No faces just food: Portra 160 35mm Film

Instagram continues to hold the top spot of one of the most favourable social media apps. After all, it has started and funded businesses, created public figures, not abolished sexism… ahem ANYWAY

Although I do use it to show my photography to my modest bundle of 500ish followers, I mainly use it to aid my visual inspiration in terms of photographic work by other artists. Some of these are just starting their career, some are freelance, some are content creators for instagram itself, some work for vogue - variety has said to be the spice of life. 

I came across a few discussions about Portra film, part of the Kodak family and used mainly for portraits, (hence the name?). This is something I had seen used across the spectrum of the different photographers I follow. It said to be “extremly fine grain” and perfect in created that faded, pretty pastel portrait.

20 minutes later, I was placing an order for 5xrolls of 36 exposure 35mm Portra 160 film. A treat, and one I could certainly justify as I proceeded to begin yet another university project. With the deal I found on amazon, it’s only a smudge pricier than other films, so really, there was no debating. 

So, here is my first shoot using it. And what do I think?

Well, this is a hard one. As I scanned in my negatives and watched the photographs pop up on my screen, I was actually quite disappointed. I thought I was going to gasp and be blown away at the beauty in front of me, and
really, I just felt as if they were kind of lacklustre. 


I took boring pictures of food (I had to do a preliminary shoot surrounding food/drink and it’s placement in the still life sector of fine art) (yeah… exactly). I took them on a day the garden was bathed in stark, white sunlight - a factor I believe adds to the washed-out look of some of them. It even says on the box “For EXCEPTIONAL skin tones” - hint hint, this is a film for faces! 

I sent away for prints after heavily fiddling around in photoshop with curves, saturation and even HSL adjust. (The ones I am showing here are 100% edit free).

After leaving it a few days and coming back, I am far more fond of the results. They have an effortlessly nostalgic tone, a smooth, classy vintage feel. I don’t blame the film - I blame myself as a photographer. I should have known to have picked a film the specialises in vibrant tones, if that was the look I was after. Why would I use a film that was good for faces, on food? They are two completely different subject matters, and just because Portra can make a face look beautiful, doesn’t mean it can do the same for a fried egg. 

Viewing them now, I feel as if I am looking at photographs taken 20 years ago on a relatives trusty camera of the time. Except… they probably were taking pictures of their friends on holiday… not random things on a paper plate on grass! 

Overall, my enthusiasm and excitement for this film has NOT diminished, and I am looking forward to rounding my friends up to take pictures of them on Portra, instead.

(Results to follow!)

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