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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. 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.
Rated and developed at 400 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.
Shot on the Holga 120S with flash, developed at 800 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.
Rated and developed at 400 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.
Rated and developed at 800 Rated and developed at 800
Pushing it two stops (shooting and developing at 1600) intensifies the contrast and grain even more.
Rated and developed at 1600 Rated and developed at 1600 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.
Rated at 320, developed at 400 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.
Rated at 500, developed at 400 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.
Rated at 400, developed at 800 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. 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.
Shot on the Diana Mini, developed at 400 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.
Shot with a point & shoot camera Shot with a point & shoot camera 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. 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! 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.