120n. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to shoot with plastic cameras in very well-lit areas (or with a flash).

However, one of my most favorite photos is a multiple exposure image, inside, during lockdown, playing board games, using my Diana Mini

B&W film image of a board game - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot on the Diana Mini, developed at 800

I developed this roll at 800. You can see the whites are white, the blacks are black, and there is so much grain and contrast. My only light source for this was a large living room window on the other side of the room. 

When shooting with plastic cameras, just take note of your lighting. There is no right way to do it but realize that different levels of light are going to drastically affect the outcome of your photos. 

B&W film image with overlapping frames of a girl and her mom - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot on the Diana Mini, developed at 400
B&W film image of a girl holding a woman's hand - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot on the Holga 120N, developed at 800

HP5 and Point and Shoot Cameras

This is another fun way to shoot Ilford HP5 Plus.

Amy Berge wrote an article for SIWF explaining how you to change the DX Code of your rolls for cameras without manual ISO settings (ei point and shoot cameras). However, for this, I just shot and developed at 400 speed.

Point and shoot cameras 100% have a place in film photography in my opinion. They are easy ways to get documentary images of your day without too much interruption.

When I don’t want to think too much and just shoot, I will usually pick up my Canon Sure Shot.

I love Ilford HP5 Plus in my point and shoot because the photos look so classic to me. They feel nostalgic… like they could have been taken during my childhood in the 1980s (now you know how young/old I am!).

There isn’t a lot of grain or contrast, and yet it still just works. 

B&W film image of a storefront - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot with a point & shoot camera
B&W film image of a dog sleeping - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot with a point & shoot camera
B&W film image of a girl drinking out of a water fountain - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot with a point & shoot camera

A Few Notes About Developing

If you decide to push your film and do not develop at home, be sure to communicate to your lab exactly what you did and how it needs to be developed. If you don’t, you will likely end up with muddy, underexposed images. 

If you develop at home, there is good news…

Ilford HP5 Plus can be developed in a variety of developers including Ilford Ilfosol-3, Kodak HC110, and even coffee.

I use the massive dev chart when developing, but you can also use the handy chart that Ilford has provided on their website

B&W double exposure on film of a girl laughing - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Shot on the Diana Mini, developed at 400

Final Thoughts

If you can’t tell, I really love this film stock.

If I had to choose one stock to shoot for the rest of my life, it would be Ilford HP5 Plus, no question. It’s so versatile and can give you a range of tones and grain with the right speed and light.

It excels with a lot of light but can also give you deep, moody images in low-light settings as well.

If you’re looking for a film stock that you can take to the beach, use for portraits, or street photography, Ilford HP5 Plus might be the stock to try next!

B&W film image of a girl drawing - Ilford HP5 Film Review on Shoot It With Film
Rated and developed at 800

Thank you so much, Jen! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and be sure to check out her other articles, like 5 Film Cameras Under $50 and Develop B&W Film with Coffee! A Caffenol Developing Tutorial.

You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions about shooting Ilford HP5 below in the comments, and you can pick up some for yourself on Amazon.

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Jennifer Stamps

Jennifer Stamps is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review and 5 Film Cameras Under $50.

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Blog Comments

Great article- thanks for highlighting the versatility of this lovely film! I’ve also become a fan of HP5PLUS, though I’ve tried and love other Ilford films, particularly Pan-F and Delta 100. But HP5PLUS has emerged my go to “do it all” film, for reasons you’ve shown very well. I’ve also found it performs well shot and developed at ISO 200, developed in ID11 or Perceptol. From ISO 200 to 3200 – what other film do you need? 🙂 ok, so it really can’t replace Pan-F or Delta 100, when you know you’ll have conditions to use those films, but a fridge full of HP5PLUS certainly gives you flexibility to shoot a huge range of conditions, and do a serviceable job on all of them. Thanks again for the article!

Dewayne – I’m so glad you liked the article, thanks for taking time to comment and let us know. And I totally agree, HP5 really is the “do it all” film. I haven’t shot it at 200 or 3200, but both are on my list to try. I can’t wait to see how much grain I get at 3200.

Hey Jennifer, you have some really nice and interesting examples here, which do a great job of illustrating what’s possible, especially the impact of pushing. I’m usually a colour shooter, but now I feel inspired to load up some HP5 and have a play!

I wonder if a couple of things might be confusing to people who are new with this…

You said, “I tend to like my photos slightly on the overexposed side, so setting my ISO to 800 helps with that”. Surely if you’re rating 400 ISO film at 800 ISO, you’re *underexposing* it. If you’re then pushing it one stop in development, you end up with a correct exposure. So there is no overexposure here.

Later on, you say, “Shooting at 320 ISO and Developing at 400 ISO… Basically, I told my camera we had a little more light than we really had, allowing all of the photos to be slightly overexposed.”
I think here you meant to say you told your camera you had *less* light than you really had, causing the photos to be overexposed.

I think also talk of “developing at 800” might be a bit confusing. You can’t really develop at an ISO – the development process doesn’t care what ISO the film is rated at. You either develop as per the normal instructions, or you push or pull by a number of stops – regardless of the film speed.

Anyway, I don’t mean for that to come across as pedantic… I just thought it might confuse some people. Thanks again for a great article!

Hi Steve! Thanks so much for the kind words. Ilford HP5 Plus really is a magical little film stock. And thank you for pointing out the discrepancies. You are right and we are updating the article!

Love this article! I too am a big fan of the illustrious Hp5! I second you on most of your points, but my favorite way to use Hp5 is pushed to 1600 in HC-110. I think the film really shines in this Kodak solution funnily enough.

Another way of using Hp5 I would add is pulling it to 200. I never shoot it at 400 and if I ever use Hp5 in regular daylight, I pull to 200. I feel like it gets essentially the same tones as if at 400, but cleaner and less grain.

When you consider that you can use this one stock in any lighting condition, at any time of day by pushing/pulling, it truly is one of the most versatile films out there, and candidate for go-to film.

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