A beginners guide to film photography

Make photography into an experience that your phone camera just can't give you.

Molly Taylor
9th June 2022
Photo from Unsplash @@esmeeholdijk
In an age where our lives are so digitalised, it’s more than likely that you have hundreds if not thousands of photos on your camera roll. But how many times have you actually looked back at those ten photos you took of that flower or the 50 photos you snapped of your friend in the exact same pose? Chances are, you took those photos 3 years ago and haven’t looked at them since. 

That’s why I love film photography. Unlike digital photography, you are more likely to be deliberate with each photo that you take. Film photography is much more intentional, and looking back at film photos can evoke memories and emotions in a way that digital photography often can’t. If you don’t believe me, pick up a cheap disposable camera from boots and try it out for yourself! 

If you’re wondering what film photography is, it’s the original way of taking photos before the digital age. Instead of a screen on your camera, when you dive into the world of film photography, you take the photos by looking through the viewfinder and using light to expose your film to the subject you are photographing. Then, you wait for a week or two to see them after you pay for developing.

There’s something inexplicably therapeutic about film photography.

You might be thinking, why would you revert back to such an old fashioned way of taking photographs? Surely it’s much easier and cheaper to take photos on your phone? Though those arguments are true, there’s something inexplicably therapeutic about film photography. Instead of seeing your photos instantly, you are transported back to a happy memory or fun holiday when you receive your photos back. I like to think of it as deferred gratification. 

So, you’ve decided that you want to buy a film camera and try out analog photography. Where do you begin? Firstly, you need to decide what your aim is. Do you want to understand more about the manual side of cameras, and learn about ISO, Shutter speed and aperture? In that case, you should look for an SLR camera. Alternatively, have you already dabbled with disposable cameras and want a small automatic film camera to shove in your bag for nights out or holidays? In that case, you should look for a point and shoot camera. 

I own a Canon AE-1 Program SLR, which is a great option because it has all the manual settings as well as ‘Program mode’, which acts as an automatic camera. This makes it easier to take professional looking photos without the hassle of changing the aperture and shutter speed if you’re new to photography. I also own the Olympus Infinity Stylus Mju1, which is a great point and shoot because it’s incredibly compact and has the option to use flash. Apart from Olympus and Canon, other camera brands such as Nikon, Pentax, and Mamiya are great. 

Image from Unsplash @Clayton Malquist
Here's what an SLR camera looks like (Canon AE-1 Program).

Now that you’ve chosen your camera, it’s time to choose the film. There are a few different types of film that you can choose from, but for a beginner I would recommend 35mm film. This is the standard format that you can find in most camera shops, and is the easiest and cheapest to develop. Unfortunately, due to COVID, there is a worldwide shortage of film, making it a bit more expensive than usual. There’s no denying that film photography is not a very cheap hobby, but in my opinion the benefits outweigh the cost. My favourite 35mm film includes Kodak Gold 200 and Kodak Colorplus 200. 

Once you’ve chosen your camera and film, it’s time to choose your subject. With a point and shoot camera, I love taking it on a night out or with me on holidays because it’s compact and quick to use. Point and shoot cameras are also great for street photography, because they are usually autofocus and can capture moving subjects easily. With larger SLR cameras, I love taking portraits, and using it for stationary objects or landscapes. 

The most important thing with film photography is to have fun and not to fixate on capturing the most amazing photographs. I remember when I first started out, I ended up taking about five photos in one month because I was worried about wasting the film. Although it’s relatively expensive, it’s not the end of the world if you accidentally take a photo of the interior of your bag or with your hand over the lens; it’s all part of the learning process. Without sounding too cheesy, film photography is about the journey as much as the end result.

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