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Best 5 tips for starting film photography

Last Updated on October 24, 2016 by gregor

 The digital revolution has provided a lot of conveniences for photographers. Shooting is becoming easier, quicker and the cost per photo is now close to zero. More and more digital photography has developed in a super fast mass consumption discipline. We shoot with our smartphones and DSLRs hundreds or thousands of pictures on i.e. vacations and we often are not able to digest and really enjoy them anymore. Film is alive and kicking; so more and more young people fall in love with it.

Retro is hip especially with all the Apps like Instagram which provide filters which allow to re-create this old style vintage feeling. For many photographers shooting film is like mediation it helps them to learn and grow. With film you need to take care about ever shot as film is limited to 24 or 36 exposures. In contrast to DSLR photography which allows us almost limitless utilisation of the digital medias.

Let me share the five Top tips to dive into analogue film photography

1. Purchase an analogue camera

Good News! For starting with film you do not need to spend a lot of money!

Actually you can buy used film cameras for a relatively low price on the web through eBay or willhaben.at (Austria).  Search for well known brands who used to built solid 35mm cameras, like Canon AE-1 or AV-1, Nikon FM Series, Minolta X-700 , Pentax K 1000, Olympus OM System 1-4, Yashica FX-3. Prices range from 50.- to 250.- Euro for analogue cameras including lens(es) Very important is that you have a closely look at the camera before you buy. There might be some scratches and even mold in the camera and lens that you would not always spot online. I was fortunate to purchase  recently on the web for under 80,- Euros a used Canon AV-1 (introduced in 1979) including two amazing Canon lenses a 50mm 1,4 and a 135mm 2,8. If you want to be on the very save side look for a used camera store in your area. These stores provide you consulting and most of them have a broad selection of used tested cameras. Some shops even offer a limited return guarantee.

2. Get used with the 35mm camera

Now you have purchased the analogue camera you need to get familiar with it. There are several ways to do that for that. For nearly every 35mm camera you can search on the internet (“brand and model number in google”) for the instructions manual to download. Another easy way of learning is by looking for videos on YouTube which explain the functionalities of the camera. Even the fact that theses cameras are sometimes more the 40 years old there are numerous Videos out there to show best handling tips and tricks

3. Choose a reputable print Lab and make a relationship with them

Next question is probably where to develop the film and prints. There are several possibilities. Many retailers offer you via self service booths the possibility to send in the film to the labs and in a couple of days when you return to the store you find a package including your developed negatives and the printouts. The costs are for the developing the negatives about 4-5 Euros and the price per picture print vary from quality level and size you want to print out. Cheapest possibility is probably a couple of cents for a standard printout in 9x13mm format. This can go up to several Euros for Premium quality in much larger print size. The other more recommended possibility is to look for a professional print lab in your city. These labs specialising on printing offer you for sometimes a very little premium uplift exceptional printouts (much better quality). The differences to the retail-mass printouts are that  small print labs have less volume so the specialists in these labs usually have better control of each individual film and if necessary they do manual alterations for each film to make them look much better. In addition you get personal service, consulting and recommendations.

4. Experiment with different film stocks

Each type of film reproduces colours and tones slightly differently and hence  provide you with that special signature look. The aesthetics of a film can hardly be reproduces or simulated by digital processing. VSCO Film Filter packs for Lightroom come quite closest by my opinion to old these old Film looks. Please find a list of  nearly all photographic films available. Which one to recommend is difficult as it based on your personal photographic style and preferences.

5. Last but not least no NO EDITING

Last but not least there is no way of editing film photography, which is in some way very different to digital photography. You can fully concentrate all your efforts on the shoot. Whatever you get on the film will be there, no need to think about all the post processing possibilities which might distract your concentration to the most important thing the subject, the circumstance, the composition and the story you want to tell on that picture.

So my advise just buy a bunch of film rolls and get out and shoot. The more you practise the more you get acquainted with your analogue camera and which film type you love the most. It is surprisingly modest to buy a used good quality 35mm cameras and once you sorted out a print lab you will enjoy the whole film photography process too.

I am planning to do some 35mm Photowalks here in Vienna so if you are interested please leave a comment below.

So do you have shoot film? Please share your experience in the comments below. Many thanks!

What is in my camera bag;

Sony Alpha A7II, Sony 28mm 2.0 , Carl Zeiss 24-70mm 4.0, Canon AV-1 50mm 1.4 and 135mm 2.8.With FD adapter I can use the Canon lenses with the Sony Alpha camera. (manual focussing though)

Recommended Print Lab in Vienna Cyberlab







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