Film 101- How to Choose a Film Stock

If you read my first Film 101 post, you know that to shoot film you don’t need to break the bank and buy a super fancy camera. All you need is a camera that will advance your film. Easy peasy! (If you missed the first post in this Film 101 series, you can check it out here….FILM 101- HOW TO SELECT A FILM CAMERA)

How to choose a film stock

So now you have your camera but where in the world do you start with film stocks? So many choices, right? Kodak, Fuji, Lomography, Ektar, Portra 400, professional grade, consumer grade…. The decision can be paralyzing for sure. If you are a digital photographer right now, the best way to explain film stocks is to compare to them your digital presets (ahhh ha….did you know those digital presets you love are usually created in attempt to emulate film??? Yep. They sure are!).

You probably have a handful of go-to presets or plug ins that trust and use regularly. There’s even a strong possibility your presets are named “Kodak Gold” or “Fuji 400H” or something along those lines. Those presets are KINDA like film but film is oh so much better, friends! Just like each of the presets have various colors, strength, etc….film stocks do too…..and choosing a film stock can vary depending on the look you are going for!

But ok….that’s great and all, but where to start if you are shooting your first roll, right?? With so many choices it can definitely be difficult to choose.


Start with Portra 400

My suggestion for anyone starting out with film is to pick up a few rolls Portra 400 film!

Portra 400 is SO very versatile and can handle so many various lighting conditions so very well. Film LOVES light (and coming from a digital mindset you may still be in that “underexpose to save the highlights” mentality), so Portra 400 can save you if you happen to slightly underexpose your film (remember - always err on the side of overexposure vs. underexposure….more on that soon)!

Portra 400 is best rated close to box speed (aka at an ISO of 400) so this stock can easily work for indoor images with good quality light, outdoor in shade or even in full sun! Overexposure can lead to an increase of yellows in your images as this stock has a warmer base; and underexposure can cause muddy shadows and color shifts (although I have found that Portra 400 handles underexposure better than any other film stock).


Now you have your camera + your Portra 400, right?? The next post in this series will cover HOW to shoot your first roll of film, so stay tuned!

Looking to dive right in to film? Join the FILM LOVE WORKSHOP and learn all you need to know!