Film Stock Feature | Portra 400

learn how to shoot film with portra 400 color C-41 film stocks
There are so many incredible, professional color film stocks, but I just had to start off this film stock feature series with my favorite film stock, Portra 400. There are many reasons I love this film stock, but the biggest of which is its versatility, overall warmth, and (currently) lower price-point. 
learn film photography portra 400 color film stock facts
Among all of the professional C-41 (color) film stocks, Portra 400 is typically the most forgiving with slight underexposure and overexposure. This film is perfect if you need some flexibility between indoor and outdoor shooting.
Just imagine...You're shooting a wedding, and you've only shot half a roll of Portra 400 outside, when your bride & groom walk inside. This is the perfect film to have in your camera. You can easily shoot inside while still getting great results, even with slightly less than ideal light.

Facts about Portra 400

  • Has a yellow base, so it accentuates golden tones. 

  • Available in 35mm, medium format, and large format film.
  • Part of a Portra Family (Portra 160, Portra 400, & Portra 800).  

  • Rated best at box speed for shadows (400), or 200 for mid-tones or highlights. 
  • Very fine grain. 
  • Has natural undertones of yellow and orange.
  • One of the most popular C-41 film stocks on the market. 

learn film photography portra 400 color film stock overview

Pros & Cons of Portra 400

Advantage of shooting Portra 400:
  • One of the most versatile + forgiving C-41 film stocks.
  • Beautiful, warmer skin tones and a medium amount of contrast. 
  • Very fine, barely noticeable grain when exposed correctly.
  • Looks beautiful rated at box speed (400) for shadows.
  • Not quite as expensive as other professional C-41 film stocks.
  • Still looks good pushed +1 or +2 stops.
  • Warmer skin tones are great for portraits.
Disadvantages of shooting Portra 400
  • When rated more than about +1 (rated at 100, 50, etc). this film tends to look very punchy and too contrasted. 
  • Prices have been rising lately for this film. 
  • If underexposed too much, it will create a slightly green undertone. 

So how should you shoot this film stock? Personally, I prefer shooting this film stock at box speed. It creates beautiful, neutral colors and tones, and doesn't look too punchy or colorful. If you prefer a bit more colorful, brighter, yellow-toned look, I recommend metering this film stock at ISO 200 for the shadows. 

Want to try out something new? Trying rating this at 400 or 800 and pushing it +1 stop. If you're really hoping for some vivid colors, you can even rate this at ISO 1600 and push it +2, or rate it at 3200 and push it +3. 

 

So tell me - how do you prefer rating your Portra 400? Tag your images #learnfilmtogether to support one another, and share your successes with film!

 

Wondering how to successfully introduce film into your portfolio? Check out this 35+ page Beginners Film Guide on everything you need to know about film! 

 

XO, Abi