Film Photography Tips For Beginners in 2024

Film Photography Tips For Beginners in 2024

Stepping into the world of film photography is like opening a time capsule to a bygone era of artistry and mechanics. Unlike digital, every photo on film is more deliberate—a dance of light, chemistry, and timing.

film photography tips

It’s a mix of anticipation and surprise, with the reward often delayed until the film is developed.

The tactile feel of loading film, the sound of the shutter click, and even the grain that adds character to each image are the sensory experiences that draw me into shooting on film.

I revel in the simplicity yet challenge that film photography offers. There is a certain charm in not being able to instantly review the picture, compelling a more thoughtful and composed approach to each frame.

You learn to trust your instincts and embrace imperfections, which can often lead to the most authentic and memorable shots. Each roll of film becomes a small adventure, and with it comes the excitement of never knowing exactly what you’ll get until you see the developed photos.

Key Takeaways

  • Film photography imparts a sensory-rich, meticulous approach to capturing images.

  • Our film journey encourages a deeper engagement with the elements of photography.

  • The suspense of developing film adds a layer of excitement and mystery to our work.

The Charm of Analog Photography

  • Cost: Initial investment often lower compared to digital.
  • Aesthetic: Offers distinct grain, color rendition, and dynamic.
  • Tangibility: Physical medium that can be held and stored.

Film photography might remind us of the days when every snapshot was precious. We really think about each frame because every click costs us, unlike with digital where we can take thousands of pictures without worrying about space or cost.

This tactile experience gives us physical negatives and prints that feel unique in our digital age.


Choosing Your First Camera

When we’re on the hunt for our introductory film camera, here’s what we keep in mind:

  • Budget: Stick to what we can afford.
  • Camera Type: Consider SLRs, point-and-shoots, or rangefinders.
  • Condition: Look for signs of wear or damage.
  • Lens Compatibility: Ensure lenses match our chosen camera.
  • Manual Controls: Decide if we want full manual options.
  • Film Format: Think about the film size we prefer, like 35mm or medium format.

Finding the perfect match for us comes down to balancing cost, features, and condition.

Types of Film Formats

  • 35mm
  • 120mm
  • Medium Format
  • Large Format

Types of Film Cameras

  • Disposable Cameras: Affordable, single-use devices pre-loaded with film.
  • Instant Cameras: Produce photos on the spot for quick gratification.
  • Polaroid Cameras: Brand-specific instant cameras with iconic square prints.
  • Single-Lens Reflex Cameras (SLR): Viewfinder shows exactly what the lens sees.
  • Twin-Lens Reflex Cameras (TLR): Two lenses for viewing and capturing the image.
  • Rangefinders: Manual focus using a double image rangefinding device.
  • Point and Shoot: Simple, compact cameras for everyday photography.
photographer tips for beginners

Understanding Film Stock

Next, let’s talk film. This is where you decide the mood and texture of your photos. There are two main types you’ll encounter:

  1. Color Negative Film: This is versatile and forgiving, making it perfect for beginners. It’s the type you’d use for those vibrant, lifelike shots. It uses a wide exposure latitude and is great for every shooting, such as portraits and landscapes.
  2. Black and White Film: Shooting with this film is a timeless choice that can teach you a lot about contrast and composition. It uses a high contrast, grainy texture that’s more for artistic shots and learning about light and shadow.

Here’s a quick reference to keep in mind:

Both types come in 35mm rolls, and many also come in medium format. Choosing your film and camera is just the beginning, but with these decisions made, you’re well on your way to capturing some compelling shots.

Top 5 Beginner-Friendly Film Stocks

Film stocks that are widely available and user-friendly for beginners:

  • Kodak Portra 400
  • Ilford HP5 Plus 400
  • Fuji Velvia 50
  • Cinestill 800T
  • Kodak Tri-X 400

Where To Buy Film?

When we dive into the world of film photography, one of the first questions we typically have is—where can we find film rolls?

