How To Shoot Kodak Portra 800 by Jessica Love

Shoot It With Film Jessica Love Portra 800 Review
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Kodak Portra 800 Overview: Kodak Portra 800 gives nice, saturated colors and loves to be overexposed. Try rating around ISO 200 for beautiful colors and skin tones. If underexposed, it will have more of a muddy and grainy look. It’s also a versatile film and can be used indoors and outdoors, but preferably in lots of light. You can pick up some on Amazon here: Kodak Portra 800 in 35mm and Kodak Portra 800 in 120


Shoot It With Film Jessica Love Portra 800 Review

Kodak Portra 800 Film Review by Jessica Love

For me, choosing a film stock is like when you first get a digital camera and the POSSIBILITIES of HOW TO EDIT your photos hits you like crazy. There are just so many different options! In my first few months of shooting film, I shot and shot and shot, experimenting with various film stocks looking for my favorites.

I tried Kodak Portra 800 pretty early on, and, to be honest, I hated the results. The images came out muddy and grainy. It’s a film that has a bit of a learning curve. After some fine tuning and learning to rate it between 200 and 400 ISO, I now love the results! Bright, punchy, beautiful colors!

What To Expect From Portra 800

Kodak Portra 800 will give you more saturated colors than either Portra 400 or Portra 160. It’s more similar to the vibrant colors of Kodak Ektar 100. It’s also a wonderful stock for skin tones. It’s difficult for a film with more vibrant, saturated colors to maintain skin tones, but Portra 800 walks that line perfectly!

Watch out for underexposure, though. If underexposed, it will lean towards those muddy colors and grain I mentioned early.

Shoot It With Film Jessica Love Portra 800 Review
Shoot It With Film Jessica Love Portra 800 Review

How To Shoot And Meter Portra 800

I like to meter Portra 800 around 200 ISO. This film loves light and handles overexposure really well. For those bright, vibrant colors, rating around 200 ISO consistently gives me good results.

I love it most on a sunny day and backlit. When shooting digital, white balance and color tone are often a struggle, but when I get my film back, I’m just amazed at how well this film does with light.

Shoot It With Film Jessica Love Portra 800 Review
Shoot It With Film Jessica Love Portra 800 Review

Where Portra 800 Performs Best and Where It Struggles

Portra 800 performs well when it has a lot of good quality light. I shoot it inside on a bright day, outside in the sun, and backlit. I love it all!

It does tend to struggle in low light, though. It isn’t as low light friendly as the 800 ISO might suggest. It needs to be overexposed quite a bit, which really limits it’s low light capabilities. Shooting it in lots of light will make you so happy with the results!

Shoot It With Film Jessica Love Portra 800 Review

Thank you so much, Jessica! Please check out Jessica’s work on Instagram and her website, and if you have questions about Kodak Portra 800, leave them in the comments.

Click here to check out all of our film reviews, and if you want to pick up some Portra 800 for yourself, click here to buy it on Amazon!

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Blog Comments

What do you mean rate 200 or 400?

Like the opposite of pushing it?

Pushing film is done in the developing process by the lab (or if you develop your own film at home). It’s a way to compensate for under exposure by adjusting the time the film is in the developing chemicals, and will make the film appear brighter with more contrast and more color saturation.

Pulling is the opposite of pushing film, where you adjust the time in developing chemicals to compensate for over exposure.

Rating is done while you’re shooting. You can see the last comment for an explanation of rating film. 🙂 Rating is a way to under or over expose your image while shooting. Pushing/pulling is a way to adjust your exposure during the developing process instead of the shooting process.

Rating means what you set your ISO to when you’re calculating your exposure, either with an external light meter or with the metering settings on your camera. Portra 800 is ISO 800, so if you didn’t want to over or under expose your image, you would set your light meter to ISO 800 and then use the corresponding shutter speed and f-stop. But Portra 800 looks great over exposed, so Jessica will often set her light meter to ISO 200 or 400 instead of ISO 800. Does that make sense? Please let me know if you have more questions!

What about processing?

