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Film speed

(Cover image credit: samyari)


What is film speed?

Film speed is the measure of a photographic film’s sensitivity to light.  It is the number you will see on your box of film & film canister & refers to the ISO rating of the film.  Film speed (ISO), working in conjunction with aperture & shutter speed, will determine the captured image. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitivity to light & therefore a brighter image.  Picking the right film speed to use is an important first step in the images you wish to photograph.


Different film speeds

Slow film speed – ISO 200 & below

For bright conditions & outdoor photography, use film with ISO 100 or 200.  As the film is slower, more light will be required for correct exposures.  Without the necessary light, the images may be blurry or too dark.  


Photo taken with Kodak 200 film

Film Speed Example | Adelaide Film Photography

(image credit: filmphotography)


Medium film speed – ISO 400

For general purpose use.  Think of this speed as an all rounder to be great in most situations.  Images can be captured without high amounts of lighting & moving objects easily captured.  


Photo taken with Kodak Portra 400

Film Photography Example of Light Speed | PhotoCo

(image credit: fstoppers)


Fast film speed – ISO 800 & above

Great for capturing fast moving objects & for low light conditions without blur.  


Photo taken with Cinestill 800

Film Photography Adelaide Example

(image credit: onfilmonly)


Use this guide as a general tool to help with what film speed you should use the next time you load a roll into your camera.  Have a think about the images you wish to capture & what sort of lighting conditions you will encounter.  My best advice would be to try out different film speeds & different brands of film to discover their unique characteristics & see which works best for you & in what situations.  Happy shooting!