My five favorite films

A subjective look at an emulsion-al subject

This is a very personal and subjective list of my favorite color and black-and-white print films. Each has a distinctive character.

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Can you emulate the look these films offer digitally? Yes—but in most cases, it takes a bit of post-processing. These will give you the “look” right out of the box!

Kodak Portra 
A fine grain film that’s available in both moderate and high-saturated versions, a favorite of wedding photographers because of its low contrast and ability to capture a wide dynamic range. Available in ISO 160 and 400 in 35mm and medium format.

Kodak Tri-X
Classic grain and wide range make this a fine “street” film that’s very forgiving (as much as 4.5 stops!) in tough light.

Ilford HP-5
Characteristics of HP-5 are similar to Tri-X, but when you develop it in a fine-grain developer such as Ethol UFG—my favorite film/developer combination--the grain takes on a softer, more ethereal quality.

Fuji Reala 100
While most color print film is forgiving when it comes to dynamic of light intensity, Reala is the most forgiving of different sources of light. It renders a wide range of light sources in a natural-to-the-eye manner. If you shoot in mixed light, this film outshines all other films as well as digital sensors.

Fujicolor Press 800
Availabvle in ISO 800, Fujicolor Press boasts a wide dynamic range, good color, and is very scanner-friendly. Originally marketed to the working press, it’s really a versatile all-around film.

Where to get film processed

Film processing labs have all but disappeared from Main Street, which is an inconvenience. But if you live near a retail chain store such as Target, Wal-Mart or Costco or a drug store chain such as Rite-Aid (and who doesn’t these days?) you can find a photoprocessing lab that can handle film and do a decent job.

Use a store whose processing facilities are on the premises rather than those who just have you put the film in a pouch to be shipped off and processed remotely. Keeping the film on the premises means less risk of damage in transit due to extreme temperatures, and reduces the chances of the film getting mislaid.

Alternatively, you can simply buy prepaid photoprocessing envelopes when you buy film, although again, the risk of sending film to be processed is higher than hand-delivering it to a lab.

I chose several walk-in and mail-order film photoprocessing labs. Read Color Film Processing: Mailers vs. Big Boxes to find out the results.


Or—especially if you shoot black-and-white—you can do it yourself!

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