October 3, 2017

Getting Started Shooting Film

This is a rant piece that aims to be somewhat informative, ideally. Right now there are so many film” shooters selling courses or workshops on how to shoot film. The opine on how much better film is than digital, how it’s purer experience, etc. It just pisses me off and I figured it was high time that I share my 15+ years shooting print and slide film. As a disclaimer, I’m a 90% digital shooter now and I will explain why later in the rant piece.

Digital to Film

Here’s my biggest piece of advice. Start out shooting digital. Just do it. Make you’re mistakes, see them on the screen. Learn about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and all the other technical things that you’ll need to know as a photographer or hobbyist. It costs a lot of money to buy and develop film (see below), so make your mistakes on digital and don’t repeat them on film!

Shooting Film costs Money

There’s no way around this, if you want to shoot film it’s going to cost you money. You have two big expenses, buying film and developing film. You can argue about storing film in freezers both require a freezer and electricity but let’s not be a wiseass, ok?

My guess is that you’re going to start with 35mm film camera and a roll of film. I suggest starting out with some 400 ISO film to get your feet wet and and a roll of Kodak Gold 400 - 24 exposures is going to cost you $6.49 without tax. That’s $0.27 per frame without development.

Depending on where you go, it could cost you between $11 to $39 to process and scan your images. Don’t give me any sass about the scanning part, you’re going to want to share your film photos on social media anyway. I usually get my film processed and scanned here.

Let’s say you go with with the large scans, that’s $19 and puts you back an additional $0.79 per frame. Total cost is $1.06 everytime you click the shutter. Tired of the lame Kodak Gold film and want to shoot some nice Portra 160 or Ektar 100 with 36 exposures? That’ll be $11.28 per roll or $0.31 per frame. Add in the development…you get the picture. It’s $1.10 everytime you press the shutter.

But…but…you need a computer and LightRoom and storage for digital! Right you are but you’ll need the same + plastic sleeves + physical storage if you want to post your masterpieces online.

Film slows me down

Oh shut up with this. You can shoot a roll of film just as fast and get shit. Whether I shoot digital or film, I take my time. Have I shot a lot of fuckups on film, you bet! I have I messed up digital, you bet. Cameras are like a hammer - a tool. An experienced carpenter can build you a house but a rookie can just make holes in drywall. Go as slow or fast as you want, don’t say film is superior because it’s not true.

Film gear is really cheap now!

The majority of it is but because of these Film nutsenthusiasts, really good cameras and lens are pretty darn expensive. I’m a big fan of the Ricoh street cameras and they go for about $500 on ebay now. WOW. I can get a Canon 50d for half that price!

If you really want to shoot film

Buy film in bulk, store it in a freezer, find a good lab that will develop and/or scan your images, OR buy a scanner.

You could always learn how to develop black and white, which makes a lot of sense IMHO. You can cut down your costs that way as well.

End notes TL;dr

Start with digital, make your mistakes and learn from them, then move to film. Save your money from I love Film” courses. Go out and take pictures.


Film Photography Thoughts


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