Film stocks can be developed in two distinct categories: those that are intended to be projected onto a screen and those that are intended to be viewed directly with a light source (such as photographic paper or electronic image sensors).

Film stocks intended for projection onto a screen are usually designed to produce an accurate reproduction of the original scene. Therefore, they generally have very fine grain and high sharpness.

What Is film stock

What Is film stock?

Film stock is the raw material out of which photographic images are produced. There are many different types of film stock, often distinguished by the “emulsion” coating on each side of the film base.

Film stock comes in several varieties, including negative and positive print stocks.

The negative variety is used in professional production and commercial photography, while print stocks are used to make prints for still photography or motion picture film.

Negative film stocks are available in black-and-white and color varieties, while print stocks are typically only available in black-and-white.

Color print stocks produce color photographs by adding dyes or pigments during processing, while black-and-white print stocks produce black-and-white photographs through a silver halide process.



The film is used to produce negatives for use in new prints, as well as archival storage of still images and motion pictures.

The negative film remains widely used because of its high quality and relatively low cost compared to other formats.

It is often used for documentation due to its flexibility in exposure settings, instant availability, portability, and ability to capture a wide dynamic range.

However, it does not allow as much image manipulation as some other formats (such as using a computer).

History Of Film Stock

The orthochromatic film stocks of the early 20th century could not record color but could render well-defined black-and-white images. The best modern color stocks render colors accurately in shades of gray, never truly registering reds, greens, or blues.

For example, Kodachrome registered only about half the amount of red light as orthochromatic film.

Ektachrome was more true-to-life than Kodachrome (but still had relatively coarse grain), and Fuji’s Superia line offered finer-grained color transparency film than Kodachrome.

Different film stocks within these categories may offer different balances of the resolution, grain size (determined by how much silver halide is used), contrast ratio, color reproduction, processing latitude, and other characteristics important for their use.

Film Stock Classification And Properties [Edit]

Films are made up of various chemical emulsions, each with its own set of properties. The two most common types of film stocks are black-and-white and color-negative films. Color positive films are used in the process of making color prints on photographic paper. 


Black-and-white films are made up of silver halide crystals that record the image as light and dark areas on the film base. There are two types of black-and-white emulsions: orthochromatic and panchromatic.

The orthochromatic film is sensitive to blue, green, and violet light but not to red light. This means that orthochromatic film is effective for recording blue skies, green grass, and violet flowers, but it records skin tones as red.

Most people have fair skin that reflects red light strongly, so photographs taken with an orthochromatic film can appear unnatural. Panchromatic black-and-white films are sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light.

Because they record skin tones without alteration, panchromatic films produce photographs that display a truer rendition of nature than orthochromatic films. Because the panchromatic black-and-white film is more sensitive than orthochromatic

Deterioration Of Film Stock

B&W film has been around for nearly a century and is still going strong today. New stocks are available for all applications, good old reliable Kodak Tri-X continues to be one of the most popular films in the world. But what happens when your black and white film stock gets old? Mold or mildew can grow on film negatives over time rendering them useless.

The air and natural light can cause the emulsion to break down. Eventually, the film will fade and become transparent. The film is an organic material that decays over time.

Film emulsion is essentially a layer of light-sensitive silver halide salts suspended in gelatin. All silver halide salts are subject to decay eventually.

Even small fragments of undeveloped film stock can become unusable if exposed to moisture without being processed immediately. The aging process of the film depends on storage conditions, temperature, humidity, and exposure to light sources such as sun or fluorescent lighting.

Following are some simple steps that should help prevent the deterioration of your film: Store your negatives in a cool place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture; ideally at 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit with relative humidity below 60%. 

Use a desiccant such as silica gel packets to absorb excess moisture from your negative storage.

Film Stock Intermediate And Print Stocks

Film stock intermediate and print stocks are used to create still images, motion pictures, and digital film. These films are distributed to theaters and movie houses where they are projected in front of an audience. Film stock intermediate is a material that is used to make prints that can be used for movies.

There are two types of film stock, color positive and color negative. Both are used for photography, but the colors are reversed for each film type.

Film stocks have different colors to represent specific wavelengths of light. The color positive film has a blue base and contains red, green, and blue dyes along with a silver halide coating. The color negative uses a red base with cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes which replaces the silver halide in the emulsion layer.

The film was invented in 1888 by George Eastman when he developed paper-based roll film that could be handled like photographic plates. He also manufactured cameras which were sold under the name Kodak cameras.

This was his competitive advantage since other camera companies had to purchase their equipment from professional photographers who were experts at making plates in-camera boxes. Eastman’s cameras did not need this process so they could be sold at lower prices while still being profitable.

Film Stock 1888–1899: Before Standardization

This is part of a series on early film stock by Antiques Roadshow expert Michael R. McVaugh, Ph.D. Check out Part I here and Part II here.

While the invention of film stock in 1888 marked a major step forward in the development of motion pictures, it was not until about 1899 that film stock was standardized for use. Even then, however, the standardization process took several years to complete.

