Divided: A Song of Portra and Fuji


I wasn’t sure what to call this post, but I finally settled on divided because that’s the place from which this post is being written. As I fast from social media, one of the most unexpected challenges I’ve felt is being prompted to reevaluate my film work….namely, film stocks. Film is such a huge part of my workflow now, it’s almost like questioning my work entirely! (yikes!) Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as all that. LOL! It’s more exciting than anything!

Here’s a short history of my loving relationship with film.

June 2017 - Shot my first rolls of film with point and shoot 35mm cameras, as well as drugstore film like Kodak UltraMax 400, Fujifilm Superia 400, and an assortment of expired films. The results were sub-par.

June-August 2017 - Acquired a super broken 35mm Canon EOS Rebel G that still worked, but you had to duct tape the back on so it wouldn’t fly open…:D LOL! The results weren’t very exciting.

November 2017 - Shot my first roll of Portra 400 on a newly acquired Canon EOS Elan IIe (now my 35mm camera of choice) after Hurricane Irma. Fell in love IMMEDIATELY with Kodak Portra 400 and film in general. I think I cried after getting my scans back. :)

December 2017 - Shot a few anniversary sessions completely on film so I could begin advertising January Film Sessions. My obsession with Kodak Portra 400 was solidified through these sessions. I also learned a lot from these rolls of film because little nuances here and there prompted me to seek questions from more knowledgeable sources.

January 2018 - I shot a few January Film Sessions completely on film, continued to cry when I got my scans, and made film sessions a regular offering. It was also during this month that I felt ready to step out of the realm of Portra 400 and photographed a portion of a senior session on FujiPro 400h. When I got the scans back and processed them, I loved them but didn’t have that happy-twisty-gut-feeling that I got when I shot Portra 400. I decided not to write it off just yet.

February-June 2018 - I continued to shoot a mixture of Portra 400 and FujiPro 400h without a light meter. Things turned out just great, but could be better. My experiences with Portra were consistently pleasing but Fuji was making it’s way down on my go-to film list. (I learned later that Fuji has an incredible latitude, and while it looks great up to 3 stops overexposed, I was missing that sweet spot for today’s popular wedding photography exposures since I wasn’t metering with a handheld.) Note(As I was typing this post, I clicked save after every few sections, but my last save deleted half of my blog post, and I don’t remember it in detail, so from here on out, it’s going to be super concise.) I blow my nose at you, so-called internet!!!

July-December 2018 - Graduated to medium format film and shot almost exclusively with Fuji 400h, sprinkled with some Portra here and there. Somewhere in there I shot a roll of Portra again and while I didn’t love the scans initially, they have grown on me and I want to shoot more Portra.

We arrive at my impasse.

My dilemma: do I shoot exclusively with the cool, Parisian rose Fuji or the organic, true Portra? If I shoot with both, I feel as though my brand will be inconsistent. Cool, rosy pics for one post and warm, saturated pics for another session just don’t sit well in my book. Sure artists can use any medium they want, but my point still stands. Both films have a distinctively different look.

I’m feeling a little divided because while Fuji may be the trend, Portra seems to do me right time and time again. It reflects my brand and myself so well. It feels like I’m actually shooting film, whereas Fuji makes me feel like I’m applying a preset. Weird.

And then to add to that, I was editing an engagement session this week and my final images leaned more towards the warmer palette than usual, which is so unlike me so far.

I haven’t made any stark decisions yet, as I have to shoot more Portra, but I’m going to ride with my gut and try to incorporate more of it into my sessions in leu of Fuji. For now, i’m going to re-share the images from those rolls of Portra that made me question which stock I’d like to shoot in. You may spot some familiar images in there! Enjoy!

Portra 400 | Pentax 645n | Canon EOS Elan IIe | TheFINDLab