I have recently started taking photos on 35mm film (I Love it :D )

Later this year I am planning on a trip to India (4 weeks during the monsoon season!)

What should I be considering when selecting a type of film to take with me/ that would be best suited to photographing in India?

FWIW I am planning on getting the film developed when I return from India


While I've never been to India, I've travelled in other countries of Southeast Asia. These are countries where you see vibrant colours everywhere. If it were I, I would shoot a reversal film because of the gorgeous results you get with such vibrant scenes. My preference is Fujifilm Provia, but many people rave about Velvia. If you can, try to shoot a test roll before you go.

Unless you are planning on using a slow zoom lens, or doing a lot of shooting at night or something, I would go with ISO 100. Though with a faster film, you might have more flexibility. Results are still great with higher ISO films, and you can always use a ND filter if necessary. (Unfortunately, some years ago Fujifilm decided to discontinue my very favourite film, Provia 400X, so you won't find ISO 400 reversal film anymore.)

If you're just going to be away for 4 weeks, you don't need to be overly concerned about keeping the film cold. Though if you have a fridge in your hotel room, it wouldn't do any harm to keep it in there. Don't subject the film to conditions where condensation could form on the film, e.g. allow the film to "acclimatise" when moving from cool to hot environments, and keep it in ziplock bags or something to protect from condensation forming. Obviously if you are going to be there during monsoon season, keep your film and camera dry. Take a look at How do I prepare frozen/refrigerated film for use?

Some people get really paranoid about airport x-ray scanning, but there's no need. Just ensure that you keep your film in your hand luggage. Checked luggage does indeed get subjected to stronger x-ray scanning. There was a test performed by the French civil aviation authority in 2010 and it showed that ISO 400 film can withstand 12-24 passes through hand luggage x-ray scanning, and ISO 100 film can withstand more than 24 passes.

One of my favourite photographers is Steve McCurry, who has photographed extensively in India, including during monsoon season (see photo below!). It's certainly worth checking him out for some inspiration. (By the way, I read years ago in a Kodak leaflet that Steve McCurry shot Kodak E100G film, so if you like his stuff, it could be worth giving the new Kodak Ektachrome a look.)

Steve McCurry in the monsoon

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  • 1
    +1 – "shoot a test roll before you go" – of each film you're considering. – xiota Feb 9 '19 at 16:49
  • Unfortunately, much of McCurry's work, particularly a lot of his more recent work in India, has turned out to be other than what it appears to be. – Michael C Feb 10 '19 at 1:00
  • Certainly worth mentioning Michael, thanks. But I think it's a stretch to say much of his work has turned out to be other than what it appears to be. What has happened is there have been instances of digital manipulation on his website, ostensibly for aesthetic purposes, without making it clear this was being done. His response is to claim he no longer considers himself a photojournalist, but rather a "visual storyteller". It is indeed disingenuous, but I can still appreciate the vast majority of his work. – osullic Feb 12 '19 at 12:13
  • Just to clarify... I mean there have been instances of digital manipulation discovered on his website. I don't intend to suggest that the digital manipulation is confined to his website. I can only suppose that a Steve McCurry gallery exhibition or monograph or whatever could also include digitally-manipulated images. – osullic Feb 12 '19 at 12:51

I'll buck the trend and say "whatever film you normally use". The last thing you want to be doing on a trip like this is experimenting. Also, if you do choose one of the contrasted/more saturated films, your skin tones will suffer. So think about priorities.

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While I like osullic answer a lot, I wanted to add this little extra:

Velvia is a bit more saturated than Provia, both are excellent films. Pick your poison, they’ll both do the job.

Grab a higher ISO color neg film. I’m fond of Portra 400, personally. This will get you by if you need the speed and still want to shoot color.

And keep a few rolls of black and white handy in case you find yourself shooting in really, really dim light. Get something you like that you can push. Delta3200 is common because you can shoot it from 800 through 12,800 (I wasn’t happy going that high, but hey, it is possible). HP5 is good at box (400) and does 800 pretty well, but I’ve never been happy going higher.

I’d personally add SFX200 to the bag, but that’s simply because I just really like it with a deep red filter.

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  • And yes, I travel with a lot of film unless space is an issue. Though I’ll usually sacrifice a shirt or two to bring more film. – OnBreak. Feb 9 '19 at 16:13

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