Gor, thanks so much for your comment! What is your question about processing? I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your question.

Do you ask the lab to process the film at 200 ASA or at box speed (800)?

Box speed! 🙂

Jessica,

Your the best. This is the first article i’ve read on this blog. it’s a great blog and very imformative. I’m curious which camera you shot these pictures on. I’m currently using a Nikon L35af. I’ve been really into point and shoots lately. THANK YOU for the explanation in push/pull/rate. I always assumed those definitions and while they weren’t far off, it was nice to read them in cut and dry context. thank you!

Hi! Beautiful pictures – those colors are amazing! I found a few of these for dirt cheap, but I’m concerned as to how well they’ll perform with flash, indoors, in very low light. Do you think the photos will be overexposed?

I’d like to confirm one thing about the Jessica’s pictures, if I rate 200 or 400, and then develop film with regular process(No pushing or pulling), is it correct?

Yes! You got it! You can rate Portra 800 at 200 or 400 and then develop normally without any pushing or pulling.

It’s 120. Not 120mm.

Good catch! Thank you! We corrected it 🙂

Wow. That photo in the room with the kids and the toy train is so amazing. Very good photos in general, but this particular one stands out.

Hello! I just read your article about shooting with Kodak Portra 800. I’ve got a roll of it in my 35mm, and I’ve taken about 10 photos so far, with the settings of iso 400, and i’ve been taking the photos with the exposure levels and f-stop suggested for 400 iso. Do I continue doing that, or do I adjust to actually taking the photos with exposure and f-stop levels of 800 iso, with only the iso setting changed to 400?

Feedback is appreciated, thank you!!

Hi Natasha! You’ll want to keep doing what you’re doing! The only reason to set the ISO on a film camera is to get the fstop and shutter speed for that ISO. So you’ll want to set the ISO for 400 and use the fstop and shutter speed that match ISO 400. That will give you a stop of over exposure, which is great for Portra 800.

hey! great post. i think i saw the answer to a question i had above but just to be sure; you said you usually rate 800 speed film around 200-400 iso and then get it developed normally? meaning you tell them to process the film like they would a normal 800 speed film?

thanks!

– Tre’

Tre’, yes! That is exactly right. Portra 800 loves light and does best rated at around 200-400, and then you will have it developed normally. So you can just send it into the lab without any extra notes, and they will use the standard method for developing Portra 800.

awesome! thank you so much. this helps a lot

Hi, great post. Currently, I have a Canon Prima Zoom Shot point and shoot camera. Pretty low end if you ask me. But, a few days ago, I decided to experiment with film photography and bought the Kodak Portra 800 35mm film. So, with your experience, I’d like to know what kind of picture can I expect from this “weird” combination? Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Hi Jeff! Portra 800 likes a lot of light and tends to do better if it’s overexposed a stop or two. In a point and shoot where you can’t change the settings, Portra 800 may look a little bit muddy. Still worth a try though! It’s a beautiful film! You can also try this hack to trick your point and shoot into overexposing the image: https://shootitwithfilm.com/hack-the-dx-code-on-your-35mm-film/

Hi, thanks for the reply. I really appreciate it. However, I’d like to confirm something. Do you mean to say that I can use the Kodak Portra 800 film at box speed on my point and shoot camera and have it overexposed a stop during photo processing at film processing labs? Again, any inputs will be greatly appreciated. As this is my first “professional” film roll, the last thing that I want to do is to screw up my shots.

I would not recommend having it overexposed a stop during photo processing. That is considered pushing your film, and with Portra 800 in a point and shoot, I would develop normally.

The DX Code hack linked above lets you tell a point and shoot camera that your 800 speed film is actually a 400 speed film. This is done to overexpose your images when the camera doesn’t have any manual controls. Overexposing the Portra 800 this way would give you some better results, but Portra 800 is a wonderful film and you will get solid results just shooting it as-is in the point and shoot and developing normally. The tones might be a bit more vintage or moodier looking than if you overexpose.

Let me know if you have any more questions at all! Happy to help!

