Photo tips

Advice for first time film photographers

There are a lot of new film photographers out there. A lot of you have never used a film camera before. No worries! There are many different ways to ease into the film photography world.

One easy entry point is to use one of the instant cameras on the market. The Instax Mini 9 is readily available and the film is in just about any store. It is an analog camera, but gives you instant results like a digital camera. The camera has a few limitations. I have found it doesn’t do well in bright sunlight, or in darker environments without a flash. With that in mind, know that some of your photos will be less than perfect. This really has nothing to do with the photographer, it is more of a camera and film limitation rather than an error on your behalf. They are fun little cameras and will give you the chance to dip your pinkie toe into analog photography.

A second entry point would be use a disposable camera. This camera will be loaded with fast film (usually 800 ISO) and have a fixed aperture and focal length lenses. What this means is that the lens will focus from about 5-6 feet to infinity all the time, and always let the same amount of light in the camera no matter where you are. Outdoor sunny situations work best. Indoor subjects close enough to use the flash are another. Anything else will be a gamble.

Moving up from disposable cameras is the film point and shoot camera. They come in many flavors. Some are glorified disposable cameras that can be loaded with new film. These simple point and shoot cameras have the same fixed lens issues as mentioned above. A more expensive point and shoot camera will have shutter speeds and lens apertures that will let you control the light, and a lens that will focus and sometimes zoom. Great features, much better than a disposable camera. Still with limitations. These lenses are pretty slow. They don’t allow a lot of light in, so fast moving or far away dark subjects will still be a challenge. Daylight or indoor flash close ups (groups, single subjects) are still your best bet. Plus there are very little manual controls on a point and shoot camera. The more manual, the better when learning how to control light and how to focus.

Finally, the Holy Grail of learning film photography is the 35mm film single lens reflex (SLR) camera. The controls are easier on an older manual camera vs. an electronic, auto focus, auto everything 35mm SLR. Limiting your lens choice in the beginning is also important. Stick with the run of the mill 50mm lens. They are easy to focus, let a lot of light in the camera when they are shot wide open taking another variable out of the learning process. My favorite cameras for learning film photography are the Pentax K1000, Nikon FM and Canon AE1. Of course there are many others that fit the bill.

This of course is just a very high overview. Learning film photography is different, but not too difficult. A film camera course, online tutorials, library books, friends with film cameras and practice will all be your best friends when learning how to use your camera. Pick one up and start your journey today!

2 replies »

  1. My absolute favorite was a AE1. It, along with its 20, 50 and 200mm lenses, was stolen in a burglary in 1995. Also stolen was my custom made hiking boots. I’m not sure if I was more upset about losing the boots or the camera.

    Liked by 1 person

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