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Top Film Photography Tips for Beginners

Updated: Jan 19

So, you’ve decided to start with film photography but you're not sure where to start.


Which film format to shoot with? Which camera to buy? Which film stock to use? How to take good photos?


So much excitement, and yet so many unanswered questions. Fret not! The questions you have now are the exact ones that have been in the minds of millions of other film photographers out there when they first started out. Here are some film photography tips for beginners to get you started:


1. Start with 35mm


If you’ve done your research then you’ll know that there are typically two different film formats to go for in film photography: 35mm or 120mm (medium format). If you are not sure about which film format to go for, word of advice, start with 35mm.


Pentax offers a wide variety of different 35mm film cameras, including for beginners
Pentax offers a wide variety of different 35mm film cameras, including for beginners

The 35mm format is the one most widely used in film photography. You will find no difficulty getting your hands on a wide variety of different 35mm cameras and film stocks out there, and they often also come relatively cheaper compared to when shooting with 120mm.


At 24 or 36 exposures, you also get more shots with a 35mm camera. Medium format film rolls only give you 12-16 exposures, depending on the camera you use. So you have more room for mistakes and experiments with a 35mm camera, which is always good if you are just starting out.


2. Your gears don’t have to cost a fortune (yet)


The price tags on film cameras range from anything around 30 Euros to thousands of Euros. If you are a newbie, your focus should be on learning as much as possible about film photography, and you definitely don’t need to spend a fortune to do this. There are plenty of affordable film cameras out there that will help you learn the ropes.


I, for one, started my journey in film photography with a Harman reusable camera. They retail for around EUR 36, and that includes a package of two film rolls and a battery. So it is the perfect starter’s kit for shooting with film. You won’t get that A++ image quality you’ll find in professional film cameras, but it definitely does the job of teaching you about composition, exposures, and all the other basics of film photography. Once you level up your skills, then it’s a good time to upgrade your gears as well.


A 35mm Leica film camera, a 35mm Fujifilm film camera, and a polaroid camera
As a film rookie, there's no need yet to invest a fortune in your 35mm camera

3. Embrace your film accidents


You will make plenty of mistakes when shooting with film, especially as you are just starting out. If you are like the rest of film photographers out there, chances are you’ll make a few of the most frequent mistakes in film photography, like incorrectly loading your film, or forgetting if the camera is loaded.


Some of your mistakes will show in your photos. Whether it is a light leak, overexposure, or perhaps even a mishap in the darkroom -- embrace them. That’s a big part of the fun in shooting film. You never know what you’re gonna get.


First frame of the roll in a 35mm film camera
The first frame of the roll is often a partial image - happy accident!

4. Experiment with different film rolls


There are plenty of 35mm film stocks available out there. Try them out! As you experiment with your film rolls, you’ll start to understand which film roll is best for which condition. You will learn when to use an ISO-100 film, which film roll to use for street photography, and which one to use to get certain colors and saturation. For example, I’ve now declared that the Kodak Gold 200 is my go-to film stock for my summer days. I love how it adds rich colors and a warm tone to my summer photos that give them a dreamy, vintage look.


If you want to go even crazier with your experiments, there are also plenty of choices of psychedelic or expired film rolls to choose from.


Different film rolls from Kodak, Fujifilm, and Ilford
Plenty of different film rolls out there, go and experiment!

5. Review your developed photos


One of the best ways to learn more about film photography is by reviewing your developed photos. Was the composition good? Did you shoot the photo from the right angle? Was there enough exposure? Why is your photo blurry? Ask yourself these questions and see what you can do better next time.


It also helps to archive your photos properly so you can compare each batch and see how you’ve progressed. This can be as simple as storing your scanned photos in a folder, with the dates they were developed, and details of the film roll.


 One of the best ways to learn more about film photography is by reviewing your developed photos
One of the best ways to learn more about film photography is by reviewing your developed photos

6. Learn your lingos


By the team you are reading this you have probably encountered a few photography terms that confuse you. For a smoother ride in the world of film photography, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the terms. Check out our blog post for the ultimate photography glossary for beginners.


7. Get inspired


There are days when you will feel less inspired to find your next shot. When this happens, it always helps to look around and find the beauty in your daily life. The thought of photographing your experience doing the groceries might not sound appealing, but you’d be surprised how shooting it in film might make it look 10x more beautiful.


If your daily life still doesn’t inspire you, it also helps to look for inspiration elsewhere, such as Instagram or Pinterest. Follow some accounts specializing in film photography, and see what inspires them.


8. Always have your camera with you!


So many times I have thought, “Gosh darn it, I wish I had my camera with me right now to capture this”. And I tell myself again to never not have my camera with me (yes, even when doing the groceries).


When a photo-worthy moment comes, you don't want to be caught off-guard without your film camera
When a photo-worthy moment comes, you don't want to be caught off-guard without your film camera

You never know when you will encounter a moment worth capturing, but when you do, you wouldn’t want to be caught off-guard without your camera. So always. Have. Your Camera. With you.


9. Enjoy it!


Finally, and perhaps the best tip of all, enjoy it! In the end, it is simply great fun to shoot with film, so don’t take yourself too seriously and try not to get too frustrated at minor issues.


Hope these film photography tips come in handy for you and get you pumped up for some film action. Are there any tips you find useful that we have missed? Let us know!

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