Happy Spring everyone! It’s good to be back here chatting with all you lovely folks about film. Today, I’m going to cover one of the staples in the film world, Kodak Portra 400.
I’ll be completely honest, when I first started getting into film, I wasn’t even interested in Kodak. I was a Fuji 400H fan girl all the way. Those light and airy pastel tones were what initially drew me into shooting color film.
But as I got more comfortable in my film journey, I started to venture out into unknown territories, and Kodak Portra was my first one to try. And it is such a gorgeous film stock! I found I was never disappointed when I grabbed a roll of Portra 400.
Nine times out of ten, I always overexpose Kodak Portra 400 by metering it at 200 and meter for the shadows or midtones. This, as most of you know, will give you a beautiful and colorful images.
One of the areas in which Portra excels in is with its color. The vibrancy is absolutely glorious, especially with the skin tones. I find that when I overexpose my images, the skin tones and greenery are more true to color.
I find that even when you overexpose this film, Portra 400 always has a natural warmness to its images. It gives me the warm fuzzies, and I love it.
Pushing Portra 400
Portra 400 was actually one of the very first films I attempted to push, and it always looks so dang pretty.
I was starting a new portrait project and I was shooting indoors and decided, what the heck, I’m going to shoot it at 640 and have my lab push it by one stop. When pushed by one stop, Portra packs a nice punch in contrast, something I love in my images.
The yellow tints can sometimes be added as you push this film, but please don’t let this deter you from pushing this film! This is a setting that can easily be adjusted post process if you find that the extra warmth is something you dislike.
Where Portra 400 Shines and Where it Struggles
One of the areas where Portra 400 truly shines is in its retention of detail. I know that film already does a fantastic job of not blowing out the highlights in images, but with Portra 400 I have noticed this especially.
Last summer, I was able to travel to Niagara Falls and document the stunning scenery. The details in the clouds and waterfalls were kept in perfect detail even when I shot it at a 2.8 aperture. How’s that for freakin’ awesome?!
This film really shines with skin tones, but definitely don’t knock it for landscape and settings because it’ll knock your socks off with how awesome it is!
An area where this film can struggle is with the red and/or yellow tints. Like all film, this particular film stock loves light, and I’ve found that if I shoot this stock in lower light settings indoors, I can tend to get an odd tint to skin tones.
As mentioned earlier, pushing Portra 400 can also accentuate yellow tints.
There are so many pro’s to this film stock that it makes the con’s pretty small and easily manageable.