  • Local Camera Stores: These hidden gems often carry a variety of film types. If we’re lucky, we can get some expert advice along with our purchase.
  • Online Retailers: A quick search leads us to plenty of websites specializing in photography gear. Here, we can find a range of film stocks suitable for different cameras and scenes.
  • Auction Sites: For those of us on the hunt for deals, auction websites can be a treasure trove for both film and vintage cameras.
  • Photography Specialty Shops: These spots not only stock up on film but also offer development services. We can often strike up enlightening conversations with fellow enthusiasts here.

Basic Shooting Techniques

photography tips for beginners canon

Loading and Setting Up Your Film

When I’m about to shoot on film, the first step is to get my camera set up. I start by loading the film carefully. It’s almost like a ritual: I pop open the back of my shoot camera, whether it’s a vintage SLR or a newer model, and insert the film roll.

Make sure the film is properly aligned with the sprockets, and then I close the back, winding it until it catches. Trust me, the sound of film winding is quite satisfying.

For 35mm cameras, here’s how I load the film:

  1. Pull up the rewind knob to open the back.
  2. Place the film canister into the chamber.
  3. Pull the film leader across the camera to the take-up spool.
  4. Engage the sprocket teeth with the film holes.
  5. Close the back and advance the film with the lever until it’s taut.

Camera Settings:

  • ISO/ASA: Set your camera’s ISO to match the film. If I’m shooting a 400 ISO film, that’s where I’ll dial in.
  • Aperture: Decide based on the lighting situation. A sunny day? Maybe start around f/16. Overcast? Perhaps f/5.6.
  • Shutter Speed: Match or exceed your lens’s focal length for sharp shots. So if I use a 50mm lens, I wouldn’t go below 1/60 sec.

Shooting Your First Roll

When I’m ready to shoot, I compose my shot through the viewfinder, adjusting focus and framing. Each frame is precious because unlike digital, I can’t instantly review or delete my shots.

It’s key to savor the process and make each shot count.

Every time I press the shutter button, that’s a commitment. I’ve just captured an irreplaceable moment. I keep shooting until I finish the entire roll, being mindful of each composition.

After the last frame, I rewind the film (if it’s not an automatic rewind camera) until I feel the tension release, signaling the film is safely back in its canister.

Shooting with DSLR cameras on film isn’t much different from shooting with a shoot camera styled for film:

  • Check battery levels since they power the light meter and, for some cameras, the film advance.
  • Review each setting before I take a picture.
  • Be deliberate with my shots; every click of the shutter is a frame of film used.

From loading the film to taking your final shot, the film shooting process is an adventure in patience and precision. And I think that’s what makes it so rewarding.

photo tips for beginners

Post-Processing and Development

After I’ve captured all my shots on film, it’s time for what can be the most exciting part of the film photography process: bringing those images to life.

This involves developing the film to see the latent images and then either scanning or printing the photos to share and display.

Developing Your Film at Home

For photographers who love a hands-on approach, developing film at home can be incredibly rewarding.

I need a few pieces of equipment to start: a darkroom bag or a completely dark room, chemicals (developer, stop bath, fixer), and a film developing tank.

I closely follow the specific temperature and timing guides for my chemicals so my film is developed properly. It’s precise work, but when I hang my strips of newly developed film to dry, it’s like I’m unveiling a set of hidden treasures.

  • Safety Tip: Always wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when handling chemicals.

Options for Scanning and Printing

Once my film is developed, I either scan or print my images. Scanning is great because I can digitize my developed filmand share it online.

I either use a dedicated film scanner or a flatbed scanner with a film holder attachment, ensuring my negatives remain clean and scratch-free.

For printing, I can use an enlarger in a darkroom setup. The enlarger projects the image onto light-sensitive paper, and then, using similar chemicals as film developing, I process the print.

Alternatively, I opt for services that can do high-quality scans and prints for me. Some labs let me mail in my developed film, while others require the undeveloped rolls.

