Written by Sandra Coan
Last year while at WPPI, I met Mike Jefferies, one of the Technical Sales Reps for Kodak Alaris Professional Film.
Over drinks at an industry party, he mentioned that he’d seen an old blog post of mine in which I shared the results of a film comparison test I’d done.
That conversation led to me shooting a new comparison test (you can see the results here) and reshaping my work for the remainder of the year.
The Back Story
Up until last year, I had been a Fujifilm shooter, and for good reason- Fujifilm Pro 400h (find on Amazon) is a beautiful stock! I’d shot it exclusively for years and had always been thrilled with my results.
But as a seasoned film photographer, I know that there is so much that goes into the results one gets when shooting film beyond film stock choice. Light, metering, the lab you use, how images are scanned and which machine your images are scanned on are just as important as what film stock you use.
It is true that there is no universal standard for color film. Each stock is a little different. But the results of my comparison test peeked my curiosity.
Is it fair, or even possible, to talk about a film stock’s qualities and color profile based on shooting it just once or twice? And if I shot the different stocks in the same way, using the same studio set up, the same lighting and had them developed and scanned at the same lab, using my custom color profile, would I be able to see the subtle differences between them?
That’s what I wanted to know.
And so decided to work exclusively with Kodak film stocks for the rest of the year. (Find Kodak Portra films on Amazon)
I spent several months shooting each stock so that I could really get to know it.
I used them all with real clients, not models.
I shot them all in my studio with strobes, metered for the shadows.
And I had them all processed at the same lab, using my custom color profile.
This is what I found.
Yes, I Could See Differences
But they were subtle.
To my eye, Portra 160 has a beautiful earthy quality to it. I also found it to have a very “true to life” color profile. And you can not beat the fine grain!!!
Portra 400 is also warm, but, in this stock, I saw it in the yellow tones. And those yellow tones combined with the pinkish baby skin I’m so often photographing produced peaching tones I adore! I’m a little obsessed with this stock… just sayin’.
In my opinion, Portra 800 has the coolest tones of the Portra, more peaches and cream pink than yellow or orange. And I have to say, even though the differences are subtle, I think Portra 800 is my favorite!
Will I Continue Using Kodak Alaris Professional Film?
What this last year taught me is that it is really nice to have choices!
Each stock is a little different in their color profile, but not so super different that switching between the stocks is that noticeable. They are a family, and you can see the similarities for sure! But now I know enough about each stock to make an informed decision on which one I’m going use based on the look I’m going for! And that’s really fun.
I also love that I have choices in speed! Which gives me way more creative choices in the studio!
What Do You Think?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you see the differences? Do you have a favorite? If so why? I’d really love some feedback on my year long experiment…. please leave a comment below!
Leave your questions about Kodak Portra films below in the comments, and you can pick up some for yourself on Amazon!
You can also check out more film reviews here!