35mm film photography 101

Here’s a quick guide If you’re thinking about starting 35mm film photography. There’s no right or wrong way to get going and many of us just do it by learning on-the-go. How ever, If you’re not sure how to kick things off, you can quickly browse though these basic steps. Starting is easier than you think.

1. Get a nice camera that works

Some people use point-and-shoots, some use Hasselblads. Old farts will laugh at your Olympus MJU II and compact shooters will roll their eyes at Leica snobs, but it doesn’t matter. Rise above. Shoot what you feel like! There are so many nice cameras out there. You’ll get a ton of conflicting advice on what to buy, but the only two important things are that you don’t get frustrated at the get-go with a busted camera and that you choose one that you love to shoot with.

2. Buy some film

Buy couple rolls of good film. If you’re not sure which, buy (for example) Kodak Tri-x 400 for black & white or Kodak Portra 400 for colour. I wouldn’t take the first couple of rolls too seriously. Think of them as a practice run or something to get a feel for it.

On a related topic, I’ve written couple of other posts that might interest you regarding film recommendations.

3. Developing the first rolls

To get a quick feel for it, have your very first rolls developed by a lab. Move on to home developing if you still want to keep at it. (Home developing will eventually become much faster and it’ll cut down the developing cost to a very student friendly level.)

If you want to check out, here’s my old article about my budget home developing kit.

4. Scanning 

People blame scanners for everything that’s wrong with their photos. I use an Epson V330 for everything (Instagram, exhibitions… you name it). It is one of the cheapest models out there, costing about 50€ as a second hand purchase. Having a film scanner at home is highly recommended. You can get a really good one for cheap and it’ll open up a ton of possibilities.

5. Darkrooming

If you’re just starting out or just want to post your photos online, darkroom isn’t at all necessary. A scanner is all you need basically. It is a bit of misconception that when you shoot film, you’d be destined to spend time in the darkroom. You’ll only need darkroom if you’re planning to make prints. I’d consider darkroom printing as a second step, when you want to move on with your film photography. 

When I returned to film shooting, I shot two years before setting up a makeshift darkroom at home. I only print occasionally and most of the time I just scan my negatives.

Darkroom printing is fun and if you have the possibility, I’d definitely give it a go. Having physical prints of your own work, especially on this day and age, is just magical.

Also worth mentioning…

If you haven’t shot film before, or if it has been 18 years since the last attempt, you´re in for plenty of surprises, which is worth bearing in mind. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a relaxed attitude and not to take it too seriously.

When I returned to film, I made the mistake of being too uptight about it. It took an eternity to finish the first roll, only to realise the plethora of mistakes I had made. A better approach would have been to shoot couple of practise rolls to get acquainted with the medium. Take one step at the time and be patient. Happy shooting! 🙂