Portra 800: Why It’s My Go-To Film Stock


 Back to Blog

I shoot film at just about every one of my sessions and weddings. There’s so much to love about film – from the sound of the shutter to the anticipation of seeing the images after processing and developing. One of my favorite aspects is that every photographer’s unique style comes out through their images. How a film image looks comes down to a few things – film stock, metering and developing.

Today I want to chat about film stock.

When I first started shooting film 4 years ago, I was completely overwhelmed by which film stock to choose. I really had no idea what I would like and it felt like a very big decision. So, just like at many other points in my business, I went to Pinterest and Instagram. There were several film photographers I greatly admired and I mentally jotted down the things I loved about their images. Some of those things were deeper shadows and vibrant colors.

I was drawn to images that felt like they had been colored with the big 120 piece Crayola crayon set – you know, the one that when you were a kid it seemed to have every possible color under the sun.

Don’t get me wrong, the film images that were a bit more neutral and muted were so beautiful. But I knew that I wanted my photos to have that vibrancy I was so enamored with.

I learned that all of those photos I loved were shot on Kodak film. So for the first 2 years I shot on Portra 400 – a lovely film stock that I still use occasionally today. But I wasn’t quite achieving the look I ultimately wanted to see in my film images. Now that I had been shooting for a few years, I had narrowed down my list to be a bit more specific on color – particularly of blues and greens.

So I picked up some Portra 800 and the rest is history.

I love Portra 800 for so many reasons. I love the greens, the contrast, the way it captures light and so much more. To get the look I love, I rate it at 640 and meter in the shadows at a 90 degree angle. You may think that Portra 800 is only a low light film stock, but trust me, it is absolutely stunning in full sun.

I know that when I have Portra 800 in my bag, it won’t matter if it’s cloudy or sunny, the images are going to be beautiful.

Just like with any other film stock, communication with your film lab about what you like and dislike can help you fall in love with your work.

Here are some images taken with Portra 800 in different lighting scenarios, including in door sessions. And if you’re on the fence about trying Portra 800, I hope this pushes you to give it a shot!