Shooting with a certain type of film stock is a conscious choice that the photographer makes. How do I want the colors to look? Do I want the palette to be pastel or more bright and punchy? Digital photographers decide this in post-processing when they edit the files that they took with their digital camera. But a film photographer decides this beforehand and chooses a particular film stock for the look it will produce.
I like to share the film love around and so I am not wedded to a certain stock. However, in the past two years I have been working at a more consistent color palette for my commissioned work from weddings and portraits. While I favored Fuji 400H in the beginning (this is the stock Jose Villa and Elizabeth Messina use), I have moved more towards Kodak Portra. Portra 400 has a bit more warmth in it and it is punchier to me. I feel the skintones are more realistic as sometimes Fuji can look too pink or take on greenish casts in the shadows.
In a recent portrait shoot for Janie Rocek, a Northern Colorado wedding hair stylist and makeup artist, I decided to test the two together. I used my Mamiya 645 Afd (a medium format camera) with the Fuji 400H film, and I used my Canon EOS 1n (a 35mm camera) with the Portra 400. I feel the colors are very similar but the Portra has a bit more punch to me. I wish my other 645 camera’s batteries were charged so I could compare the same scene and light with a roll of Portra 400 (medium format film looks a little bit different from 35mm film).
Which do you prefer? And does it really matter which film it is, or whether is film or digital? To me, it is the eye of the photographer and the poses and compositions. For sure, it is enhanced with the use of film (film photography oozes luxury to me!), but in the end it is the eye of the artist and how they interpret the scene.