So you wanna shoot film?

Natural Selection, 35mm photograph by Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

Natural Selection, 35mm photograph by Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

This is the first of two “workflow” articles, where I’ll present some recommendations on how to get started with film photography in this digital age of ours. Even if you’ve never shot anything but digital, using film is a great way to sharpen your photographic skills and experience the benefits that a slower, more deliberate process can offer. Although the price of film has steadily risen in recent years, this additional cost is offset by the rock bottom prices you can find on used film cameras on eBay and at thrift stores and yard/estate sales. Before you dive right in, here are a couple of things to consider when choosing your first film camera:

  1. Consider the type of photography that interests you most and select a camera that suites it. 
    It’s really important to do research on your potential new camera. Is it a fixed lens? If so, is the lens fast enough for my type of work? If not, how widely available (and affordable) are the additional lenses? How fast is the maximum shutter speed? The list of questions can seem endless but examining the details will help you get most bang for your buck.
  2. 135(35mm) or 120 (Medium) format?
    There are many tradeoffs with either format but in my opinion it boils down to this. 35mm is infinitely more convenient and is much less expensive in the long run. It has a wider selection of film stocks and is easier to get processed. Above all, it is capable of capturing amazing images. All that considered though, for me there really is nothing else (digital or film) comparable to shooting medium format. The image quality will blow your mind and exceeds any comparably priced digital set up.
  3. Where do I get the film processed?
    Due to the contraction of the film photography market, it can be difficult to find a local lab that still processes film. Fortunately, there are quite a few online labs that can process, scan, and send you your negatives and files back. Two excellent labs to start with are Richard Photo Lab and Old School Photo Lab. There are many others out there but those are only two I feel comfortable recommending.

Some camera recommendations:

35mm: Canon AE-1, Olympus OM (single digits are best but double digits are a lot cheaper and may suit your needs), Canon AF35, Yashica T4Zoom (an underrated compact zoom), Olympus XA, Contax T2 (my favorite camera BY FAR…not cheap), Nikon F series, Konica Hexar.

Medium Format: Fuji GA645, Fuji GSW690, Mamiya 7 (also not cheap but classic), Holga (VERY cheap), almost any Yashica TLR

The list above is far from complete and completely biased to my own tastes but hopefully it should be sufficient to get you started. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them. Stay tuned for my next article which will explore my own workflow once I get the film back from the lab, including formatting for the various social media platforms.