Film Magic for Digital Cameras
The Pushed Film Effect
Push Processing
The longer a film is developed in processing chemicals, the brighter the exposed image will become. Processing longer than the recommended time is called "pushing" the film.
  • pushing film referes to longer development times
  • example: a 100ASA film pushed 2 stops can be shot at 400ASA
  • any film can be pushed - b/w and slide most common
  • pushing film increases brightness, contrast, and film grain
  • photo lab must be willing to do "push proccessing


The Digital Pushed Film Effect
To re-create the look of pushed slide film, the photo editing steps are very similar to the basic "color slide" effect except for.. you guessed it... more contrast and grain. For dramatic effect, this example will attempt to copy the look of a 100ASA slide film pushed 2 stops to 400ASA.

the formula
A two stop push is a lot, and results in a very high increase in contrast and grain.

1. add monochrome noise
Use the "monochrome" noise option to add some film grain. Although we are copying a very grainy film, we'll add only a modest amount (maybe 9%) for this example. It is very important to do this step first, and to increase the contrast second.



2. adjust levels
The adjust levels command is perfect for getting the pushed film contrast look. Every image is unique, but here are some starting guidelines:

Bleach Highlights
Move highlight bar to to the left, between 1/4 and 1/3 across. This loss of highlight detail is actually what we are looking for.

Deepen Shadows
Move the shadow bar just a few percent to the right, for example from 0 to 20. This will "sink" the shadow areas into black.

Adjust the midtone bar if required - each picture is unique, use the midtone bar to nudge the overall brightness of the image.

sample: no change

  • Experiment! As always, trust your eye.


Before and After Results:

click image to show before and after


Practical Tips
Experiment with the steps listed above for differant variations. This digital film effect particularly suits bright scenes with detail. If you need to shoot in low light situations, read about the "digitial push" technique.
  • For this effect, it is important to add the grain BEFORE changing the contrast. The final image will then have grain in the midtones and shadows, but NOT in the highlights - just like real overexposed color slide film.