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For People Who Want to Shoot Film, But Don't Know How to Start

We're going to straight down to it. You are interested in learning how to shoot film, whether professionally or as a hobby, but you have no idea where to begin. Let me walk you through the 5 steps you should take today to get started shooting film!

Disclaimer: Some links provided may be affiliate links. This means that I may make a small commission if you decide to purchase that (at no additional cost to you). I only recommend high-quality products and services that I would recommend to my coaching clients or friends. 

how to start shooting film photography, for beginners

Before you get started, I recommend glancing through this website to see a few courses, recommendations, etc. 

1. Purchase (or Find) a 35mm Film Camera

I highly recommend starting with 35mm (smaller format) film. That's the film that looks like the image below. The grain is a bit more, and the quality is a bit less than a medium format film scan, however it's generally a bit easier to shoot and quite a bit less expensive. Make sure that the light meter in your film camera is working (ask the seller ahead of time). If you really want to invest up front, grab this handheld light meter

  • Want to get a very inexpensive 35mm film camera? Consider this one.
  • If you already shoot a Canon camera with EF lenses, consider getting this one, or this EOS 3
    • (Want the TRULY least expensive + easiest way to get into 35mm film? Consider a 35mm Holga like these).
  • Ready to get a professional, yet not too expensive 35mm film camera? How about this one with this lens.
  • Ready to go all out and get one of the best 35mm film cameras? You have to see this one

2. Purchase Professional-Quality 35mm Film

In order to start shooting film, you're going to need some non-expired, professional quality film. You can certainly purchase non-professional quality film, however you'll find it easier to get better, more consistent results with professional-quality film. 

If you're a beginner (have never shot film, or haven't in a very long time), I highly recommend starting with Tri-X 400 Black and White 35mm Film. If you're really wanting to shoot color, I recommend starting with Kodak Portra 400 35mm film

Tri-X 400 is a pretty forgiving film stock (if you accidentally under or over expose your images). Portra 400 is pretty forgiving as well. I always air on the side of slightly over-exposure, rather than underexposure with film (it needs a bit more light, rather than less light). 

3. Watch this Video and/or Grab this Guide

To fully understand how to use the right settings for your film camera, I recommend diving head first into YouTube, grabbing a beginner's video course and/or PDF, and asking any film photographer friends you have if they have further recommendations or suggestions. 

Want to see some incredible, affordable online courses on how to shoot film? Check out this page here.

4. Shoot Your First Roll 

Once you have a basic understanding of how to shoot your 35mm camera, load up your first roll and shoot it!  Make sure you don't open the back of the camera at all until you have shot every image, and have rolled the film back into the canister (if that's not automatic in your camera). 

Use your camera's internal light meter to gauge whether you're at a close correct exposure. For TriX 400, set your ISO or Film Speed on your camera to 400, and for Portra 400, set your ISO or Film Speed to either 200 or 400 (I personally recommend 200). 

5. Send Off + Receive Your Film! 

Once you've shot your first roll or two, you'll want to send off to a film lab. You may want to start with a local film lab (slightly less expensive). However, if you want to go ahead and use a professional, reliable film lab, I highly recommend Photovision Prints Lab. If you're just beginning, I recommend asking for Noristu scans to get a little more flexibility in your scans. 

What other questions do you have about film? You can find more information from this PDF, from my Educational Instagram, and from my TikTok Account

Want the LEAST expensive way to start shooting film? Consider getting a 35mm Holga or 120 Holga

And if you're looking for an Instant Film Camera, consider grabbing either this one (bit less expensive, great wider shots) or this one (amazing aesthetics + square format).


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