How to Get Started with Film Photography

How to Get Started with Film Photography

Guide and Tips

How to Get Started with Film Photography

I still remember as a kid, I took some film shots. At that time I could still purchase disposable cameras from vending machines. The beauty of film photography is that somehow you can’t predict how it looks and it also involves many variables that can ruin your shots but at the same time it renders naturally with different combinations of chemical and light reactions just like sealing that particular moment on the negatives.

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How does Analog Photography Work?

A roll of film is inserted into the camera, and the primary process begins once you start clicking: Light interferes with the chemicals in the film and records the photo. Analog photography is the same as film photography.

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How to Start Film Photography as a Hobby?

I would recommend you start with the camera having a 35mm film as it’s the most common format and provides a wide variety of tools. But often these are 35mm film cameras with fixed or interchangeable lenses and some with automatic mode and some are manually only. You may want to look for one with “AE” or “A” automatic mode that let you taste the character of the film images first.

If size matters, a compact point-and-shoot camera, which is relatively easy to load and does most of the work for you, including automatic exposures and focusing which serves the easiest options for everyone to begin with.

Email me or comment below if you would like to learn more about my camera recommendations for every film beginner!

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Types of Film Camera

There are mainly two types of film cameras in the market, Single lens reflex (SLR) and Rangefinder. Both have their pros and cons, there is no right or wrong to pick any of these beautifully designed cameras. 

Personally I love using rangefinder camera on a daily basis because I like using 35mm and 50mm focal length, size is very compact and the shutter sound is so light that made me become undiscoverable during urban street photography. However, when I want to do some artsy shots looking for texture and details. If I use tele focal length lenses such as 105mm on my Nikon F3P. I find it much easier to focus with SLR cameras because what you see is what you are going to get, more importantly when you for precision on your photographs.

Read more here.

Try as Many Films Stocks as You Can

For absolute beginners, if they want to get into the world of film photography, it’s like walking in a candy store. The film you choose, it is just like a preset that you apply like a filter / preset you use will determine the color of your captured images as such elements highly influence your film images. Different film stock has its own limitation as well as strength. You may refer to the type of negative in this post.

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Pick a Prime Lens

I would suggest you get a fixed focal length lens as a start so that you can have a baseline to try. Prime lenses are those you cannot change focal length or zoom. If you have a manual camera with a 35mm film camera, the best place to start is a 35mm or 50mm lens. Even though you can get started with zoom lenses, working with fixed lenses can help you get your bearings.

Where to Find Film Cameras?

If you would like to source any cameras and gears, feel free to email me or subscribe for free photography tips below.

Learn more about how to inspect film cameras here.

Film

A medium for analog cameras is a thin flexible strip of plastic or other material coated with light-sensitive emulsion for exposure in a camera, used to produce photographs or motion pictures. The film varies in colours, both black and white, and in colour.

For absolute beginners, we recommend getting started with colour print (a.k.a, colour negative) film because it’s not too expensive and most accessible to get your head wrapped around it.

  • Kodak Color plus 200 is cheap, and it gives a nice vintage look to your captured images
  • Kodak Ultramax 400 serves as a reliable high-speed film that gives you the signature Kodak warm tone
  • Fuji C200 great option to start with if you like Fujifilm Japanese green tint

If you are just getting started with film photography, we don’t recommend using color slide film because it requires perfect exposure to get a good result.

  • Some of the cameras set the film speed automatically, but others require you to set it manually. 
  • If you are using the camera having film speed, you’ve to set its film speed manually, then make sure to select the ISO/ASA dial/switch to synchronize the film speed.
  • Make sure you have the right ISO/ASA set and don’t change the speed once you have set because it does not work like a digital camera
  • Changing ISO between image will result in different exposure among your shots as the chemical used to develop the film will only recognise ONE speed

Types of Film

There are many kinds of film but categorised into three kinds, Positive, Colour negatives and Black and White Negatives. Don’t worry I will explain more when it comes to each type of film. You just have to remember they behave differently on colour tone, ISO sensitivity, dynamic range, grain and sharpness. I like most of them but I do like the result from certain film more than the others especially the magic from black and white film.

Read more about types of film here.

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Where to Find Film?

  • You can get the film from any local camera store (Post here about Film in Hong Kong)
  • You can also mail-order it from online retailers like freestyle and B&H
  • The film does have an expiration date, and we strongly recommend not to use expired films as they may result in unexpected results.

Batteries

Not every camera can operate without batteries, even mechanical cameras can, but some of the analog cameras require a battery. Best to check if your camera model needs to take a certain battery to operate. 

  • Older manual cameras usually take buttons (S76 or LR44)
  • Way older cameras may take 1.35V mercury cells, which may not be easily found nowadays in local camera shops.

Where Can You Develop Your Film?

After finishing 36 shots, what do you have to do next? A film must have to develop, and for that, you would be more likely to go to the lab because your film must have to go through the process to generate the negatives of the film, scans, paper prints for you. You can still develop your film on your own. B&W is pretty easy, and at a reasonable price, you can produce your films, but it’s not recommended for absolute beginners. If you want to have a film in colors, then it requires great precision and a higher temperature, and often it is best for those who do have an experience of B&W.

Places to Develop Film in Hong Kong

To be a film photographer, you don’t need too much gear, but the following are the few accessories that can help you have a wonderful experience.

Tripod or Monopod

Film cameras don’t have any stabilization mechanism with them, and most of them have ISO speed of 100-400 range and ultra-high ISO films (1600-3200), which produces a grainier image.

One body with ISO Speed 100 and another with 400 make you capture amazing pictures even if clouds roll in and running colour film in one camera and B&W in another enhances your captured images by giving out more creative shots.

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Filters

Filters aid a lot when it comes to taking good pictures of the sky, or you want to have the background with the sky in such scenarios; a red and yellow filter can give you the best sky tones. But normally I will just get a skylight or UV filter for the sake of lens protection.

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A Second / Backup camera body

In film photography, you can’t change the ISO or color to black and white. So, in that case, it would be a good idea to have a second camera body, but it should be compatible with your first if you’ve SLR). Moreover, it’s a good idea to have a second camera body because it protects from clouds rolling in (if you’ve one cam body with an ISO speed of 100 and the other having a speed of 400), and it will also give you more creative possibilities to have great looking shots.

Enjoy Film!

Before that, one final message is that never open the backdoor once you have loaded film / stuck otherwise all the precious moments that you took will be gone. Hopefully, you may have found this guide helpful for your journey to be a film photographer. Stay tuned with us; we have a lot to write to make you a great film photographer!

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Looking for Cameras / Lenses or Gears?

If you have any questions related to film photography and you would like to source any cameras and gears, feel free to email me or subscribe for free photography tips below.

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