How to Shoot Film Indoors

How do you shoot film indoors? We hear this question a lot! Here are our top tips to avoid turning your beautiful shoot into a high contrast mess:⁠

Know your Contrast Ratio

Contrast is all around us and is an essential part of photography. Some scenes have higher contrast than others, it all comes down to the time of day and location.

Knowing your contrast ratio is crucial when determining the best shutter speed for a scene (and your aesthetic). Don’t fret—they are quick and easy to measure!

Let’s say you are shooting Fuji Pro400H metered at 200 ISO with an aperture of f/2.8. Here’s how to measure your Contrast Ratio:⁠

💡 Take a meter reading bulb out toward your light source (1) and a second meter reading pointing away from your light source (2).⁠

💡 Let’s say your highlight reading (1) gives you a shutter speed of 1/500 and your shadow reading (2) gives you a shutter speed 1/125.⁠

💡 Determine how many stops there are between (1) and (2). In our example, there are 2 stops. Ergo, your contrast ratio = 2 stops (a ratio of 4:1).⁠

💡 Now that you know the contrast ratio of your specific scene, you have a choice to make: Where you want the most information in your image—in the highlights or in the shadows? This will help you determine your shutter speed:⁠⠀

⁠🏳️ If you want more detail in the highlights, choose (1) and use a shutter speed of 1/500.⁠⠀

🏴 If you want more detail in the shadows, choose (2) and use a shutter speed of 1/125.⁠⠀

🏳️+🏴 What if you want detail in both? Simple—split the difference and use a shutter speed of 1/250 (which is the stop between 1/500 and 1/125).

And there you have it, film fam! You now know how to calculate your Contrast Ratio!

Use a reflector.

When photographing in a large room, the light can fade from the shadow side of your subject quickly, creating high contrast. All you need is a reflector or a white sheet, shirt, pillow or towel. Anything that is white that can help bounce light back into the shadows of your scene and reduce contrast! (In fact, Anna Peters used a towel from the bathroom as a reflector during this shoot!)

Pick one light source and stick with it.

When shooting with natural light, be sure to turn off ALL other light sources in the room or hallway. Though different lighting may not look too different to the human eye, film will definitely pick up these color shifts.

Last week's tip on shooting film indoors brought many questions on Contrast Ratio—and understandably so! It can be a tough concept to grasp, but one we wish more photographers knew + utilized! Knowing how to calculate your Contrast Ratio gives you greater control over your end image. And who doesn't want that?!


Give us a call, we're happy to help: (503) 588-3686.

📷 by Anna Peters on Kodak Portra400 with a Contax645 at Villa Ivana in Italy.⁠