“Miss Kozun, you look fantastic! Love the outfit” … “Thanks! It was either this or I was going to be wearing a giraffe onesie all day!”

Oh, 2020, what a strange year you have been! Thankfully with only a few days left, Kristi and I managed to squeeze in a little respite of normal and do some photos! With indoor activities being quite tightly restricted these days because of the pandemic, we were glad for some beautiful weather to shoot outside (not a thing to be taken for granted in Canada in December).

Part of the project was to test a new-to-me Canon AE-1 I had recently been given. Alongside shooting a roll of B&W to do that, we shot this roll of Portra 160 with the AE-1 I already owned paired with my FD 70-210mm f/4. Some photographers regard a lens like this (and perhaps any zoom, really) as inferior, but I consider it my most reliable for portraits. I’m satisfied with the sharpness and background blur, and 70mm means you can step back and shoot a full-length portrait and still be within easy speaking distance.

What I was less familiar with was Portra 160. Like many things, the Internet was a fountain of knowledge on the subject, but most of it was contradictory. Shoot it at 100. Shoot is at 125. Film should only EVER be shot at box speed! In the end, I decided to shoot it at 125. However, it didn’t matter that much. Our location, with such a light coloured background, threw the in-camera metering off anyhow. Recognizing this, I calculated exposure by eye (based on Sunny 16) and confirmed by taking a closer reading just from her dress.

Kristi isn’t a stereotypical size XXS model. But I’ve always thought she has lovely features and great style. She buys almost all her clothes second-hand at thrift stores. And this dress and jacket ensemble in gorgeous Christmas colours was no exception. I think it takes a certain amount of confidence to intentionally choose a look that’s a bit outside the mainstream. At any rate, that’s what I was hoping we could capture in the hour or so we spent together. We worked on finding the angles that would be most flattering and capture her at her best. Having a short step ladder definitely helped here.

I was really pleased with the results when I got them back from the lab. Kodak isn’t wrong when they print “for exceptional skin tones” on the box of Portra 160. My sense is that it may be a little less forgiving of over/underexposure than 400, but still best to err on the side of over when in doubt. I’ll be adding it as a regular to my arsenal for sure!

~ Josh

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About the author

Avatar - Josh Knowles

Josh Knowles

I'm just old enough that I learned photography on film. In high school, I wanted to be a professional photographer. However, life went a different direction and I ended up in ordained ministry. I rediscovered film photography a few years ago and dove in whole-heartedly....


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  1. Thanks Andrew! I thought her skin tone looked SO GOOD in these photos. I’ve been so pleased with the feedback I’ve gotten wherever I’ve shared these. The thrift shop chain Value Village even featured one of them for international women’s day.

    I don’t necessarily understand that popularity of the Canon AE-1 either. I mean, they sold a pile of them back in the 70s and 80s, so I guess there’s lots around. I’m not sure if there’s one particular influencer or if it’s just become a sort of hipster trope. I have two of them but both of them were given to me. I have an A-1 also, which is a much better camera though not nearly as well known, which I think is really strange. I wonder if it’s because the AE-1 has a more retro look about it whereas the A-1 is all black and looks more typically modern.

    I think part of the unpopularity if those longer zooms is because lots of younger people are buying film cameras for street photography and don’t want something bulky. That’s what the guy at my local shop who handles the used gear thinks. Everyone wants a nifty fifty or a 35mm lens. He can’t give sell the longer lenses either (unless they’re thrown in as a part of a kit).

  2. Thanks so much! Isn’t she great!? This was such a fun little project, especially coming as a welcome break in the midst of COVID restrictions.

  3. Apart from the fact that I love models with that lovely deep, pale skin…..marshmallow girls…..
    I’m puzzled by two things that this article brings up. One is the almost ridiculous popularity of the AE-1 and especially the AE-1 Program. Decent camera but no better than many others and yet people are spending double what they were worth a couple of years ago. Has some net influencer put a big tick of approval on them? I don’t think they are any better than the Nikon or Minolta equivalents (or Fujica or Yashica or…)
    Te other is on Sergio’s the unpopularity of lenses in the 70/80 -210mm range, especially good third party brands like Tamron and Tokina. They are decent performers and they are handy in a kit or on a digital with an adapter but people will not buy them. I even end up throwing one in when I sell a body and standard lens as a sweetner. At one point I had so many off-brand examples that I knew I could never sell that I broke them up for the larger lens elements – to use in Leadlight windows! (another hobby). Strange.

  4. Thanks Sergio. I was really impressed with the tones too. And it was just a lot of fun! I fully agree that the FD 70-210 is a really solid lens! Sometimes I think I should buy another one while the prices are low just to have a spare. Before some hipsters decide they’re the next big thing and start driving the prices up!

  5. Nice pictures, both for humour /personality and for technical results. Very good yield of tones.

    I would add that surely FD 70-210/4 FD is not a bad lens! I have been using two of them with good satisfaction for so many years (= I wore out the first one…). Really not the things that some people call “portrait lenses” in the sense that they’re blurry, vignetting or so.

    About FD zooms, if someone says that they’re B-lenses, I just ask them to try FD 80-200/4 L. The same size of 70-210, looks like a “normal” lens of the ’80, but it’s a monster. Impressive at any length and any aperture. And nowadays you can have a good piece for a ridiculous amount.