Kodak Portra 400 – Moody Creative Portraits on Film

This is the third roll of Kodak Portra 400 used for my project. I was well prepared for these moody artistic photos, had scouted the locations, prepared a mood board, and sample photos, and searched for my muse for this photoshoot. So why not make the most of it? This creative portrait photoshoot took place in the same area as my street fashion weekend in Kuala Lumpur. I used my Fujifilm X-T4 and Yashica film camera as usual.

After the Kodak film price increase in early 2022, one roll of Portra 400 now costs roughly RM120 (around USD27), which is more than double the price before the price increase, when you can easily get one roll for RM70 (around USD15). It may not be worth it if you are shooting casually or for fun, but if you are shooting for projects, commercials, or fashion shoots, you might still consider using this pricey film stock.

I had planned to use the Contax G1 for the creative portrait session, but I was disappointed to find that it had been returned to the seller because of camera issues. Therefore, I have to shoot with my Yashica camera instead. By the way, I still like what the Contax G1 photos look like.

Alright, let’s move on. For this creative shoot, I have done a lot of research about the shooting location and test shooting with the Kodak motion picture films before the actual shoot. The moody creative portrait photo shoot was inspired by Wong Kar Wai films, and I discovered that the site is ideal for this type of shoot, especially with the tungsten lighting. I was nervous about using the Yashica film camera to shoot Kodak Portra 400 in low light. But, in the end, the outcomes are just what I had intended.

It’s perfect.

Shooting Kodak Portra 400 Film at Box Speed

Kodak Portra 400 Film Low Light
Kodak Portra 400 Film in Low Light

I was pleased with the outcome this film photography for portraits. I was shooting at box speed using the Kodak Portra 400, with the camera’s ASA set at 400. I did not use a diffusion lens filter or overexpose the film, which would result in colour shift. To keep the colour, contrast, and shadows, I maintained everything at film speed.

I was shooting at aperture f8 outdoor when there are slightly cloudy with the sunlight casting from 45 degrees, and reflection from buildings around. I did get some best portrait shots here with catchlights in the eyes.

As I don’t have a flash for indoor low-light conditions, I shoot it under the tungsten light with a wide-open aperture at f2. With the Yashica film camera, it does look a little blurred due to the out of focus but this is exactly what I wanted just like in the movie.

Kodak Portra 400 Mirror Reflection
Kodak Portra 400 Low Light Tungsten

The weather and outdoor lighting condition in the morning are good too. I was able to get a few nice moody portrait shots of Jie Yi although some shot might be out of focus still looks great! I like the warm colour tone of the Kodak Portra 400 with high contrast background. What I like about the shoot is almost all the photos have catch light in her eyes, which makes these photos look attractive and eyes the windows to the soul, the cheesy way to say it.

Jie Yi - Kodak Portra 400 Film Gallery

My creative shots are inspired by the model’s moody looks and gestures. Despite her casual clothes, Jie Yi’s poses and facial expressions portray everything from youth, moodiness, and innocence. I’ve always wanted to get all of the artistic expression photos.

Shooting Digital With Creative Portraits Film Simulation Recipe

Fujifilm X-T4 Portrait Jie Yi

Other than shooting with Kodak Portra 400 with the film camera, I also use my portrait film simulation recipe, the Downtown Bloom for outdoor and Cira 800 for the indoor session. I used my Fujifilm camera as a backup camera in case something happened to my film camera; at the very least, I had some digital backups. I enjoy the pictures with backlighting and the squatting poses.

I use higher camera angles mainly in the shoot, to match the portrait poses, mood and expression of the subject. These poses are mentioned in the advanced portrait photography techniques I’ve used for all my portrait shoots. This time, I tried to take at the right exposure without overexposing too much, using just approximately +0.3 exposure correction depending on the ambient. It was because the subject was wearing a white t-shirt, and using diffusion filters could easily overexpose the highlights in that spot unless I use the ND filter.

Jie Yi - Fujifilm X-T4 SOOC Gallery

Final Thoughts

That’s it. I finally got the creative portrait results I’d always dreamed of. I tried not to compare my images to those on Instagram, which may have all been retouched, but my objective here is to shoot SOOC JPEG on film and digital. There may be some tweaks for photos taken with the Fujifilm X-T4, however, they are generally exposure compensation slight changes with the Fujifilm X Raw Studio.

There are no further adjustments have been made to the film photos. The film is developed and scanned by Darkroom8 Malaysia one day after the shoot with express service done in about 2 hours.

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