Finally Shooting Ilford’s Most Iconic Film [Ilford HP5 Plus 400]

ilford's most iconic film

Images shot on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 in Yashica Electro 35 GSN

I still remember my process for choosing which films to shoot back when I first got into this whole analogue photography thing. It was a complex equation that involved price, what boxes I liked the look of, and what they had in the shop when I was there.

This led me to shooting things like Rollei Retro 400S (which is a very underrated film btw) Oriental Seagull 100 (which is too) and Ilford Pan 400 (which isn’t so much) before ever getting around to the ones people seem to talk about more.

Stocks like Ilford HP5 Plus 400 for example, which could make a claim to being the English manufacturer’s most iconic film. But I finally shot some. And after seeing the results, I’m glad I did. Read on and I’ll tell you why.

ilford hp5 plus street photography

The history and performance of Ilford’s most iconic film

Learning all about the film for when I wrote this Ilford HP5 review made me appreciate why it’s so loved, and the images it gave me just reinforced that.

Its DNA stretches back to the 1930s when Ilford HP was first released, with the subsequent HP2, HP3, HP4, and HP5 films bringing us up to where we are today with the HP5 Plus.

It wasn’t just the name and box design that altered either, as some of the earlier versions had different ISO ratings too. While the continuation of the HP name helps make this film so iconic, it wouldn’t be worth much if it was a bad product. But of course, it isn’t.

I shot this roll over a couple of afternoons, which gave me varying situations to put it through. Good brightness and shadows, sometimes a flatter light, and the artificial illumination of shopfronts.

It did well with them all, not blowing any highlights, giving nice grain and sharpness, and allowing enough shutter speed to cope when the light was duller.

An accidental mini-theme within a photo set

A film can have a long history and be technically good, but if you don’t enjoy the results you get with it then it all becomes a bit immaterial.

I’m generally happy with what any film has always given me though, with the only thing getting me down being when I’ve wasted it on bad photographs.

Fortunately, with great credit going to the good light I was blessed with, it wasn’t too difficult to get some shots that I like from this HP5 Plus. I did my usual thing of finding a route to walk with the sun behind me so everything in front is well lit and easy to shoot.

I even found a mini-theme in amongst the results that wasn’t planned when I was taking these, which makes up the first three photos below.

Although I was enjoying that strong sunshine, a number of people clearly weren’t. I’m not sure if they’ve heard of Ray-Bans, although it’s equally as possible they were wearing some.

Thanks to their improvisation, which leads me to call this mini-set Can’t C Me after my favourite Tupac song, I guess we’ll never know.

The other four shots after those three are just more examples of what HP5 Plus can do with good light.

ilford's most iconic film hp5 plus

Putting yourself out there with any film you can

This post’s title posits that HP5 Plus is Ilford’s most iconic film. Whether it is or not really doesn’t matter, though. It’s a meaningless label in the grand scheme of things and something you probably shouldn’t care about.

It doesn’t change how much you like it or are going to like it if you haven’t shot it yourself yet. What is actually important, if you want to keep making photographs, is getting yourself out there with any film whatsoever and shooting.

Some of my favourite photographs that I’ve taken were done so on such uncool and unheralded stocks as Kodak Ultramax 400 and Fujicolor Industrial 400. I don’t think anyone who looks at them cares one bit or thinks they would have been better on Portra 400 instead.

Photographic film seems to me like a product where there are very few bad ones. You’ll have some you prefer over others of course, but I’ve never got any results back from the lab and thought this is grotesque.

Ilford Pan 400 might be my least favourite so far, but it does what it does. Every film I’ve shot so far does what they do. They give you a set of photographs rendered in the way that particular film renders photographs.

Speaking of which, here’s a few more that show how HP5 Plus might render yours if you shoot out in the streets in good light.

Gratitude for this film and these photographs

With all that said about this film and others, I can’t be anything but grateful that people like Ilford give us things like HP5 Plus. If nobody made film anymore, we wouldn’t be here doing this.

It’s not often I talk about whether I think my photographs are any good or not. I don’t think my opinion of them is particularly relevant to what I’m trying to do with this website, which is to motivate people like you to get out and shoot too.

That said, I wouldn’t be sharing them if I thought they were irredeemably bad.

What I do prefer to do though is give credit to other things. Like the film, the Yashica Electro I use, and of course the fact that I was lucky enough to have some really good light and shadow to play with when I went out with them.

What I was even luckier with though was the fact that I could go out and make these photographs. That there were no personal situations stopping me. I know not everyone has that opportunity.

The photographs are what they are. Whether they’re better or worse than anyone else’s is not something I care too much about. To me, they’re something that can inspire others to shoot and a reminder that I was in a fortunate enough position to be able to make them too.

Speaking of which, here’s some more.

Wrapping up this post already

I think it’s time to wrap this all up. It’s not always easy to think of what to write to go along with the photographs on here and this one is already waffle-y enough.

It says something though that I’ve included 28 shots from this HP5 Plus in one post. I usually like to split results from a single roll up more evenly over a couple of posts, to squeeze out a bit more content for the site.

In this case though, I wanted to keep most of them together. I think the film and camera and light combination did well for me and they deserve to be presented as one lot.

There were a few others from the roll too but they’re on this post here, along with a couple of thousand words about how to get over the fear of judgement and get your work out there.

If you want to do that with some Ilford HP5 Plus too, you could easily pick some up from B&H Photo, from Amazon, from Analogue Wonderland, or anywhere else you get your film from.

I’m glad I finally got around to it. That said, you don’t have to. If you just want to make something, any film will do.

I like the results I got with HP5 Plus, but not really because they were shot on HP5 Plus. It’s far more the fact that they were shot at all. 🙂

If you enjoyed that post, why not take a look at these others to stay inspired or learn more about the Ilford HP5 Plus 400 film I used here:

  1. My comprehensive review of this Ilford HP5 Plus film
  2. Shots taken with an underrated monochrome film
  3. Shooting another ISO 400 Ilford film did in Shanghai

And if you think others will enjoy this post on perhaps Ilford’s most iconic film too, help them find it by sharing or pinning.  😀

written by
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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