Kodak Portra 160 // Kirk Mastin

We welcome Kirk Mastin to the club to introduce July's surprise roll of 35mm film.

Hi Kirk, greetings from Scotland and welcome to Canister. Can you tell us a little about your work as a photographer and how long you’ve been shooting film.

I’ve been a photographer for nearly my whole adult life. I actually went to school for Environmental Science (I loved the outdoors) but after dating a photographer while living in South Africa, I realized that photography was my true passion. After returning to the United States I audited some photojournalism classes at Northern Arizona University. I worked my way up through interning at a local newspaper, to doing commercial, stock photography, and editorial assignments for national magazines and newspapers. Eventually the poor pay and long hours gave me the idea to try wedding photography instead. Two kids, two mortgages and one marriage later, I made the transition after 20 years of wedding photography to creating film emulation software via Mastin Labs. I now only shoot personal projects. I couldn't be happier! During this entire time I shot film, even though digital was replacing film at all levels of the industry. Film just spoke to me in a way that digital never could.

So what does your average day look like?

On an average day I get to my office at 9am and work with my team to make film emulation software until 4pm. This could include creating and shooting test shoots, to managing email automation or website design. After work I sometimes head down to PIke’s Place Market or a similarly crowded part of the city to shoot a few hours of street photography. I’m also constantly taking photos of my kids, and travel photos from any adventures we go on. I typically use either Filmborn for iPhone (which I created) or my Mamiya 7 or Fuji Klasse S. These are my favorite cameras :)


Couple embracing sat in a rowing boat © Mastin Studio 2017

And what qualities do you think shooting on film brings to your wedding and editorial work, both in the process of capturing the images and the final results?

Film has a timeless organic feel and really blows digital out of the water in terms of emotional intensity. Also, the process of shooting film is much more intentional and really flexes a visualization part of the brain that digital cannot. I shoot less, but better photos when shooting film, and I am much happier over the long term with how my film images look compared to my older digital work. I rarely shoot digital besides Filmborn. I don’t have any desire to use a traditional DSLR at all.

At our first meet-ups it was great that so many folks who came along were very new to film or were looking to shoot their very first roll. So we decided to introduce a classic film type for July. Tell us why you love Kodak Portra 160.

Portra 160 is a very versatile film that can give you a beautiful clean look at ISO100 or ISO160 if you meter for the shadows. At the same time, you can also push Portra 160 one or two stops to get a completely different and edgier look from box speed. The only drawback to Portra 160 is that it is a relatively slow film if you shoot it for a clean look at ISO100 or ISO160.

Bride and groom in distance outside a church © Mastin Studio 2017Beautiful bride looking over shoulder © Mastin Studio 2017

Any quick tips or advice on shooting with Portra 160?

Rate it at ISO100 and meter for the shadows. You can’t go wrong!

Great tip!. At Canister we love digital too but we firmly believe there’s a place for film. I’ve heard you talk about “a third place for photographers” between digital and film. Can you tell us about this idea and the evolution of Mastin Labs?

Hybrid photography is blending the best from digital and film photography. Digital is unsurpassed in low light and mixed light, while film is superior when it comes to skin tones and micro-contrast. Mastin Labs came about from my own desire to make my digital and film work match from a single event so that when I deliver a set of images to a client it is completely consistent. There was no product on the market that emulated film the way that I like to shoot and scan my film (on a Fuji Frontier SP3000) so I started from scratch to make my own solutions. I shared these presets with friends and eventually was encouraged to make it into a business. It’s really taken off from there and I am so happy to be part of the hybrid movement!

And finally, any advice for people starting out on their film photography journey?

Just try to shoot your first roll. Once you do that, you will be hooked and you won’t have any fear of failure. I recommend that if you are shooting color negative film, ALWAYS err on the side of overexposure. Color negative is hard to mess up with overexposure. But just a little too much underexposure will make any film look terrible. 
I actually created a free film course to get people shooting film confidently in a few days. I highly recommend it.

Kirk, cheers and thanks again for your time. Hopefully the Portra will bring out the sun this month in Scotland and we can put your advice to good use.

Thanks for having me! Go shoot more film!!

Kirk Mastin is the founder and CEO of Mastin Labs. He has shot for the New York Times, LA Times, and has work featured in National Geographic Adventure and Time magazine. Prior to founding Mastin Labs in 2013, Kirk shot weddings on digital and film with his company Mastin Studio.

Photo credit © Mastin Studio 2017 / Kodak Portra 160