This is a film I only tried once, and by chance. I wasn’t able to make the most of it since I used it on a camera I was just getting to know, but it’s a film I definitely want to try out again soon.
The first thing you should know about a film before using it is what it was originally developed for and what uses you can give it to make the most of it. That was my first mistake regarding this film. In order for you not to make the same error, let me tell you what I figured out later about it. But let’s not go too far. A film’s commercial name sometimes means nothing, but in this case, the words Kodak Portra 160 NC tell you almost everything you need to know about the film: Portra stands for “portrait”, 160 is the film’s ASA/ISO and NC stands for “Natural Colors”. as opposed to the Vibrant Colors of the “Portra VC”.
So that pretty much explains itself! This film was first developed for professional purposes, mainly for fashion photography and weddings or other outdoor portraits (this being due mainly to its rather slow speed). My experience in this description just nailed it.
I first got my hands on some Kodak Portra 160 NC when I purchased my Holga 135 BC, as it came as a gift from the seller. I was only getting started with Lomography per se since I had been taking pictures with my Dad’s old SLR for several years now, but I was just getting my head around plastic camera’s logic. Kodak Portra 160 NC was the second film I used on my Holga, and I know today I wouldn’t use it the same way I did back then. The main mistake I made is that I didn’t realize that 160 ASA is quite low speed for a camera with almost no possibility of adjusting speed and aperture, and most of my photos were taken indoors, therefore resulting too dark on the negative.
I only shot a few portraits with this film, but I am very pleased with them! The skin tone is very soft and natural, and I personally love this combined with Holga BC’s dark vignettes. They may seem rather pale for an x-pro color lover, but as we Spanish-speakers say, the taste is found in variety!
The bunny shots on my balcony weren’t as lucky; the colors seem a little too faded for me.
The film also worked perfectly good combined with a flash. I noticed that comparing the outdoor photos and the indoor+flash ones, the colors remain very similar, which is something I appreciate a lot.
I have yet to try this film on different conditions and to different subjects, cause I have a feeling it would work just fine with landscapes as well, giving them a very soft vintage look. I am positive I will give this film another chance, cause even though I’m quite a sucker for vibrant colors, I think the softness of the skin tones this film delivers makes beautiful portraits.