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Beginners Guide To Film Photography


Film photography is a timeless art form that has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. This guide will help beginners understand the basics of film photography and provide a foundation for further exploration and learning.

Introduction to Film Photography

Why Choose Film Over Digital?

Film photography offers a unique aesthetic that digital photography can’t replicate. The grain, the colours, and even the imperfections of the film add a certain character to the photos that are hard to reproduce digitally. Moreover, film photography teaches discipline, as each shot costs money and can’t be deleted or immediately reviewed like digital photos. This forces you to think more carefully about your composition, exposure settings, and the overall vision of your shot, ultimately making you a better photographer.

Understanding the Basics of Film Photography

Understanding the basics of film photography involves getting to grips with a few key concepts:

  • Film Speed (ISO): This refers to how sensitive the film is to light. Lower ISOs (100 or 200) are less sensitive and require more light but provide finer detail, while higher ISOs (400 or 800) are more sensitive and work better in low light but can result in grainier images. The ISO is usually chosen based on the lighting conditions you’ll be shooting in.
  • Shutter Speed and Aperture: These control how much light reaches the film. Shutter speed is how long the shutter is open, and aperture is how wide the lens opens. Both affect the image’s depth of field (how much of the scene is in focus) and motion blur. A slower shutter speed can create motion blur, while a wider aperture can create a shallow depth of field.
  • Light Metering: This is the process of measuring the amount of light in a scene to determine the optimal exposure settings. Most film cameras have a built-in light meter that will suggest the best combination of shutter speed and aperture for a balanced exposure.

Choosing Your First Film Camera

There are two main types of film cameras: point-and-shoot and SLR (Single Lens Reflex). Point-and-shoot cameras are simpler and more portable, while SLRs offer more control over settings.

Point-and-shoot cameras are great for everyday, casual shooting. They are compact, easy to use, and often come with a fixed lens, which means you don’t have to worry about choosing and changing lenses.

On the other hand, SLRs are larger and heavier but offer more flexibility. They allow you to manually adjust your exposure settings and focus, and you can change lenses to suit different types of photography. Some popular beginner-friendly film SLRs include the Canon AE-1 and the Nikon FM series.

Embarking on your film photography journey? Choosing the right camera can be a challenge. Don’t navigate it alone! Our experienced experts are ready to guide you to your perfect match. Connect with an expert today and start capturing the world through your lens!

Understanding Film Types

There are two main types of film: black and white, and colour. A black and white film can give your photos a classic, timeless look, while colour film can capture the world as we see it or even enhance it, depending on the film stock.

There are also different film formats, with 35mm being the most common and easiest for beginners. Other formats include 120 (or medium format), which provides higher resolution and is used in professional and fine art photography, and large format, which is used for ultra-high resolution images. Shop for film here.

Navigating the world of film types can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Our knowledgeable team is ready to help you understand the differences and choose the right film for your photography needs. Reach out today and let us guide you through the fascinating world of film types!

Diving Deeper into Film Photography

How to Load and Unload Film

Loading and unloading film can be tricky for beginners, but with practice, it becomes second nature. Always make sure to load and unload your film in a dimly lit environment to prevent overexposure.

To load the film, you first open the back of the camera, place the film canister in the designated slot, and pull the film leader out to the take-up spool. You then close the back of the camera and wind the film forward until it’s ready to shoot.

Unloading the film involves rewinding the film back into its canister once you’ve taken all the photos. This is usually done by pressing a rewind button and using a rewind lever. Once the film is fully rewound, you can open the back of the camera and remove the film canister.

Basic Film Photography Techniques

There are several basic techniques that can help you take better photos:

  • Rule of Thirds: This is a basic principle of composition that suggests that an image should be divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. The subject should be placed along these lines or at their intersections for a balanced and interesting composition.
  • Depth of Field: This is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a photo that appear acceptably sharp. It’s controlled by the aperture: a wider aperture (represented by a lower f-number) results in a shallow depth of field, while a narrower aperture (higher f-number) results in a greater depth of field.
  • Using Natural Light: Natural light can create beautiful effects in film photography. The “golden hours” just after sunrise and before sunset are particularly good for shooting, as the light is softer and warmer. Overcast days can also provide good lighting conditions, with diffused light that minimizes harsh shadows.

