Color Film Stocks: The Ultimate List For A Vibrant Summer

Summer themed shot of couple at the beach. Shot by Clay Austin on Kodak Portra 400 film stock

Summer brings longer days and bright light, perfect for capturing vibrant photos. But these sunny conditions can be challenging, too, especially when it comes to choosing the right film stocks. The type of film you use can change how your photos look, influencing colors, contrast, and even the amount of detail.


If you're not sure which 35mm color film stock to use for your summer photography, we can help. We've put together a list of top film stocks that work well in the strong summer light and bring out the season's vibrant colors. These films offer a great mix of technical quality and artistic look for your photos.

Why use color film for summer?

Summer is filled with bright colors. From the soft colors of early morning to the golden light at sunset, every hour of a summer day offers something special. This is why many photographers love using color film in summer. Unlike digital photography, color film captures the full range of summer colors in a unique way, making photos feel more natural and real. With color film, you can capture the feel of a summer day - its warmth, its brightness, and all its colors.

 Kodak Color Film Stocks

Understanding color film stocks:

Color film is a type of photographic film that can capture images in color. It's made of a plastic base coated with layers of chemicals. These chemicals react when they're exposed to light, recording the image you see through your camera lens.


Now, let's look at the factors that can change how a photo taken with color film looks:

  • ISO: This tells you how sensitive your film is to light. Film with a lower ISO number (like ISO 100 or 200) needs a lot of light to work well, but it can give you very clear and detailed photos. Film with a higher ISO number (like ISO 800 or 1600) doesn't need as much light, but your photos might look grainier.


  • Grain: This is the tiny speckled texture you sometimes see in photos. Grain is more noticeable in photos taken with high ISO films or in underexposed photos. Some photographers like the look of grain because it can add an artistic or vintage feel to the images.


  • Contrast: This is the difference between the darkest and lightest parts of your photo. High-contrast photos have very dark shadows and bright highlights, which can make the photo look more dramatic. Low-contrast photos have a softer look, with less difference between the darks and lights.


  • Saturation: This is how intense or vibrant the colors in your photo are. Highly saturated photos have bold, bright colors, while less saturated photos have more muted or faded colors. Different film stocks can produce different levels of saturation. You can also affect saturation by overexposing or underexposing your film.


Remember, there's no right or wrong when it comes to these variables. It all depends on what kind of look you want for your photos.


Recommended Color Film Stocks for Summer Shooting:

Kodak Ektar 100 Color Film Stock

Kodak Ektar 100: a professional-grade 35mm film stock ideal for capturing vibrant scenes under bright lighting conditions. It is celebrated for its ultra-fine grain, high saturation, and sharp detail. Here are some key characteristics:


  • Fine Grain: Kodak Ektar 100 is renowned for its extremely fine grain. This helps deliver high-resolution images with plenty of sharpness and detail.


  • High Saturation: Ektar 100 offers some of the highest saturation of any color negative film on the market. It's excellent for capturing vibrant, vivid colors, and is especially loved for its rich blues and reds.


  • Contrast: The film provides a moderate to high level of contrast, which aids in producing striking images.


  • ISO: With an ISO of 100, this film is best suited for bright, outdoor shooting conditions. It's less ideal for low-light conditions unless you're using a tripod or a camera with excellent stabilization.


  • Versatility: This film stock excels in landscape and nature photography due to its color rendition and fine grain. It is also versatile enough to handle a wide variety of shooting scenarios like portraiture and street photography.


  • Scanning and Printing: Ektar 100 is designed to be easy to scan, making it a great choice if you plan to digitize your negatives. It also produces beautiful prints with a wide dynamic range.

 Scanned images of Kodak ektar 100 film stock

Images by Mallory Gardner and Jennifer Lawrence 


 Here’s what a couple of our clients had to say about Kodak Ektar 100:

"Ektar is everything. It screams happiness with its bold colors and low grain. It is a tricky film to master, but it is magic in almost every lighting condition once you do... my favorite is full sun. It is fantastic in 35mm and 120, and I use it for everything, from portraits to landscapes. It makes every subject shine.

My favorite way to shoot it for clients, and personal work, is in full sun. When the sun is high, I rate Ektar at box speed and meter for the shadows, and I let the film work its magic." – Jennifer Lawrence


"High noon is dreaded for most photographers. Where I live in California, 90% of the days are sunny and bright. I really wanted to find a way to embrace the sun without compromising my aesthetic or skin tones. I was tired of being dependent on golden hour to run a business. Now I can shoot most of the day without fear! Ektar has such a beautiful saturation and contrast. It's my go-to film stock." – Mallory Gardner


Kodak Portra 400 Color Film Stock

Kodak Portra 400: A popular 35mm film that stands out for its fine grain, excellent color rendition, versatility in various lighting situations, and its ability to beautifully capture skin tones. Here are some of its key characteristics:


  • Versatility: With an ISO of 400, Portra 400 is a versatile film that performs well in a variety of lighting situations. It can be used outdoors in bright light as well as indoors or in lower light.


  • Color Rendition: Portra 400 is known for its exceptional color rendition. It reproduces skin tones beautifully, which makes it a popular choice for portrait photography. It also captures a wide range of colors accurately and subtly.


  • Fine Grain: Despite its relatively high speed (ISO 400), Portra 400 has a fine grain structure. This results in smooth and detailed images.


