We are loving this month’s Film Photography Series by Amanda McKinley. Be sure to follow along with the entire series here:
- Film Photography Tutorial: How To Choose a Film Camera
- Film Photography Tutorial: Getting the Best Exposure
Okay, so now that we’ve chosen a camera body, it’s time to put that bad boy to use. It may be hard to believe but film is still being made and it’s better then ever. There is a lot of amazing film stock on the market. I am going to share a few of my favorite film types and under what circumstances I would use them. But before I begin, I do want to say that I highly suggest you experiment with several film stocks to find out which ones work for your style and color preference.
When I shoot outdoors I have a few films I like to throw in my bag. What I use depends a lot on the type of work I am doing. For personal work, I use Kodak 400. It’s a consumer grade, color negative film and it works beautifully outdoors. I buy this film in bulk. I love to use it in full sun because it handles bright sunlight well.
I tend to overexpose my film when shooting outdoors, and Kodak 400 gives me wonderful tones. I have experimented with shooting it indoors and I love it with window light. Colors are pretty and soft.
I have also pushed (pushing film is underexposing each frame by one or two stops. When processing pushed film the lab will add additional time in the development process to ensure your film is developed properly) this film with continuous daylight and got grainy results especially in the shadows of my subject. I also pushed Portra 400 and it looked amazing with little to no grain in the shadows. One more reason to experiment with different film stocks.
However, if I am shooting professional work, I tend to gravitate towards Fuji Pro 400H, Kodak Portra 160, or Portra 400. I love Kodak’s new Portra 400 because if I over or underexpose this film, it can still be processed as normal. I overexpose all my outdoor work by at least 1 stop. So if I shoot Portra 400, I rate (meter) my film at 200 (1 full stop overexposed). Why? Because I love the soft colors, and skin tones turn creamy and beautiful. Some people prefer to meter at box speed, some go one-third to one-half a stop over. I suggest getting a few rolls of the same film type and trying each one at a different rating. The more you put these films to the test, the sooner you’ll learn what you prefer visually.
Black and White Film
A few black and white films I love are Fuji’s Neopan 100 Acros, Kodak’s T-Max 400, and Ilford Delta 3200. Acros is a super sharp, fine grain film. It’s one of the newer black white films on the market. I’ve used this film outdoors and really loved the results. The tones are full of rich gradation; however, it can get contrasty if underexposed, so I try to be very careful when I meter. I also meter this film at box speed as opposed to overexposing it.
T-max 400 is probably my favorite black and white film. I use this film for a majority of the work I do indoors with window light. This film is great for low or dimly lit situations. The latitude is great. It’s highly versatile even when overexposed. I usually rate (meter) this film between 800 and 1600 ISO. When I send it off for processing, I usually ask the lab to push the film during development.
High Speed Film for Action or Low-Light
Ilford Delta 3200 is the perfect film for situations where you might be shooting in low light, fast action (such as indoor sports) or perhaps a place where flash is not permitted. I like this film because it’s grain is not distracting. I actually love a bit of grain with low light!
I recently put another high speed film, Kodak P3200 TMAX Professional, to the test when my two boys went into the hospital for a surgical procedure. The only light source was overhead. I rated the film at box speed for this series of images. I probably could have exposed at 1600 or even 800 with no problem, but without natural light available, I wanted full flexibility in case our room was dark. This film has larger grain then I really prefer, so in the future I may try to push T-max 400 to 1600 instead.
With all the choices available, it’s easy to grab several film stocks and put them through their paces. I suggest shooting film at box speed, overexposing, and underexposing to see what you prefer. Experimenting is key to finding your style while shooting with film.
Amanda McKinley is a film photographer based out of Columbus, Ohio. She is married with 3 kids, 1 cat and a slightly insane Boston Terrier. You can often find her busy playing with multiple cameras and handfuls of film. Her main passion is photographing children dealing with illness, as well as documenting families, church and daily life. You can follow her blogsite, become friends on Facebook or follow her obsessive picture taking on Instagram (@amandasmckinley).