Something I’ve always wanted to do was shoot film photography and that’s exactly what I did, I started shooting film last year but it’s not so easy to get started as I found out. If you’re looking to start shooting film then this is the post for you.
I’m still very much a beginner in the world of film photography and a hobby photographer. I find it fun and I adore that you don’t know what the photo is going to look like until you’ve finished your roll of film and sent it off to the lab to scan, there’s just something magical about it now in the world of digital and really made me fall in love with film.
Before I even got a film camera I did a whole lot of research regarding film and wrote everything down in my notes app on my phone, when it comes to any kind of photography I’m very much a nerd but it helped me so much when I did eventually get a film camera. Talking of..
Step one is obviously where to get your hands on a 35mm film camera. For me, I was handed down one from my uncle and it was the Canon AE-1 which is a perfect first 35mm film camera. I was actually searching for one for a few weeks until he said he would be passing it down to me and I was so thankful and happy I would be able to start shooting. The Canon AE-1 is an SLR film camera, there are also point and shoots if you’re not quite ready to take the leap just yet. It really depends on what kind of camera you want and your budget as SLR’s can be a lot more expensive to buy than point and shoots.
The best place to look for something affordable would be ebay, facebook marketplace or any local camera shops to you to find your first film camera just be sure to look out for any signs of wear and tear on the body of the camera as well as any scratches, marks and fungus on the optics. An alternative is to look on a professional camera website where they sell a range of different second hand but are all tested by experts so you know that the camera is going to work and you’ll have that guarantee. One website I do recommend would be the film camera store as I recently purchased a point and shoot from there and the service was second to none and the camera works perfectly. They also do beginner film bundles and they start at a great price so I would definitely look into checking them out for a start.
Understanding your film camera is a great next step. Once you have your first 35mm camera in your hands do some research, watch YouTube videos, google, try to get to grips with how your camera works and what the functions do, it gets so much easier once you know.
Which film do I buy? After you kind of understand the basics of your camera, you’re going to want to start shooting but you first need some film which is never easy to get hold of nowadays. For my first time shooting film I brought some ‘cheap’ although there’s no such thing as a cheap film these days but compared to most Kodak colourplus 200 is the best beginner colour film you can go for, you’ve also got Kodak Gold for just a bit more money which produces great photo’s. These films will give you that freedom to make mistakes when you first start out. If you want to try out some black and white film which I haven’t actually shot yet but have been recommended by a friend. Ilford IP5 is a great one.
Now you’ve got a camera and some film, the next thing is to load your film into your camera to prepare to shoot. I found this the trickiest part of beginner film photography to be honest. I put it off because I didn’t want to brake my film camera or the film but honestly now I find it the most enjoyable. This is obviously a unique process to your camera but most SLR film cameras load the same way. I found the best way was to search on YouTube “how to load (your camera name)” and you’ll probably find someone who’s uploaded a video. I found this video helpful last year.
Shooting the film is your next step! FINALLY. I found it the longest process to get from getting the camera to actually shooting something. You’re going to want to set up your camera before heading off anywhere, making sure the light meter works etc. As SLR film cameras are normally fully manual you will need to set the ISO. I have completely forgotten to talk about ISO..
ISO also known as film speed is the sensitivity rating of the film. A film speed will determine its sensitivity to light. A low ISO number will basically need more light to get the right exposure than a higher ISO number which will need less. There’s a whole bunch of different reasons and I could go on and on about why you might choose different film speeds but for now and as a beginner we’ll start with the Kodak colourplus 200 I mentioned earlier. Colourplus is perfect for outdoor light conditions even if it’s a little darker than usual as we are in the winter months it should still shoot fine. If you want to make sure your photo’s are going to come out okay then just be sure to shoot on a nice blue sky day which is rare I know here in England.
Once you’ve shot your roll of film, it’s time to get it out of the camera. There should be a little button on the bottom of your camera which you need to press to release and then use the knob on the left hand side of the camera to wind the film back, there should be a little arrow to let you know which way to wind it , while turning you’ll feel the tension of the film to let you know that you’re pulling back. At some point the tension will suddenly loosen and that’s when you know it’s all done and you can open the back of the camera and release your roll of film.
You can choose to develop yourself but I find it easier to send it off to a lab and have my photos sent back to me via email, you can also request to have your negatives back which is always a good idea to do if you want to keep a physical memory. The lab that I use is called take it easy film lab which I love and have had no problems whatsoever. They are very quick with their turnaround and I normally get my photo’s back within a few days.
There’s obviously a lot more detailed stuff that goes into film photography and I’ve only gone into the first basics of 35mm film photography here but I hope this helps get you started on your journey. Enjoy shooting!
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