Thanks again for the heads up. It’s really helpful. Because I’m going to use this film during one my festive celebrations and it’s going to be a mixture of portraits, landscapes and a little bit of everything else in between. Hope the film can catch up with my demanding shoots. Will update you once again once I’ve used and have it processed mostly by mid to late May. On a sidenote, should I get interested in shooting with the Portra, which one do you think is a better overall choice for me: the Portra 800 or the Portra 400? I’ve been contemplating on using the Fujifilm Pro 400H but a little bit scared as Fuji has a reputation of leaning more towards a green “tint” look, like the Matrix (no pun intended) and it really shows on my previous Fuji consumer film stocks. Again, any help would be very grateful. Forgive my constant questions as I’m really excited about using a professional high speed film stock for the first time. Thanks again.

We are so excited for you to use Portra 800, and can’t wait to hear about how it goes! Portra 400 is a fantastic film. It is quite a bit easier to use than Portra 800. It has really great exposure latitude and beautiful tones for portraits and landscapes. It has a warmer look to it than Fujifilms, which do tend to skew a bit green. You will love it!

If you do decide to give Fuji Pro 400H a try, you will see less of the green tints than you see with the Fuji consumer films (like the Fuji Superia films). You can still find a lot of Fuji Pro 400H around, but it has been discontinued, so stock is limited.

Hi. Thanks again for the heads up. I’ll take your advice. Really appreciate it. Duly noted regarding the Fuji Pro 400H. I’ll try to grab one while I can since that’s the case. So, until end of May, I’ll keep you posted once the film stock is processed. Stay safe and may the Force be with you!

Hello, I am real beginners with 35mm films. I have my Olympus Trip for about a half of a year and I have used basic films so far (ASA 200). Now I have order Portra 800 as I wanted to buy something more fancier, with a bit art feeling… but now I am puzzled and I dont know how to set my camera. From your article I have found out that I can use the Portra 800 even with my camera. I understood I should set ASA 400 on my camera. What about setting for flash? I dont use flash but should I leave it on “A”? … and when I give the film to lab, should I tell them to push the film or to develop it as it is? I am gonna try the film and camera together during my holiday in two weeks. I wanted to do some interior photo shoot as the hotel gives a lot of opportunities and some outdoor shooting as we plan to hike in the mountains. Thank you a lot for saving me :))

Hi there! I just loaded my minolta x700 with Kodak portra 800 and set the ISO to 200 as you recommended. Minolta x700 has a “P” program mode which essentially sets the aperture and shutter speed automatically to find the best exposure – doing so based on the ISO film speed that I have set (200). My question is will this work correctly…? Or will somehow using the P automatic mode mess up the lighting technique you recommend by setting the ISO to 200? Thank you!

Hi Alex! Yes, you have set it correctly. Setting the ISO to 200 and having the camera in P mode will work perfectly!

Hello, I am real beginners with 35mm films. I have my Olympus Trip for about a half of a year and I have used basic films so far (ASA 200). Now I have order Portra 800 as I wanted to buy something more fancier, with a bit art feeling… but now I am puzzled and I dont know how to set my camera. From your article I have found out that I can use the Portra 800 even with my camera. I understood I should set ASA 400 on my camera. What about setting for flash? I dont use flash but should I leave it on “A”? … and when I give the film to lab, should I tell them to push the film or to develop it as it is? I am gonna try the film and camera together during my holiday in two weeks. I wanted to do some interior photo shoot as the hotel gives a lot of opportunities and some outdoor shooting as we plan to hike in the mountains. Thank you a lot for saving me :))

Hi Blanka! Portra 800 likes a lot of light, so you can set the ASA on your camera to 400 (or even lower to 200!) and have the film developed normally. You do not need to tell the lab to push the film or any other special instructions.

For the flash, the Olympus Trip manual says to put the camera into manual mode and set the f/stop to the number listed on the flash unit. Here’s the manual if that’s helpful! https://www.butkus.org/chinon/olympus/olympus_trip_35/olympus_trip_35.htm

Have an amazing time on your trip!

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