Film Friday | Tips for Shooting Film | Film stocks & Rating Film

Welcome back for another week :)! Today we will dive a little further into actually shooting your film with film stocks & rating film.

Film Friday | Tips for shooting film | Film Stocks and Rating Film | Megan Jolly

The first thing to know about film is that it is a journey for everyone. A lot of film photographers keep a journal documenting the film stock, the type of light they shot in, and what they rated their film.

To start out, learning about different film stocks is very important, not all film stocks are meant for taking photos of people. Kodak Velvia 50 is one of those films, your skin tones will turn out a reddish color in most cases. That film stock is meant for landscape type photos and is very saturated. Other film stocks like Fuji pro 400H and Kodak Portra 400 are lovely for people and especially weddings. Fuji pro 400H pro tends to be a little cooler, and the greens are gorgeous. Depending on the light you shoot in they can even be a minty color. Portra 400 on the other hand has a little more warmth to it, and has the ability to have really deep beautiful greens.

The second thing to know about shooting film is that how you treat your film makes a huge difference. Things like a cloudy sky, or backlighting, or a really sunny day can affect your film differently.  Also if you shoot your film at box speed the colors and the tones in the photo are going to be completely different than if you overexposed your film by a stop or two, which is where rating comes in.

"Rating" film can be kind of confusing when you first start, but it really isn't as confusing as it sounds. Unlike your digital camera where you can choose your ISO, film already comes in a particular ISO. As mentioned two weeks ago the ISO of Portra 400 is 400, Kodak 200 is 200, Ektar 100 is 100. So to shoot that film at what is called "box speed" (the speed listed on the film) you would shoot the film at the ISO listed. So you would set your in camera light meter or your handheld light meter to 400 for Portra 400, and 200 for Kodak 200 and so on. Over the years though some photographers have found that they get certain looks, and a lot of times more aesthetically pleasing colors when "rating" their film different than the "box speed."

Rating is essentially setting the in camera light meter or your handheld light meter to the desired ISO.

For instance, if you like light and airy images, depending on your light, you would set your light meter to lets say 100 when shooting Fuji pro 400h versus setting your light meter to the box speed of 400. That would overexpose your film two stops. This is why keeping a journal is so important, you can keep track of what rating you shot each roll of film, and will know in the future whether you like that film over exposed. Some photographers will purposely shoot a film like Kodak Ektar 100 and rate it at 400, then they will tell the lab to push their film 2 stops. Some films push very well and give great colors, but not all do. With that being said not all films do well (look good) being over exposed or pushed.


What works for everyone may not work for you. In South California their light is different than my light in South Mississippi so I have to find my own loves and what I need to do to get the dreamy light and airy images if that is what I want.

Portra 400 rated at 200 on a cloudy day | Developed by The Find Lab


Another important thing to know when shooting film is to expose for the shadows. Most films handle light extremely well. In the digital world you were taught to expose for highlights, because in post you can usually bring up your shadows, but you can't always get details in your highlights back. This is the complete opposite for film. You want to expose for your shadows in your scene, because the film usually will handle highlights amazingly with little to no loss of detail. Because of needing to expose for shadows and not the entire scene, I spot meter with my F100. **A simple trick when photographing people, women with their hair down especially, is to spot meter either with your in camera meter or your handheld meter right below their ear, in that dark hole between their hair and their neck. 

UK Film Lab and Johnny Patience have some wonderful examples of the difference in ratings within the same film stock as well as a Fuji and Portra comparison. **I HIGHLY suggest starting with Fuji400h pro or Kodak Portra 400. Those films allow much more room for error when it comes to over and underexposing your film than some other film stocks. 

Also for those who don't understand "stops":

Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji 400 over exposed 1 stop is setting your light meter to 200

Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji 400 over exposed 2 stops is setting your light meter to 100

and so on....

Just a side note: When intentionally overexposing a film Pulling your film at the lab is NOT needed!