As a digital photographer myself, film photography was not much of an interest of mine until recently. I think the reason for this is that when I was growing up, the whole aspect of digital photography was new and exciting. Year after year, digital cameras are getting better and now we have the likes of Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji that are changing the game completely, and keep releasing new technology.
How I got into photography.
Growing up in Kenya and surrounded by nature and wildlife made me fall in love with photography. The fact that you can capture moments and be able to instantly look at the photo was amazing to me. I have to admit, my camera was on full auto mode and I was just taking as many photos as possible. As the years passed, my love for photography continued to grow, and I began doing freelance work.
This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken the Professional Photography Course at the London Institute of Photography. There I had the opportunity to pick the brains of seasoned fashion, portrait, editorial, advertising, and commercial photographers. It was fantastic to learn about photography.
I find digital photography to be incredibly practical and the easiest approach to learning photography. I think when I was around 11 years old, I first held a real SLR camera, but before that, I was able to use my dad’s Canon Ixus.
However, you are reading a blog about film photography. So let me get to that point. (Keep in mind I am no expert in this, this is just my journey in film photography so far.)
Recently, I have noticed an increase in both the number of actual film photos posted online and the number of images on social media that have been edited to appear like film. One of my good friends always carries a point-and-shoot camera around with him, and when I went to his flat a few months ago, I noticed that he had made an album with all the photos he had captured on that and disposable Kodak film cameras.
After seeing that album, it sort of brought me back to when my mum would show me all the albums that she made and that made me commit to looking into film photography myself. I found a Minolta X-700 on eBay for a steal and was gifted a Nikon & a Pentax point-and-shoot.
So the other day I had to ask myself if film photography is making a comeback.
Some of the initial questions i had when i was doing my research were;
1) Is film still being used in professional photography these days?
2) Who makes 35mm film? How much are they?
3) What about medium format? 120mm sheets?
4) Where can you develop and process your film? How much does this cost?
5) Where can I buy a film camera from?
Well to my surprise, there is a whole other side to photography when it comes to analogue photography.
You see, even though I shoot with manual settings on my digital cameras, shooting on a fully manual camera like the Minolta X-700 is completely different. You don’t really have all the features that a Sony A7iii or Canon 6D Mark ii would have, and on top of that, you can’t immediately see what you have taken a photo of.
So what really is analogue photography? And is it still being used?
I believe that film photography is making a comeback in the same way that fashion does. However, there are many well-known photographers who use both film and digital, such as Annie Leibovitz. Although she has used a variety of 35mm film cameras, she mostly uses a Hasselblad and a Mamiya RZ Pro.
The beauty in the art of film, is that you have to be selective with the photos you take. Unlike an DSLR, when you shoot film, you only have a certain amount of shots in a roll of film. Also, you would need to use manual focus, choose specific type of film depending on what you will be shooting, and consider the process of developing film.
Type of Film
So what film would I buy?
My cameras use 35mm film, and I will continue to look for the film that is reasonably priced. The most expensive part of the art that I have found is unquestionably the cost of purchasing and developing the film.
As a result of its reputation for being adaptable and ideal for shooting in pretty much any situation, this is one of the most popular rolls of film. Kodak is also well known for producing film for decades and have built a great reputation in the industry. It is widely available too, but I mainly use eBay to buy my film.
This is primarily made for commercial, fashion, and portrait photography. It is renowned for having smooth, natural skin tones. Although it is less forgiving and more expensive.
It’s the most popular colour negative film, is available in both 24 and 36-exposure rolls and is the most widely available film. It is best to use old cameras where the meters aren’t working as well or are non-existent.
Similar to the film above, but with an ISO 200. I prefer this over the UltraMax, due to the lower ISO. Mainly because I currently only shoot film when it’s light out.
But it’s a personal choice, you will get a more grainy look with a higher ISO, which I like especially with a black and white film.
A black and white film that has an ISO rating of 400. I haven’t used this film yet, but it is sitting on my desk upstairs. From what I have read, it is meant to be a good all-round film like the Kodak, and easy to use in low light as well.
There are so many more films but I have mainly focused on 35mm as that is what I will use.
You can find out more about the medium format and large format here.
Where to buy film and cameras?
I would first ask family members about cameras because you never know what your grandparents, aunts, or uncles may have hidden away. Then, I would visit eBay or Facebook Marketplace to see what was offered. Before purchasing, confirm that the camera has been serviced or is at the very least functional.
I generally use eBay for film, but you may also browse about it at nearby camera shops, online retailers, or even flea markets like Spitalfields.
Wish you luck in your film adventures if you choose to do so.
Here are a few recommended blogs and videos to have a look through if you wanted to do some more research.
Check out some other blogs written by other students.