  • Scanning at Home: I personally love the autonomy of adjusting the resolution and color balance during the scanning process.
  • Professional Services: When it comes to convenience, nothing beats a professional lab’s service. They often offer a variety of scans – from small for web use to huge, detailed files for printing.

Essential Gear to Enhance Your Film Photography Experience

Power Sources

There’s nothing worse than setting up the perfect shot only to have your camera power down, so having extra batteries on hand is crucial. Check your camera needs:

  • For SLRs: Silver oxide or alkaline batteries
  • For Point-and-Shoots: Lithium batteries for longer life


A good tripod helps prevent camera shake, especially in low light. If you’re into long exposures or night photography, this is a must-have.

Lens Filters

Using different types of filters gives you creative control over your images.

  • UV filters to protect your lens
  • Polarizing filters to reduce glare and enhance colors

Exposure Calculators

light meter app for your smartphone can serve as a modern convenience to the vintage practice of film photography.

  • Free or paid, handy in a pinch
  • Just remember to double-check against your camera’s own metering

Backup Film

Carry an extra roll of film so you never miss a moment. Different films have different effects, so experiment to find your favorite.

  • Black and white for dramatic shots
  • Color film for vibrant images

An Attitude for Adventure

Embrace an open mind when venturing into film photography. Mistakes can be the best teachers, and unexpected results often lead to creative breakthroughs.

  • Be prepared for trial and error
  • Your personal style will emerge through practice
photography tips for beginners dslr

Finding Inspiration and Community

When I first started with film photography, looking at the works of great street photographers sparked a fire in me. Their candid shots of urban life made mundane moments feel magical.

I’d sift through photos in books or online galleries, paying close attention to how light and shadow played across different scenes.

I remember the excitement I felt stepping outside with my camera, ready to capture the essence of the streets. Photography, especially with film, became more than just a hobby – it was a reason to explore and observe.

Here’s what I did to immerse myself in the world of photography and find my tribe:

  • Join Local Photography Groups: I searched for groups in my area and attended meetups. It was fun to geek out about camera gear and film types with people who shared my passion.
  • Attend Workshops and Photowalks: There’s always something new to learn, and these events are great for both education and meeting fellow shutterbugs.
  • Online Forums and Social Media: Platforms like Instagram and photography forums became my go-to for both inspiration and critique. It’s amazing how many photographers are out there sharing their journey.
  • Visit Exhibitions: Any time there’s a photography exhibit, I make it a point to visit. It’s incredibly motivating to see what’s possible with film.

For me, being part of a community has been invaluable. It’s amazing how much it pushes me to develop and improve while also making the whole process a lot more.

5 Tips For New Film Photographers

1. Choose a Single Type of Film

When we’re just starting out, it’s tempting to try every film stock we lay our eyes on. But it’s wiser to pick one and learn its quirks.

This way, we gain a solid understanding of how it reacts to different lighting conditions and subjects.

2. Use an External Light Meter

Relying on the in-camera meter isn’t always the best bet. Using an external, or handheld light meter helps us understand light more intimately.

You can get more accurate exposures in tricky lighting. It also helps to train your eye for light

3. Start with 35mm Film

Beginning with 35mm film is a solid choice; it’s more accessible and forgiving. Plus, the cameras and equipment are generally more available and affordable.

What I Love About 35mm:

  • It’s great for learning the basics of film photography.
  • Wide variety of cameras to choose from.

4. Develop Your Film at a Professional Lab

Sure, developing film at home sounds tempting for a beginner, but for consistent and high-quality results a professional lab is the way to go. At least on your first few rolls. 

5. Shoot The Entire Roll

To understand how our camera and film behave together, we should shoot our first rolls in a single setting or day. This keeps the variables minimal and helps us make better sense of the outcomes.

Why This Helps:

  • We can more easily identify what works and what doesn’t.
  • Creates a baseline for us to improve from.

Happy Shooting!