In general, three types of emulsion were used in this period: nitrate, celluloid, and glass plates coated with gelatin. Nitrate film was by far the most common type of film used before World War I.

It was considered durable and stable when kept under the right conditions. However, it was highly flammable and could be dangerous if stored improperly or used in conjunction with electric projectors. Cellulose nitrate (often referred to as nitrocellulose) is commonly used today as plastic in such items as ballet slippers, optical filters, guitar picks, and billiard balls.

Film Stock 1900–1919: Toward The Standard Picture Film

The first decade of the 20th century saw steady growth in the use of film. The technology was still changing, but it was beginning to standardize. At the same time, camera and projection equipment were improving, as were methods for developing and printing the film.

Video cameras were still decades away, but the basics were being worked out, and inventors were experimenting with ways to record and project images.

Color photography was still over a decade away. Most pictures were black and white. For filmmakers, this meant that each frame of every shot had to be exposed separately since there was no way to “shoot” color film with a single exposure.

Each frame would have its filter made from colored glass or gel to tint each frame of the final print in different ways.

By 1900, celluloid stock had become available for motion picture cameras. It was developed by George Eastman of Rochester, N.Y., who went on to found Kodak in 1888.

Film Stock 1920s: Diversification Of Film Sensitivity

The sensitivity of a photographic film is the degree to which it responds to light, measured by its exposure index. Films of different sensitivity are made for use in different lighting conditions.

In the early years of photography, most films had similar sensitivities to daylight. The first film stock with a standardized sensitivity was orthochromatic film, patented in 1878.

The orthochromatic film had a high sensitivity to blue light, which made it ideal for outdoor photography, but not sensitive enough to be used indoors at night or in cloudy weather.

In addition to the orthochromatic film, several other early films were sensitive to blue and green light but required long exposure times under indoor lighting. Photography using these emulsions required either bulky flash illumination, or else sunlight allowed into the studio through a skylight or similar opening.

The need for indoor photography greatly increased the demand for cinema films. Since ordinary daylight was too dim for taking photographs on standard orthochromatic film, studios were equipped with arc lamps and artificial lighting systems.

Fast films were developed that could be used indoors without either flash or bright sunlight. Initially, these were panchromatic black-and-white films sensitive to all colors including red; they required less powerful lighting than orthodox films.

Film Stock Color Films

I still see the word “Kodachrome” in the headlines, and I think it’s because of the film we used. Kodak was a big part of our life.

It’s what we used to shoot all our films and all our stills. We shot with color, but it wasn’t for entertainment purposes.

It was for documentary purposes, and so it wasn’t about color as much as it was about content and moments in time that you could only capture on film. Color film was a fairly new thing when we started, but we were able to figure out ways to use it with more freedom than some photographers who were using black and white at the time.

We had a lot of fun with it, especially when we’d go on assignment for Sports Illustrated or Look magazine, or Life magazine. They would send us all over the world to capture different events, and so we were always shooting on location and being in places where there weren’t other photographers around.

The one thing that people identify with me is that I’m associated with black and white, but I did a lot of colorwork as well. Color films always captured the feel of a place better than black-and-white films could.

Film Stock Base

This is a very simple recipe for film stock base. It can be used for any kind of movie stock and has been used in many movies.

It’s been used successfully in an 8×10″ camera, but it will work in any camera. This is the recipe I use for my black & white movie film. This base is not for color photography! If you want to make a color base, you’ll have to do some research on your own. This is just for black & white.

You may want to consider using a specific developer (for example D-23) when you develop this film stock with your developer. There’s no law against it, and I’ve developed my film with store-bought developers, but if you’re looking to save money or don’t have a particular chemist handy, then stick with Kodak D-76 or Kodak H-D-2.

I also recommend shooting this at EI 125 or less and developing it at 20 degrees Celsius or below. You may need to adjust your development time if you dev at a higher temperature than 20C°.

The water can be tap water, distilled water, or rainwater. The results vary slightly, but they are all acceptable.

Film Stock Emulsion

When you are interested in the world of film you will want to become familiar with the different types of film stock emulsion. Each emulsion has its qualities, and knowing the difference between them can make a big difference in your photographs.

This information is not just for professional photographers, but also for people who are simply interested in photography. Overview Film Stock Emulsions have been used for many years and they have changed over time due to advancements in technology.

The different types of emulsions have been developed to create specific effects on film that result in unique photographs. For example, chromogenic black and white film emulsion are more sensitive to reds than it is to greens or blues. This means that when photographing red objects with this type of black and white film, those objects will appear much darker than green or blue objects.

This allows for the photographer to manipulate their shot before the photograph is taken. Color Emulsions Color film stocks describe how light-sensitive the chemicals are on the film itself.

Three main types of color film stocks are used today – negative, reversal, and positive color stocks. Color-negative films use a light-sensitive layer that creates a negative image of the subject when developed.

