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So you wanna shoot film

Over the weekend I did some IG stories about shooting film and there were questions galore! So I’ve written a brief guide to getting started. 

You don’t need any experience to shoot film, even in photography. It can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make; and all of it is fun! So let’s dive in.

Option one: Film SLR -best for those with some experience of general photography

if you already use a digital slr, this is going to be a great, comfortable option. 

  • Find a camera. There are many great, affordable film slrs. I use a basic Nikon f75 which I bought at the age of 19 and is still going strong. It’s currently  around £50 on eBay for the body, and can use my digital lenses as I already shoot Nikon. There are also brilliant Canon/Pentax/Olympus etc options (people love the Canon AE-1), and a quick google of anything you like the look of will give loads of info and reviews of what the camera is like. Most SLR’s can be used either fully manual or fully auto, with options in-between. As all film cameras will be used, it’s best to buy from a camera shop (irl or online) where you know someone has checked it over - there are loads of options.
  • Choose a film stock. Start with something cheap! There’s no way around it, buying film and developing is ££ so find a film you like the look and price of and use it as your go to whilst getting to grips. Kodak gold is great to start with. (Hashtag searching the film you like the look of on IG are also great to help you decide on film!)
  • Light meter. My camera has a built in light meter and caces are your SLR will too. But mine can be dodgy, and  I have trust issues with it so use a free app on my phone ‘Light Meter’ to check what my f stop and shutter speed should be for my ISO. (You can take or leave this step)
  • Film loves light, just like humans. Where digital prefers to be slightly underexposed, film will do better will overexposure. Err on the side of light to start with.
  • For your first few rolls - I’d suggest a photo walk alone, shooting a whole roll whilst out and about. You could also set up a still life in a well lit area in your house to play around with. Try shooting at different shutter speeds, with different apertures, and you could keep notes on what your setting are for each image. Some poeple have a small ‘roll notes’ book for this, others use their phone. Children/people are great on film but when you’re learning, they can be annoying and unpredictable (lol) so inanimate objects/nature will be your  friends!
  • Have fun! Film is exciting. You don’t know exactly what’s happening inside that little box in your hands. Film shooting is a lesson in being in the moment, creating for the lve of it and detaching from outcome. Basically? mindfulness. Enjoy it as such.
  • Option two: Point and Shoot - for anyone!

    I love my point and shoot and find it’s perfect for family life. I chuck it in my bag and snapshot our life. Think of it like the analoue version of your phone camera - just more romantic!

    • For this option you need a camera and some film and off you go! The camera does everything for you, you can just look through the tiny viewfinder, pretend you’re a parent in the 80’s and have fun. Point and shoots are widely accessible and can be super cheap. Mine was £7 from eBay and I love it. Although eBay is always a gamble- you can buy them from more reliable outlets where they’ll have been tested.
    • Have fun! Film is exciting. You don’t know exactly what’s happening inside that little box in your hands. Film shooting is a lesson in being in the moment, creating for the lve of it and detaching from outcome. Basically? mindfulness. Enjoy it as such.

    You’ve shot your roll, now what?

    Now you get to see the magic you made! Getting film developed is the final part of the process, and again, there are options. You don’t need to drop in your film in person anymore, everyone I’ll mention accepts film via post, and then they’ll email you images as scans. You can then ask them to sen you your negatives a and when you want them Voila!

    The quality of where and who develops your film (the lab) can add enormously to the end result. If you are using professional grade film (eg Kodak Portra) and making images as a body of work or for clients, then I’d argue that this process matters and you should spend money on it. However, if you’re still in the learning phase and mostly playing around to find what works, I’d be much more relaxed. I’ve used many different labs at varying stages of my journey, and as I learnt more I realised when what I was shooting wasn’t quite matching up to the end result (scans) and I needed to find a different lab.

    Here are some labs I used when starting (and I still use occasionally now):

    Brighton Film Lab

    Take it Easy 

    Exposure Film Lab

    Bonus tip - ASK A FILM SHOOTER

    My best tip for everything film, from cameras to film stock to labs - is to ask a film shooter. If you see someone whose work you like, ask them about how they are creating. Whilst obviously the equipment is only part of it - they’re also extremely good photographers - they’ll have valuable knowledge and experience. Ask nicely and most film nerds like me will be happy to talk shop. Related to this is >Google - people love talking about film. Chances are the question/camera/film/lab you want to know about will have been written about somewhere. 

    Now all that’s left is to go create!