Film photography is a medium that a lot of people love for numerous reasons. Some love the grain and organic feeling to a photo and some just love the process of being able to take a picture, develop and print. It's an art that has been dying for quite some time now but analog lovers alike work hard to try and revive the lost art. Film photography is more than just the look and feel of the photo, it's the process you have to take and all of the mental limitations film can offer you that will greatly increase your creativity and ability to make images.
If you're new to Film Photography you found the right place. Like starting anything, its hard to really find information on certain things that will help you out and so to make it easy for you I have compiled in this post the essentials of Film photography. Here is a list of stuff you'll might want to pick up when you start shooting film!
1.) Film Camera - You're film camera of choice is all up to you. Certain cameras definitely give different feels and some are better for certain types of photography than others so I suggest you take a look into all three different types. Yes, you heard it right there are three different types of film cameras and like stated before some are better for certain styles of photography but at the end of the day they are all the same and have one job, to take a picture.
Point and shoots, Small compact cameras. Most of them are automatic and don't require you to do anything. Just take out and snap a picture. No thought goes into it which makes it great for casual photographers or for use as a party camera! (Like your iPhone!)
SLR's (Single Lens Reflex) , Probably the most versatile but also the most standard looking. A great tool to learn photography on. Some of them have program modes which can allow you to shoot the camera like a point and shoot while also offering manual exposure when you want to learn more about photography. Great for portraits, street photography, casual photography and anything under the sun.
Rangefinders, The pro street photographers choice of weapon. I shouldn't only categorize them under street photographers only though. The rangefinder features a system where a ghost images (usually in yellow) hovers over the original image in the viewfinder and to focus you have to line the two images up. Rangefinders are quite and once you get the hang of it pretty easy and fast to focus. Great for the photographer who wants a little more of a challenge from a SLR.
Regardless of what camera you choose its up to you. I personally would suggest buying a SLR's camera because of its versatility. They're also readily available and can be pretty cheap as long as you take the time to pick and pull from eBay. The one I suggest and praise the most is the Minolta X-700.
This is my favorite camera for a number of reasons but the main motive to why I suggest this camera the most is because it is what I learned on. It features Program mode, Aperture Priority and manual mode which later down the road will be beneficial if you decide to learn more about exposure.
2.) Lens - This will only pertain to the folks who chose to get an SLR or a rangefinder. The lens is probably the most important pice of equipment when taking quality photos with your film camera. Remember your exposing plastic to light NOT to a sensor which means what really matters is the quality of glass you put in front it.
There are three focal lengths that I suggest to people starting out
35mm (Wide angle) - This will allow you to take shots in a wider field of view. Put simply, you will see a lot more of what is around you with a wide angle lens like the 35mm.
50mm (Standard) - This is the lens that I suggest you pick up first. The most versatile that can shoot portraits, landscapes and even architecture. Offers a more narrow field of view but will also give you shallow nice shallow depth of field (Background blur) which some wide angle lenses can't offer.
85mm (Portrait/Short Tele) - If part of your work includes you taking pictures of people the 85mm is an excellent focal length to get those nice creamy blurred backgrounds. The 85mm is what a lot of proffesional portrait photographers use because its not extremely "telephoto" but just enough to get nice background compression, shallow depth of field and still wide enough to get more of a persons body. Pair it up with a 35mm and you're on your way!
If you can't decide on which lens to get don't sweat it. If you bought an SLR these lenses can be found DIRT CHEAP so why not just pick all them up? :)
3.) Film - This is the stuff that allows you to take pictures. There are tons of different film out there but today I will stick with the basics and give you guys the two types of film that I shoot the most.
Color Negative Film - This is the standard 35mm film which can be found in stores like walgreens, walmart. You can also buy rolls online and shop the wide variety of film stocks available. Unfortunately ever since digital came a long film has lots its popularity and a lot of manufactures pulled some of there film stocks off the market. (This is why we need to bring back film!) So though it may seem like there are tons of film stocks we can still enjoy, this was just fraction of what our parents may have had 20-30 years ago.
