Where To Start With Film Photography16/04/2014

posted in Gear, Guides

Oh my goodness it has been a LONG time since I have written a blog post. It is getting harder and harder as work goes on to find the time to write these posts, BUT I will keep doing it. I enjoy it, and it is a nice escape. So today I wanted to do a quick post on my thoughts on how to get started with film photography, and I will take the opportunity to show some of the photography I have been doing lately! I have said this before on this site, but I really think that more and more film photography is gaining popularity. I think that people might be getting a little tired of the occasionally stale look of digital – especially when you aren’t shooting raw or doing any post processing. The cost and ease of use of digital cameras has got a lot more people generally interested in photography, and I guess the next logical step is to try film, which many people seem to be doing.

birmingham city centre street photography Nikon FM2n fompan 400 film

The Bull, Birmimgham

But how do you get started with film photography? There’s no half way about it right? You are either shooting digital, OR you are shooting film. You can’t really half do it. I think this can be a barrier for some people. One has to go all in when it comes to film. It means a new camera, getting film, getting it developed. Then there are the questions of which camera? What film? Where do I get it developed? Hopefully this article will help you.

The Girl

The Girl

Which camera?

I have written an article which is a guide to film cameras. But it’s probably more useful to someone already shooting film. For those getting started, my recommendation would be one of two things. The first would be to try an old film SLR. They come very cheap these days, just look on eBay, a local camera shop, even charity shops have them (but those vary in quality). It’s very possible to get set up with a camera and lens for less than £150. You could even go as cheap and £100 and still get a decent camera. It doesn’t matter if they look a little beaten up, as long as they work. My recommendation here would be to try something like the Canon AE-1 Program, which is a simple and easy to use film SLR (review here). They aren’t expensive either! My other suggestion would be to go down the Lomography road. Lomography keep old film cameras in production and actively encourage trying out new things with film, such as cross processing. It is really easy to buy one of their cameras new for very cheap. They have a whole range, from very cheap to more expensive. I use a Lomo LC-A+, which is like their flagship product, but it’s on the expensive end. I think a Diana, or a Holga (get the 35mm ones) would be a good start but check their website to see the various things they have on offer.

birmingham uk street photography black and white leica m6 classic ilford hp5 plus push process kids skateboarding dark gritty


What film?

This question is getting easier and easier to answer, as different emulsions’ productions are cut. I think first time film users should go for colour negative, because it is the easiest and cheapest to have developed. There are of course cheap films and more expensive films. My personal favourite colour negative film is Kodak Ektar 100, but many people like to use Kodak Portra which I would like to try. Black and white is a good one to try as well, I shoot almost exclusively black and white, but it is harder to get developed and can be more expensive too.

Birmingham City Centre

Birmingham City Centre

Where do I get film developed?

If you are shooting colour negative this is easy. In the UK you can get your colour negative film developed in Jessops, Boots, or Snappy Snap (but I don’t recommend them ever since they screwed up development and ruined my film, then refused to give me a refund). If you want black and white, or slide film developed, or you want anything special (like cross processing) done, then it is best to go to a more professional lab. I use The Darkroom in Cheltenham. I have had good service from them, they are nice people, and they offer a postal service! Wherever I get film developed I generally ask for a CD so I can have the photographs on my computer, phone, and easily upload them to Facebook/this website.

Nikon Fm2n



Hopefully that has shown that getting into film photography really isn’t too hard! Buy a cheap camera, get a roll of colour film, get it developed! Then once you are set up you can start experimenting with other films, maybe even try other cameras too! Happy shooting everyone!

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  1. Tom whitchurch { Apr 17, 2014 } Reply

    Cool blogpost again. I think there can be room for both Portra and Ektar in my bag but I prefer Portra for street shooting (due to the film speed). Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks Tom. The film speed of Ektar can be limiting, especially for street. I need to get some Portra and just run it through a camera! What do you normally use?

  2. For someone new to film that wants to shoot B&W but be able to have any lab process it, Ilford XP-2 should be used. It is a B&W film that is processed using the C-41 process, the same process as color negative film. Then once you become addicted to B&W film shooting, move up to “true” B&W film like Kodak Tri-X and learn to develop themselves at home or send to a lab that can do true B&W processing.

    And for anyone shooting with a Canon DSLR that alread has an EF lens or two ( not EF-S ), then picking up an EF mount film body like the Canon EOS 3 or Canon Élan 7 is the most economical route.

  3. Tom whitchurch { Apr 17, 2014 } Reply

    Portra, Ektar and Tri-x Paul although I am getting fed up of Tri-X because I haven’t had the time to learn how to develop it yet. I also don’t think I’m good enough yet for the slides. I’ve tried Fuji Provia but it’s really unforgiving but really nice when I get it write. I think I’ll stick to colour negs but I think I’ll try that Ilford James. 🙂

  4. I’ve just started using film and I wanted to tell you how useful I’ve found your site! Thank you

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