Shooting With Ilford HP5 Plus 400

They say good things take time – in my case a long time.

It was last year when I decided to start shooting with Ilford HP5 Plus 400. August in fact. In a story on 22 August, I said I’d be starting to shoot some black and white in a couple of days. But – here I am, almost a year later, and I’ve just received my film developed back from the lab.

Why did I decide to start shooting with Ilford HP5 Plus 400?

Well – by chance really.

I had decided that I’d like to have a crack at black and white film photography and when I was browsing a camera store last year I saw that they had the Ilford in stock at what seemed to me to be a very reasonable price. So I bought two rolls to start with.

I had no idea of what to expect shooting with Ilford HP5, so one of the first things I did was get online and check out the film’s characteristics, and read a few user reviews. Described as a high speed, fine grain film with medium contrast, PopPhoto recommends it as best for beginners. That’s me!

About 3 weeks ago I finally managed to complete shooting the two rolls of film I had bought, and not being confident enough to try developing my own black and white film, I duly despatched them to a lab (there isn’t one in my home town), and patiently waited. It was a bit like being a schoolboy again – waiting for Christmas Day to come around to be able to rip into the parcels under the tree!

I had asked the lab for their develop-only service, and to supply the negatives cut into strips as I have a scanner with negative scanning capability. It is an Epson V370 – not top of the line, but certainly adequate for my needs.

Anyway, the films arrived back yesterday morning, so I spent most of the rest of the day scanning, checking, and touching them up. Yes – post-processing – a bit of digital dodging and burning so to speak.

As recommended by the blog site A Guide To Film Photography I scanned the negatives at 2400 dpi, resulting in 3300px x 2200px (approx) TIFF files weighing in at just over 41MB.

My initial feelings about the results? A little disappointed really.

The images didn’t look like what I had expected. Instead of images that showed a good balance of highlights and shadows, medium contrast and low grain, my images seemed washed out and lacking in contrast. If anything I’d say they showed very low contrast, and overall they seemed washed out and dull.

Some of the negatives also showed lots of dust spots and tiny hairs, and no matter how much I carefully cleaned them or used a blower brush on them before scanning the dust and splotches remained. Also some showed minor, but visible, scratches in the upper portion of the frame. Maybe the old Canon EOS1000F I used is past its use-by date, so I’ll be checking out the film transport mechanism closely.

So – not such a good start shooting with Ilford HP5 Plus 400 for the first time.

But I did uncover some good news about the washed-out, dull appearance. Apparently, most photo labs use a generic range of chemicals to allow them to process a wide range of different black-and-white films. As I understand it, the only adjustment a lab makes it for film speed.

When processed using Ilford’s recommended chemicals, apparently the results are much better, so maybe I’ll just have to toughen up and learn to develop my own black-and-white films.

Confession time. I used DxO Photolab 6 to clean up the dust marks, splotches and scratches, and just a wee bit of curves adjustment and arrived at the images below.

And now – I’m pretty happy with the results for my first time shooting with Ilford Hp5 Plus 400!

look for trains shooting with Ilford HP5
2 be creative takes courage
Rotting hulks at the ship graveyard

Flick through the full slide show of images – there were a couple of total failures on the 24-exposure roll!

Comments and feedback welcomed below.

2 Responses

  1. B&W film is very easy to develop and if you buy a vacuvin and brown bottles the chemicals can be stored for ages. It’s not that much more complicated for colour either and I find developing film at home leads to better and cleaner results. The worst part is loading the film onto the dark tank spools because it must be done in complete darkness. But you will get the hang of it. Give it a try, it will make film photography even more fun and rewarding.

    1. Hi Paolo – thanks for dropping by to check my story, and thanks too for the encouragement to have a crack at developing my own film. It is something I may get into a little further down the track, but at this stage I haven’t worked out the cost of getting everything I need for home developing so in the short term at least I’ll probably stick with the lab doing my processing.

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