Developing Your Film

Once you’ve shot your roll of film, the next step is to develop it. This involves treating the film with various chemicals to reveal the image. You can develop your film at home or send it to a professional lab.

Developing at home requires some special equipment and chemicals, but it can be a rewarding process that gives you full control over the final look of your photos. It involves several steps: pre-soaking the film, developing, stopping, fixing, washing, and drying.

But we would recommend sending your film to a lab so you can avoid nasty chemicals that are difficult to get rid of. Our film-developing service ensures high-quality results that truly capture the essence of your work. Don’t let your memories stay hidden in the negatives. Contact us today and bring your film photography to life!

Scanning and Printing Your Photos

Once your film is developed, you can scan the negatives to create digital copies. This requires a film scanner, which can range from affordable flatbed scanners to high-end dedicated film scanners.

Alternatively, you can print your photos in a darkroom. This is a more complex and time-consuming process, but it can be very rewarding. It involves projecting the image from the negative onto photographic paper and then developing the paper to reveal the image.


What are the steps of film photography?

The steps of film photography are: loading the film, setting the exposure, composing and taking the shot, unloading the film, developing the film, and finally, scanning or printing the photos.

What are the basic components of photographic film?

The basic components of photographic film are the film base, emulsion, and anti-halation layer. The film base provides support, the emulsion contains light-sensitive silver halide crystals that create the image, and the anti-halation layer prevents light from reflecting back into the emulsion.

Is film photography easy to learn?

While film photography has a learning curve, with practice and patience, it can be learned and enjoyed by anyone. It requires a good understanding of exposure and composition, but these skills can be developed over time.

What are the 7 stages of film?

The 7 stages of film are: development, pre-production, production, principal photography, wrap, post-production, and distribution. These stages are more relevant to filmmaking rather than still film photography.

What is the Sunny 16 rule?

The Sunny 16 ruleis a method of estimating correct daylight exposures without a light meter. On a sunny day, set your aperture to f/16 and your shutter speed to the reciprocal of your film speed (ISO). For example, if you’re using ISO 100 film, set your shutter speed to 1/100 or 1/125 (the closest setting on most cameras).

What are the 5 key elements of film?

The 5 key elements of film are: cinematography, sound, mise-en-scène (the arrangement of scenery and stage properties), editing, and narrative. These elements are more relevant to filmmaking rather than still film photography.

What is the 180 rule in cinematography?

The 180-degree rule is a basic guideline in film making that states that two characters (or other elements) in the same scene should maintain the same left/right relationship to one another. This rule is more relevant to filmmaking rather than still film photography.

What are the three C’s of film?

The three C’s of film are: concept, character, and conflict. These elements are more relevant to filmmaking rather than still film photography.

What is the rule of three in film?

The rule of three in film is a narrative device that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers. This rule is more relevant to filmmaking rather than still film photography.

What is the 5 step film process?

The 5 step film process is: development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution. These steps are more relevant to filmmaking rather than still film photography.

How many pictures in a 35mm roll of film?

A standard 35mm film roll will give you 24 to 36 exposures depending on the film’s length.

What type of film is best for beginners?

35mm film is often recommended for beginners due to its availability, affordability, and ease of use. It’s also the easiest to get developed, as most film labs process 35mm film.

How many rolls of film do you shoot?

The number of rolls you shoot depends on the situation and your personal style. Some photographers might shoot one roll for a casual day out, while others might shoot multiple rolls for a professional shoot.


About Owen Howell

Is the third generation and the current owner who was born into the business, learning all about the new and used camera trade from his father Barry and grandfather Tom. He now has a highly qualified team who themselves are practising photographers with a combined experience of over 100 years. You can catch Owen and his team using either the live chat on the website or by emailing [email protected] or telephone 01223 368087.

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