Film Stock Chemistry

Ever wonder why film stock has different names? Kodak Gold, Fuji Superia, and Agfa Scala are just a few of the popular films you’ll find in the photo lab. What’s the difference between these films? Why are some more expensive than others? The answer lies in chemistry.

Different film stocks have different levels of sensitivity to light, which affects their speed. The speed rating indicates how fast or slows a film is, and what shutter speeds need to be used to get proper exposure.

Fast films are sensitive to light (and therefore good in bright light) but must be shot at higher shutter speeds. Slower films are less sensitive to light and work better in low light, but must be shot at slower shutter speeds.

Films with an ISO 800 rating must be shot at 1/800 of a second for proper exposure, while films with an ISO 100 rating must be shot at 1/100 of a second. Details matter when it comes to speed ratings.

A film rated at ISO 160 might look fine when shot at 1/125th of a second, but overexpose it by one stop and it might come out completely white. Film stocks also vary in contrast, sharpness, and graininess. Some stocks produce clear images with very little grain and are therefore a very good choice.

Film Stock Image Record

In the past decade, photo-sharing sites have taken the internet by storm. These sites allow users to upload and share their photography with millions of other users across the globe. We are all more connected than ever before thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and Google+.

Now that we can connect with anyone anywhere in the world, our lives have become entwined with social media and we are constantly being bombarded with new images every day. However, there is one area in which this has skewed our view of the world – stock photography.

Images used as stock photography often fail to depict real-life situations or they are doctored to make them look better than they are.

With a market of over 10 million images at their disposal and billions of dollars spent on marketing each year, the stock industry has become an advertising machine in its own right.

While there is nothing wrong with advertising itself, it is about time we became aware of what we are being fed and question whether or not it represents reality in any way shape, or form. In short, it’s about time we took a look at some high-quality film stock images and see if they represent real life or if they simply represent profit at any cost?

Film Stock Physical Characteristics

Physical characteristics of film stock determine how the image is captured and processed. Several physical characteristics affect the quality of the image produced by a particular type of film.

Resolution refers to the ability of a film to record detail in an image. The maximum amount of detail that can be recorded varies by film format.

For example, Super 8mm film has a maximum resolution of 400 lines per inch (dpi), whereas 35mm motion picture film has a maximum resolution of 5400 LPI.

The vertical resolution of 35mm still cameras is often slightly less than that because the size of individual frames is different from those used for motion pictures, so effectively each still photo has only 3600 lines per inch.

An advantage of digital photography over analog photography is that all pixels in a digital photo are at full resolution (100% horizontal and 100% vertical) and therefore “see” more detail than anyone film frame.

Digital photography does have its limitations when it comes to resolution, however, as there is a limit to the number of pixels that can be captured on a sensor or made available by print processes and therefore the maximum resolution possible is limited by this factor.

Scanners may also affect an image’s perceived resolution. Film scanners capture images at fixed resolutions.

Film Stock Responsivity

The film has a certain “look” and if you’re trying to emulate that look, you need to use the right film stock. This will be different depending on your subject matter and the time of day. For example, daylight film stock is usually more responsive to light than tungsten film stock.

To understand what I mean by “responsive,” think of the way that your hand responds to heat. It’s difficult to hold a very hot item with your hand because you can’t keep a firm grip on it.

Likewise, it’s hard for the film to capture detail in dark areas if it’s not properly balanced for that type of light. If you were to photograph an interior scene with tungsten lights and shoot it with daylight balanced film, you’d get a very dark image with no detail in the shadows.

Conversely, if you were to shoot an exterior scene at night with street lamps and neon signs in the background, you’d get a very blown-out, white image.

The takeaway here is that when you’re shooting interiors under tungsten lights or exteriors under available light, you should use tungsten-balanced film or high-speed daylight film stock respectively.

Film Stock Color Temperature

Film stocks are usually rated by the color temperature of their light source, rather than the actual Kelvin temperature. This is because the color temperature of most light sources changes with the film speed rating.

For example, a daylight film might have a color temperature of 5000 degrees when used at 200 ISO (the lower the ISO number, the finer-grain or slower film), but if you increase its speed to 800 or 1600 ISO, that same light source will produce a color temp of 3000 degrees or even lower.

Film speeds are generally expressed in stops and can be calculated by dividing the ISO number by 3. Tungsten film stock is rated in degrees Kelvin (K).

Sunlight is 5600 K; outdoor shade is about 3300 K; incandescent bulbs are 2700 K; fluorescent is 4100 K, and candlelight is typically 2200 K. Color correction filters can be adjusted to compensate for differences in color temperature so that all these lighting situations can be filmed at 5600 K.

Film stock color temperature is the color of light that particular film stock is meant to be exposed to, and it is measured in degrees Kelvin.

Tungsten film stock’s color temperature is approximately 3200K, while daylight film stock’s color temperature is approximately 5500K. When filming with daylight film stock in artificial light, you will often use a “daylight” or “5-500” filter to simulate the color temperature of daylight. This helps keep your images from appearing too cool or blue.