Whether you’re a film photographer or a fan of the film aesthetic I’m sure you’ve heard about Kodak Portra 400. It’s one of the most popular emulsions still available today, so much that I’m sure there are lots of filters and presets inspired by it.
It’s an especially beloved film among portrait and wedding photographers, both in 35mm and 120 formats. However, that doesn’t mean those are all it’s good for. Street photographers have also been picking it up in the recent years as a quick search on YouTube and the like will reveal! However, it’s actually interesting that they’re getting good results out of it, as UK-based Hiroshi Tabata shows in the video above of his snaps in London and Brighton.
What makes Kodak Portra 400 stand out
Before we dissect Hiroshi’s showcase, let’s first analyze what all the fuss for Portra is all about. According to the film’s data sheet from Kodak Alaris this film is a fine grain, high-speed color negative film at true ISO 400 speed. That makes it great for shooting both indoors and outdoors in any shooting situation that needs a fast film.
Kodak also dubbed this as the top choice for portrait and fashion photography, and we do see it consistently and widely used for those. This is due to the film’s vivid saturation, low contrast, and impressive rendering of skin tones.
The slightly muted, almost creamy colors of Kodak Portra 400 creates a clean and airy look that it has come to be known for. So, any subject or project that can benefit from these qualities is fair game for this famed film.
Interesting results for street photography
Going back to Hiroshi’s photos — which he shot with a Leica M6, by the way — I think he ended up with some really interesting street photos, especially because they had a lot of people in them. He proved this film’s reputation for spectacular skin tones, and even the colors pop in the city setting. I’d really like to see him shoot more deliberate street portraits with it!
On a side note, with Kodak Portra 400 technically being a professional film, it’s one of the more pricey options for shooting street photos on film. So if you do decide to pick up some rolls and hit the streets with them, you’ll surely feel a little pressured to make each shot count. I hope Hiroshi’s photos gave you some ideas on what to look out for when doing street photography with this popular emulsion!
Don’t forget to check out Streets Ahead on YouTube for more of Hiroshi Tabata’s street photography tips and inspiration.
Screenshot images from the video