Written by Jen Golay
Summertime was made for shooting film! Everyone is going on vacation or to the beach or to the amusement park or having backyard parties. It’s the season of making memories, so of course, you’ll have your camera primed and ready to go.
But what film stock will you load into your camera this summer?
There are lots of great choices out there, but I’m going to share with you my three favorite film stocks to shoot in summer.
1. Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar 100 is a professional grade film from Kodak that is perfect for summer photography. It can be found in 35mm (for around $16) and 120 (for around $55 for a pro pack of five at the time of this article). If you’re into more unusual formats, you can also find it in 127, 4×5, 5×7, 8×10.
It’s name is an acronym for Eastman Kodak Tessar—a name Kodak used on their professional lenses from the 1930s to the 1960s. They reserved the use of the name Ektar for only its premium products.
Ektar became a film in 1989 that was produced until 1996. It was reformulated and reintroduced in 2008, and it will last longest if it is cold stored.
Find Kodak Ektar 100 on Amazon.
Kodak Ektar’s Colors, Saturation, and Grain
Kodak Ektar is a slow film with a fine grain. Ektar has great color and high saturation, so it’s perfect for the bright colors of summer. It is probably the closest you can come to the look of slide film without actually shooting slide film.
And while it doesn’t have much latitude compared to other color negative films, it has slightly more latitude than slide film. Kodak recommends the film for nature, travel, outdoor, fashion, and product photography.
It has a red base so reds just pop when you use Ektar. Actually, I think Ektar makes all of the primary colors just brilliant. To me it’s a very cheerful film. It has a warm tone and can make pale skin tones look reddish orange and shadows can have a bluish tint. It’s not a great film for portrait photography, but you can check out some tips for using Ektar for portraits here.
Shooting Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar doesn’t have a lot of latitude, so you need to expose it carefully and avoid under- and overexposure. It gets very muddy when underexposed, and overexposed scans will need some color correction; however, the negatives do retain a lot of detail in the highlights even when overexposed.
Not summer related, but I also love Ektar in the snow on a bright sunny day. You’ll get brilliant blue skies and depth and dimension in the snow.
Ektar does well pushed. When you rate it at box speed and push it one stop, the saturation and contrast are even more pronounced, and it becomes hard to tell the difference between Ektar and slide film.
You can also rate it at ISO 400 (again, do not overexpose it at all), and push it two stops. This desaturates the colors—especially the red—but it still retains great contrast and gives it a matte, realistic look and feel.
Kodak Ektar 100 is the first film I pack when I travel, but it’s not the only one. Because it’s a slower film with some limitations, I’ll always add a few rolls of an ISO 400 film as well.
Related: How To Shoot Kodak Ektar 100
2. Kodak UltraMax 400
Kodak UltraMax 400 is a consumer-grade film found in 35mm format (for around $15 at the time of this article).
It has a wide exposure latitude with great saturation and medium to high contrast. Because it’s a faster film and only found in 35mm format, its grain is more visible than a professional grade or slower film, but if well exposed, the grain is less noticeable.
From 1988-1997, UltraMax was known as Kodak Gold 400. In 2007, Kodak reintroduced it in its current form as UltraMax 400. Because it’s a consumer grade film, it’s meant to have a longer shelf life and doesn’t have to be cold stored.
Find Kodak UltraMax 400 on Amazon.
Kodak UltraMax’s Colors
UltraMax’s colors are restrained but accurate. It’s beautiful color saturation makes it a great film for travel. I particularly love using UltraMax in my garden.
I love how bright, saturated, summery colors are rendered on this film. And pastel shades are light and delicate. It has warm undertones and is great for portraits; however, if you’re using it for portraits, avoid overexposure which can make Caucasian skin tones shift to red or orange.
Shooting Kodak UltraMax
I tend to shoot Kodak UltraMax like I shoot Kodak Portra 400. I slightly overexpose it, usually rating it at ISO 320 and then overexposing it by a stop or so in camera.
It can handle overexposure and can tolerate underexposure making it a great film for beginners. Underexposed images still retain color vibrancy, but the saturation dims a bit, giving the image a matte retro look and feel.
Kodak UltraMax 400 is versatile enough to work well in lower light situations like indoor shots. You’ll still need good light, but you don’t need bright light. I love this film for my home’s interiors. This film is great for a wide variety of shooting situations and is almost always in my camera bag.
This film can be pushed, although I tend to usually just shoot it slightly overexposed and increase contrast in Lightroom if necessary.
3. Revolog Kolor
Another great film to shoot in the summer is Revolog Kolor. Revolor Kolor (for around $15) is a novelty 35mm film that has been pre-exposed to give the final images a rainbow effect. It is completely unpredictable and some rolls have the effects more than others.
Sometimes the images appear to have light leaks other times they look more like color shifts. The general result is a very colorful and retro vibe.
To me, the images I make with Revolog Kolor feel like dreams or memories from my childhood.
Find Revolog Kolor at Adorama or Revolog.
Shooting Revolog Kolor
This is an ISO 200 film, but because of its pre-exposure, it is very light hungry and does best in bright sunlight. It can handle overexposure but does not do well underexposed. Things get very muddy. Even with good exposures, you will not have much detail in your shadows.
Because of the unpredictable color shifts, it’s probably not a great film for portraiture unless you’re willing to embrace the unpredictable and unusual results.
You have to shoot film like this with zero expectations. If you’re taking photos of something important to you with this film, bring along another camera loaded with regular film. Because this is an experimental film, results really do vary.
I love to shoot this film in summer. The color shifts make anything you photograph feel like summer, but the bright sunshine will give you the best chances for good results. Taking this film to the lake or to the state fair makes for a perfect combination.
Revolog Kolor can be hard to get ahold of. It’s popular and it’s made by hand. Dubble films also have a selection of novelty film that will give you a similar look.
If you want to do your own experimentation, pre-shoot a roll of film underexposing by one stop images of color shifts on your computer screen. Then rewind your film and shoot the roll as normal.
You might want to let your lab know so they don’t try to fix any of your unusual colors. Remember, this is unpredictable, so lower your expectations.
Final Thoughts on Film to Shoot in the Summer
Summer is the perfect time for shooting film. The weather is great. The sun is out. We tend to travel and spend time at the beach or the pool or in our own back yards.
I hope you’ll reach for one of these films to load into your camera this summer—especially if there is one on the list you haven’t tried yet.
What is your favorite film to shoot in summer?
Thank you so much, Jen! Jen is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here, including Understanding Reciprocal Exposures and the Exposure Triangle and Exposure Cheat Sheet for Shooting Film at Night.
You can also check out more of Jen’s work on Instagram.
Leave your questions about the best film stocks to shoot in the summer and let us know your favorites below in the comments! You can pick up these summer films on Amazon here: Kodak Ektar 100, Kodak UltraMax 400, Revolog Kolor
May 6, 2023 at 12:10 am
Thanks for the post! I was bracing for “Portra 400” to be repeated three times, so it was nice to see it not mentioned even once! I tend to use Ultramax a lot more than Portra 400 as it’s still quite a bit cheaper. And I’ve warmed up (ha!) to Ektar after using it for a few recent sunny days. I’ll need to keep an eye out for the Revolog Kolor.
May 7, 2023 at 6:19 pm
I’m so glad you liked the article! Portra 400 is a lovely film, and I definitely use it in the summer as well, but there are definitely some other great colorful options besides Portra. I’m glad to hear that you’re liking Ektar. I think the more you use it, the more you’ll love it.