7 Best 35mm Film Stocks For Street Photography

I’ve shot street photography on film for over 7 years and over that time I’ve worked out what’s necessary to take a good street shot.

Street photography is more complicated than other forms of film photography because it’s far more subjective and artistic. If you’ve found the perfect film stock for you and it’s not on this list then that’s absolutely great, however, this provides a great guide for those who want to get the best results.

What’s The Ideal 35mm Film For Street Photography?

I actually shot on Kodak Colorplus for about 3 years and most of the time I loved the results. It wasn’t about what kind of film I was using or even the fact that it was on film, it was about chasing that perfect moment.

The time I spent shooting Colorplus allowed me to shoot much more because it was really cheap at the time. I got pretty good results and I could try to get that one special shot more often.

And this is a really important point, you can get great street photos on consumer-grade film as long as you’re focusing on all of the important stuff.

But generally, what makes a great film stock for street photography is a film stock that has a good dynamic range and moderate film speed. This is mostly because light changes so much while you’re shooting street, if you’re only shooting on a low ISO film stock then you might not be able to capture what you want and if the film stock has a bad dynamic range then harsh light and shadows will look bad.

Also, street photography lends itself to more creative film stocks because it feels like there are fewer ‘rules’ in street photography.

But typically, you want a film stock with nice skin tones, a mid-high ISO range, a good dynamic range and at a fair price (yeah, right).

1) Kodak Portra 400 – The Editable Fine Grain Beast

Okay, we’re coming in hot with Kodak Portra 400. It’s arguably one of the best professional film stocks and it’s completely ideal for street photography. Known for fine grain, mid-ISO, sharp images, great dynamic range and pastel colours.

It’s great for street photography because it’s such a high-quality film stock. It’s really forgiving so if you over/under expose it then there’s a good chance the image will still look great. It’s 400 ISO so you’ll be able to shoot in a variety of different lighting situations and its colours are quite muted so it’s ideal for editing and giving it your own sort of identity.

The main downside to Portra 400 is that it’s pretty damn expensive, at about £22 per roll in the UK, it’s pretty hard to justify if you’re just shooting for fun. But you can’t really make this list without including Portra 400, it’s too good.

2) Fuji Superia X-tra 400 – Mid-Price Bad Boy

I like to think of Fuji Superia X-Tra as a budget Portra 400, it shares a lot of similarities but it costs like £14 a roll instead of £22.

I’ve got to say I kind of like Superia X-tra and I think it really makes sense for a street photographer. It’s more affordable, it’s got a good dynamic range (not as good as Portra), its colour is fairly neutral and its grain is pretty good (not as fine as Portra 400).

I’d say Superia is a great option for people who want to shoot good street photography without splashing out on Portra 400.

The downside to Superia is that some people say it can have varying results and sometimes look quite magenta, so that’s something to keep in mind.

3) Cinestill 800T – The Creatives Stock

This is where things are gonna get weird, Cinestill 800T, the film stock for weirdos that want to take creative shots. Best known for its halation, blue tones in the daylight and being a boss of the night-time.

800T is a good choice for street photographers because it’s different, you get crazy tones in the day and mad halation in the highlights. Being an 800 ISO film stock it’s ideal for a low-light photographer for sure.

One of the downsides to 800T is that you can get red light leaks in the daytime and once again it’s pretty expensive. There aren’t really any other brands that do what Cinestill does for less though so it’s the price you pay.

4) Kodak Tri-X – The Black & White Demon

Kodak Tri-X is basically one of the best black & white film stocks available so of course I have to include it in here! Known for good dynamic range, fine grain and sharp shots, it’s a brilliant choice.

It’s kind of ideal for street photography because it’s 400 ISO so you can shoot in a range of situations and it’s got a great dynamic range so you don’t have to worry so much about over/under exposure.

The one downside to black & white film is that although it usually costs less to buy the film, it costs more to develop the damn stuff. That being said, if you want black & white, you probably want this stuff.

5) Kodak Portra 800 – The Mac Daddy

Kodak Portra 800 is the professional film of choice for street photography, it’s kind of got everything. Known for being great in low light, having great dynamic range and for having a different colour profile to Portra 400, it’s a brilliant option for street.

Portra 800 is ideal because it’s so versatile, at 800 ISO, you can shoot it in all different kinds of light and once again it has a brilliant dynamic range. What sets it apart from Portra 400 is its colour profile, it tends to have far more saturation than Portra 400 and a lot of people love it.

Once again, skin tones are pretty much perfect on Portra 800 and the only thing that really ruins it is that it’s super expensive. I just picked up a bunch for £18 a roll but usually, it’s £24 a roll here in the UK.

6) Kodak Gold 200 – The Budget Bad Boy

I think it’s only right to put a true budget film stock into this list and there’s not really anything better than Kodak Gold.

Kodak Gold is best known for its yellow hue, vintage look and low ISO. It really suits street photography because it’s got such an identifiable look and feel and as long as you’re shooting outside in the daytime, it should be absolutely fine.

I stand by budget film stocks, we need to be able to shoot film more freely so film stocks like Kodak Gold and Colorplus are absolutely ideal.

The main letdown with Gold is that it’s not very versatile and it’s not a particularly high-quality film stock, so if you ever come to print it then it won’t be quite as good as some of these other stocks.

7) Lomo 400 – A Solid Colour Choice

Lomo 400 is another solid option for street photography. Known for its moderate grain, nice colours and semi-moderate price, it’s probably the slight middle between Fuji Superia X-Tra and Portra 400.

There’s nothing especially special about Lomo 400 but it’s not a bad film stock at all. If it was £13-14 a roll then I’d say it’s a brilliant option but currently, it’s sitting at £18 a roll which feels like a bit too much to me.

It’s an ideal street photographer’s film stock for all the same reasons the Fuji Superia is. It’s got pretty good dynamic range and the 400 ISO means you can shoot in a variety of lighting situations.

Final Word

Choosing a film stock for street photography is a very subjective process and as I mentioned before, I spent years shooting Kodak Colorplus and I really enjoyed it.

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