  • Contrast and Saturation: Portra 400 offers moderate contrast and color saturation. Rendering images that are vivid yet natural-looking. This makes it a great choice for photographers aiming for a balanced, true-to-life aesthetic.


  • Latitude: One of the advantages of Portra 400 is its excellent exposure latitude. This means it's very forgiving of exposure mistakes. You can underexpose or overexpose it by several stops and still get usable, pleasing results.


  • Scanning and Printing: Portra 400 scans well and is compatible with both C-41 processing and digital printing workflows. It produces prints with good color depth and a wide tonal range.


These characteristics make Kodak Portra 400 a versatile and reliable film stock suitable for many types of photography.


Kodak Portra 400 Film Stock Summer Images Shot by Audra WrisleyKodak Portra 400 photos shot by Audra Wrisley


Here’s what our clients had to say about shooting with Kodak Portra 400 film:

"My go-to favorite is Portra 400. It never lets me down! I love the consistent, creamy skin tones and the flexibility of this stock. I shoot it at 320 and love it a little extra on sunny days—it handles harsh midday light perfectly. With my custom Color PAC with Richard, I cool down the warmth of the tones slightly. It’s just the right fit for my work: dreamy skin tones and a little bit of extra punch and contrast." – Audra Wrisley


"Portra 400 all day! The dynamic range it gives in harsh, super bright sunlight is awesome, and I know I’ll be able to retain detail in a high contrast scene. I also know I’ve got a lot of latitude to overexpose even more than usual if I don’t want to stop down for a particular scene—even if the light is bright." – Chris Isham

 Kodak Gold 200 Color Film Stock

Kodak Gold 200: A versatile 35mm film ideal for capturing detailed and vibrant photos. Known for its fine grain, warm color palette, and ability to perform well in various lighting conditions.


  • ISO: As the name suggests, Kodak Gold 200 has an ISO rating of 200, making it a good all-around film for various lighting conditions. It's best suited for bright to moderate outdoor light but can handle indoor shooting with flash.


  • Grain: Kodak Gold 200 offers fine grain for an ISO 200 film. This results in a good level of detail in the final images.


  • Color Rendition: Gold 200 is loved for its warm color palette. It renders skin tones nicely and gives a slight boost to colors like reds and yellows, adding a touch of warmth and vibrancy to your photos.


  • Contrast and Saturation: Kodak Gold 200 produces images with moderate contrast and saturation. It's not as punchy as some other films, but it provides a good balance for most shooting scenarios, yielding photos that are vibrant yet realistic.


  • Versatility: Gold 200 is a versatile film that performs well in a variety of shooting situations. Its ISO, color rendition, and fine grain make it suitable for everything from portraiture to landscape photography.


  • Affordability: Kodak Gold 200 is also known for its affordability. It's less expensive than some other film stocks, making it a popular choice for those who are experimenting with film photography.


  • Scanning and Printing: Kodak Gold 200 scans well and offers good detail and color depth in prints. It's compatible with the standard C-41 processing.


Kodak Gold 200 Film Stock Image examples

Images shot by Albany Katz, Madeline Dignadice, and Mallory Jane 


Tips for Shooting with Color Film in Summer

Summer is the ideal time to shoot color film as it brings out the vibrant hues and rich tones in the environment. Here are some tips for shooting color film this summer season.

  • Shoot During the Golden Hours: Golden Hours are the hours just after sunrise or just before sunset. These time frames offer softer, warmer light that can bring out beautiful, rich colors on film.


  • Embrace the Midday Sun: While midday sunlight can be harsh, it can also create striking, high-contrast images. Try shooting subjects in the shade or use the harsh shadows to your advantage in creating dramatic compositions.


  • Use a Polarizing Filter: A polarizing filter can help manage reflections and reduce glare, especially when shooting around water or other reflective surfaces. It can also intensify the blueness of the sky and make the colors in your scene pop.


  • Meter for Shadows and Highlights: When dealing with the high contrast of summer light, consider metering for the shadows to ensure you capture enough detail there. Even if it means your highlights end up being a bit overexposed. Alternatively, you can meter for the highlights to prevent them from being blown out, which may result in your shadows going very dark. Which approach you choose depends on the scene and your creative vision.


  • Use a Neutral Density (ND) Filter: If the sunlight is too intense, consider using an ND filter. This is like sunglasses for your camera—it reduces the amount of light coming into the lens. This allows you to use slower shutter speeds or wider apertures than you normally could in bright light.


  • Understand Your Film's Latitude: Some films have a wider latitude (the ability to retain detail in shadows and highlights) than others. If you know your film has a wide latitude, you can worry less about overexposing or underexposing your shots.


  • Protect Your Film: Heat can affect film, so try to keep your camera and film out of direct sunlight when you're not shooting. Also, store unused film in a cool place.



As we've explored, summer is a prime season for shooting color film. The vibrant hues and rich tones of summer can truly come alive when captured on color film. Every photographer's taste and style is unique, and so the best way to discover your favorite summer film stock is simply to experiment. Try different films, explore various settings, and don't be afraid to make mistakes. It's all part of the journey.

Whether you're a fan of the vivid colors of Kodak Ektar, the soft tones of Portra, or the warmth of Gold 200, there's a film out there that can bring your summer scenes to life. Enjoy the process, and here's to a summer full of vibrant, memorable images! 

Ready to process your rolls of film from your summer adventure? Get your order started here.

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