Wanting To Get Into Film Photography? Here's All You Need To Know

In an era where smartphones and digital cameras dominate, film photography offers a refreshing break from the fast-paced, digital world.

It allows people to slow down and truly appreciate the process of capturing an image in a really rewarding way. 

More and more people are keen to get into this old-school type of photography nowadays, but if you’ve never used a film camera before, and are used to shooting digitally, it can feel pretty confusing and complex at first. 

If you’re a newbie when it comes to shooting in this way, we’ve put together this film photography guide with all you need to know to get started! 

film photography guide

What Is Film Photography? 

Film photography is a method of taking pictures using a special kind of film instead of a digital camera. 

With film photography, a camera captures an image on a thin piece of film coated with light-sensitive chemicals.

Once you’ve taken all of the photos on your film roll, you then need to develop the film to see the pictures.

Some photographers do develop their film themselves, but if you’re just getting started, it’s best to send your film off to a developer who will use chemicals in a darkroom to bring out the captured images on the film. 

Unlike digital photography and shooting on your swanky iPhone, film photography requires more patience and skill because you can’t instantly see the results.

Film photography has a unique and nostalgic feel, which produces nostalgic, grainy quality images which many people find appealing. 

Although, it is a case of trial and error as you need to know more about photography theory. 

What Is Film Photography? 

How To Get Started With Film Photography 

Are you ready to get into the world of film photography? 

In this guide we will be covering everything you need to know from choosing your first film camera to developing and printing your own photographs!

How To Get Started With Film Photography 

1. Choosing The Right Film Camera 

The first step if you’re wanting to get into film photography is obviously to buy a camera, or to go digging for your parents’ old one! 

We’d suggest beginning with a basic, manual film camera rather than investing in an expensive or advanced model. 

As a newbie, you could start by purchasing a disposable film camera first which are single-use cameras which come pre-loaded with a roll of 35mm film and are super easy to use. 

After you’ve had some fun with shooting on a single-use film camera, you can then go for a 35 mm SLR film camera or a new point and shoot style film camera. 

By purchasing a simple film camera, this will allow you to adjust settings such as aperture, shutter speed, and focus manually and help you develop your skills, without being overwhelmed by the ins and outs of photography. 

choosing the right camera film photography guide

2. Decide On Your Film Stock 

Unlike purchasing a digital camera, once you’ve got your film camera, you won’t be ready to start capturing images just yet, you need to decide on your film stock. 

Usually, there are three types of film stock which are colour negative film, colour positive film, and black and white film, which have 24 or 36 exposures. 

Some popular film brands include Kodak, Fujifilm, and Ilford.

We’d recommend starting with 35mm colour film as it’s quick and easy to load, although if you struggle with inserting your film, there’s tons of YouTube videos out there! 

Once you’ve got to grips with this method of photography, don’t be afraid to experiment with different film stocks and see which ones you like shooting with best. 

deciding on your film stock photography

3. Learn The Basics 

So you’re eager to start shooting on film? Well, firstly you need to learn the basics of film photography. 

Try to familiarise yourself with the exposure triangle, which consists of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. 

Whether it’s watching videos online, reading articles or books, or even listening to podcasts, there’s so many learning materials out there to help you learn more about photography theory. 

By understanding how these elements work together, it will allow you to control the amount of light that reaches the film and create properly exposed images.

learning the basics of film photography

4. Shoot In Manual Mode 

If you’re a beginner looking to get into film photography, we’d suggest shooting in manual mode.

By doing this, it will give you full control over the exposure settings and help you understand how different adjustments affect your photographs.

Through practising shooting in manual mode, you’ll gain a better understanding of how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO interact with each other to achieve proper exposure.

We’d also suggest starting off with a slower ISO speed, such as ISO 100 or 200, to begin with. 

Slower film has finer grain and better dynamic range, making it more forgiving for beginners and ideal for outdoor or well-lit environments.

shooting in manual mode film photography guide

5. Gain Inspiration 

Whilst starting off capturing film photography, we’d recommend looking at the work of other photographers to help you gain inspiration for your own work. 

You can study other photographers’ composition, use of light, and subject matter which will help you to develop your own style and improve your skills. 

Some well known film photographers in this day and age are Annie Leibovitz, Martin Parr, Tom Wood and Steve McCurry to name a few. 

Although, if you search for #filmphotography on Instagram you’ll have so much inspiration at your fingertips! 

photography inspiration

6. Join A Film Photography Community

Up next within our film photography guide is joining a community of other avid photographers. 

By connecting with other like-minded film photographers whether it’s through online forums, social media groups, local photography clubs or even joining a photography society at your university, you’ll gain valuable feedback, inspiration, as well as learning opportunities. 

If you live in  student accommodation, you could even get together with other photographers and start your own club or weekly event – sounds fun, eh? 

Sharing your work, seeking feedback, and learning from others can really help you grow as a photographer!

photography community

7. Experiment & Have Fun 

As we stated earlier, film photography is a creative process where you’ll encounter trial and error, so it’s important to take your time and be patient. 

Chances are, your first few rolls won’t turn out how you expected, but don’t be disheartened, this happens to even the best of photographers from time to time. 

With film photography, there’s always more to learn and you’ll no doubt encounter mistakes or imperfect shots along the way, but it’s important to try and embrace any imperfections and use them to your advantage. 

If you see these experiences as valuable lessons, it will help you to grow and learn more as a photographer.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and enjoy the process of capturing moments on film, as they say, good things take time! 

person taking a photo

That’s the end of our film photography guide, we hope it’s given you some all-important tips to help you get started. 

Remember to enjoy the process, be patient with yourself and have fun capturing the world through the lens of a film camera. 

Now, go out there and give it a go for yourself – happy shooting! 

Wondering how you can make money on TikTok as a student? Take a read of our guide to find out!

Table of Contents