Some of my favorite color negative film stocks come from Fuji and Kodak. Fuji makes a killer film called Fuji c200 which is fairly inexpensive but such a beautiful film. Of course kodak makes the equivalent, their Kodak Ultramax is great as well. Kodak has more of the popular film stocks like petra and ektar which are beautiful films and fuji has.......they have........ well, they have fuji 400h. (COME ON FUJI). But nonetheless whatever company you go for, you won't be disappointed. (Remember this is not SLIDE FILM, this is COLOR NEGATIVE FILM)
Black And White Film - If there's color film, there is black and white film. These stocks will give you pure black and white photos like the ones photo journalists used back in the 60's, you know the ones you see in modern day history books? :) These films are typically a bit cheaper than color film but highly respected in the film community. My one suggestion for you is, SHOOT LOTS OF IT! There's just something about back and white film the gives you a whole new look on your photography. Take away the color and all you have now are shadows, highlights and the subject.
Some of my favorite black and white films come from Ilford! The film I shoot the most, Ilford Hp5 is great for just about everything. You also have Ilford Fp4, delta 3200 and there's just so many to choose from. If you don't wanna go full Ilford, definitely check out Kodak Tri x and even some of the Kodak Tmaxx stocks both great as well.
4.) Small Notebook, This one isn't going to be for everybody but this is something I HIGHLY suggest when starting to shoot film. What's notebook gone do for you anyway you might ask and simple answer is A LOT! I use my notebook to record the shutter speed and aperture combination, film speed, what type of light there is for the shot and a short description of the image.
Why do you do this? I do this so can train myself and also have one place that has all of my exact settings. Recording this info will be beneficial to when you're learning about exposure and shooting manual mode because you will have an analog database of recorded setting you've already shot before. So you can go in there and say okay, if I shot this shot under these settings with this lighting condition I should probably shoot the same settings because the lighting condition is pretty similar or the same.
Like I said this is optional, wether you want to learn about exposure but this has honestly been one of the best tools I've used when learning about photography.
If you're looking into getting a notebook designed for the analog photographer I highly suggest you pickup one of ShootFilmCo's photo memo book. It was designed by Mike Padua who has been shooting film for years so he crafted dedicated slots in the book for stuff like aperture, shutter speed etc.. Great, great stuff. Buy one here from ShootiilmCo - https://shootfilmco.com
5.) Developer - Sad to say, but not a lot of places develop film anymore. Walmart took away one hour develops and left it to specialized camera shops to do the work. Before I get into this topic please note one thing, DO NOT GET YOUR FILM DEVELOPED AT WALMART! I cannot say this enough, what they do is they will ship your film out to a company that will develop your film and only give you back prints and a CD. You don't get your negatives back which sucks because negatives last a long time and when you have a shot that you really like you store the negative and scan them in the future.
I suggest first checking out your local camera stores but if theres none close there is one place I HIGHLY trust for developing film. The Darkroom Lab, these guys have been developing film for quite some time and every roll I've ever sent them has been processed with no mistakes. They give you quality development and scans for a reasonable price and also offer prints. They also give you you're negatives back! These guys offer a quality service at a much faster rate than some other labs. Highly recommend checking them out. Here's a link to their website - https://thedarkroom.com
So there you have it the essential to film photography. Now there are some stuff I left out like film fridge or maybe even if you want to develop your own film but this list was designed to only show whats needed. I hope you guys found this helpful! Also hope you guys get out there and pickup a film camera to go shoot with! Lets keep film a live folks!!! #MinoltaGang #Film is not dead!!
I wanna know what you guys think is essential for film photography! Did i miss something? Feel free to leave a comment below on what else some may need when starting to shoot film! Happy shooting!
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Jonathan Paragas (KingJvpes) Author