Over the years I’ve shot a lot of portraits on film and I’ve definitely come up with some favourites that provide amazing shots every time.
The best camera film for portrait photography is Kodak Portra 160 due to its super-fine grain and exceptional skin tones. Kodak Portra 160 is specifically made with portrait photography in mind. This film stocks low film speed allows you to use a lower aperture to create more depth. It will also produce true to life skin tones with a minimal amount of grain making your images very clear.
If you want to find other film socks that might suit portrait photography then continue reading the rest of this article!
What Makes A Good Portrait Film?
For a good portrait film stock, you definitely need the right ISO for the environment that you’re shooting in. If you’re shooting in low light situations then you’ll need a higher ISO and if you’re shooting with quite a lot of light then you can use a lower ISO film.
You also want film stock that can capture good mid-tones so that your subject’s face isn’t all dark and you aren’t left with a useless image. All of the Kodak Portra film stocks tend to produce great mid-tones.
Film stocks that produce good skin tones are also high on the agenda because nothing beats those natural tones.
You also probably want a film stock that has a slightly more yellow hue rather than a greener hue like Fujifilm. Most Kodak products tend to have a more yellow hue.
Finally, if you’re shooting in black and white then you definitely want fine-grain, low ISO film so that you can make nice clean and clear portraits of your subject.
The Best Colour Film For Portrait Photography
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400 is known as one of the best, most forgiving and versatile film stocks that many film photographers deam to be the best. For a 400 ISO film stock this has very fine grain, great skin tones and hue that is very slightly yellow.
Many people love Portra 400 because it’s a perfect middle ground for film speed. This film stock is also Ideal for editing as it doesn’t really produce any unusual or incorrect colours, this makes it a great professional film stock.
Many well known photographers still shoot with Portra 400 consistently because it is such a reliable film stock. The only drawback of Portra 400 in the modern day is that it’s quite expensive and somewhat accessible for many people.
Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar 100 is a very low grain, clear film stock which is typically used for landscape photography but it can produce great results when used for portraits!
This can produce some of the clearest images from a film camera, due too its very low ISO and fantastic colours. Also due to its very low ISO, this will allow you to shoot at a lower aperture during daylight and produce much more depth of field which can help you make a sharper image with more depth.
Ektar 100 doesn’t quite cost as much as portra 400 but it is less versatile and wouldn’t fare very well in low light.
We have yet to see what Cinestill 400D has to offer but I think thought it would definitely be a great alternative to Kodak portra 400. From the initial reviews it would seem some of the highlights still get a red hue as with Cinestill 800T. This could make for an interesting style potentially give your shot some sense of identity.
It is true that is hard to actually say Just how good Cinestill 400D is but I feel confident that this new film stock from the already remarkable Cinestill will provide a good alternative to Kodak Portra 400.
Kodak Portra 160
The reason I haven’t put all of these film stocks together is because each of the Portra range have their own nuances. Kodak portra 160 has the finest grain of all the court Kodak portra range and it also has the best skin tones. Portra 160 is very forgiving, moderately versatile and will allow you to shoot lower apertures to create shots with more depth
Kodak portra 160 is also considerably cheaper than Portra 400 and Portra 800 which is certainly an added bonus.
The Best Black And White Film For Portraits
Kodak 400 Tri-X
Kodak Tri-X is arguably the best black and white film available. With moderate grain and brilliant tones, this has been a ‘go to’ black and white film stock for most professionals for very long time.
Kodak Tri-X is a nice mid range film speed so you can shoot in all kinds of light but you won’t have too much grain. This film stock will provide you with very interesting shots that bring out your subjects beauty perfectly.
Ilford HP5 is another classic black and white film which is also very affordable. Perhaps not quite to the standards of Kodak 400 Tri-X, HP5 still packs a punch, providing a nice 400 ISO, nice skin tones and moderate grain.
HP5 is a good option for a more budget shoot on black and white film and it’ll still provide you with some fantastic shots.