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When You Want Those Vintage Colors, Think Expired Kodak Portra 160 NC

Want a film that looks like memories? For a color negative film, this emulsion gives you some unexpected results, beautiful pastel range of colors with blue skies taking a beautiful shade and reds popping.

Photo by traaaart

The manager at the lab I use asked me one day, since I use lots of weird old films and whatnot, if I would like a bag of old film she had in her garage. She said it was all long expired and that when she last moved, it left the fridge and moved to it’s new home in a hot garage for over a year. Of course I said yes!! It was mostly TMax 400 and some 3200, but there were a couple color negative rolls, one of them being a roll of Kodak Portra 160 NC. One clear, winter day, I threw it in one of my oldest cameras, a Siluet Elektro, since it’s the only camera I had at the time with a 160 ISO setting. Focus is tricky on that camera, so when I got my negatives back, I didn’t get as many winning shots as I do on my LC-A+, but WOW, those colors!!

You get such beautiful, slightly washed out colors, not like boring old Fuji Superia, but with it’s own vintage look. Great for those nostalgic photo shoots.

Portra NC is supposed to be the less saturated film when compared to Portra VC. Portra NC is very nicely suited for portrait photography, but don’t let that fool you, it still takes beautiful landscapes. I think this film provides the most dynamic color shift of any color negative film, almost akin to cross-processing slide film minus the saturation. Most of the colors get turned slightly pastel and washed out, while the reds pop very nicely, making for great colors in light leaks.

Ideally, you want to shoot this outside, with skies clear or cloudy. The white balance of this film makes it look great even with a flash. Oddly, this film does not look the best in that “golden hour” light. I’ve read a lot of people over-expose by 1/3 step to one whole step, to get more detail in the shadows. I can understand how you might want to do that, but as you can see, exposing it as recommended work pretty darn well.

Now since Kodak has unfortunately ceased production on all their awesome slide films, this is one of the coolest emulsions still coming from the Kodak factory. I think you can expect similar results from Portra 160 NC when it’s fresh as well. But since this was, and still is a very popular film for professional portrait photographers, there’s a lot of old stock sitting in freezers from when many pros switched to digital. There’s a lot of expired stock available online.

In the end, you may be thinking, “I have a lot of different kinds of film, do I really need to go out of my way to try another color negative film?” The answer is YES! This is truly a unique emulsion, and in the spirit of Lomography, we should all be yearning to experiment with as many different kinds of film and techniques as possible! Kodak Portra 160 expired deserves it’s place on the shelf of the freezer next to the best of the best slide films. Lomo on!!

The Kodak Portra 160 NC 35mm offers everything a professional portrait photographer could ask for. Fine grain, smooth skin tones, natural colours, this film has it all. See the whole range of colour negatives in our Shop.

written by traaaart

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