Film Photography

Film Photography 101: The Foundations of Film

Film Photography 101: The Foundations of Film with Jeremy Chou

So you’ve decided to pick up a film camera.

Despite new technologies being added to digital cameras on what seems like a daily basis, Film Photography has steadily been gaining popularity amongst amateur and professional photographers alike in recent years. However, for a photographer who’s brand new to shooting film, it might seem very intimidating—especially with new terminologies like “handheld light meter,” “film stock,” “35mm vs. 120 vs. 220 medium format,” and the list goes on and on. There will be a pretty steep learning curve without a doubt. But like everything else in life, practice makes perfect. Continue to practice, and pretty soon you will have a handle on it!

In order to start shooting film, the most important part is to decide if you want to shoot 35mm or medium format cameras. Then of course deciding what film stock to use in order to best represent your work. Since all film stocks have some inherently different color profiles, picking the right film stock will have a huge impact on the final image. You will also have to decide which professional photo lab you would like to work with. Most drug stores have discontinued offering film development services, so finding a reputable professional photo lab to develop and scan film will be of utmost importance. Of course, you can always choose to build your own darkroom. However, as a professional photographer and shooting 20+ weddings and events per year, I much prefer to let a photo lab handle all the development of film rolls. 

If this all sounds overwhelming already, fear not. I will do my best to break down the basics of shooting film. Please keep in mind these are very general guidelines. Photographers should always try different approaches to find what best suits their needs!

First thing’s first: deciding which film camera to use. This will also determine the film type. While there are still many brands that produce 35mm or medium format film cameras, there are currently no camera manufacturers that still produce new film cameras. So more than likely, the film camera will be a “well-loved” one. My suggestion would be to find film cameras through reputable sellers on eBay or other trusted camera shops. 

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of both 35mm and medium format cameras.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the May 2021 magazine.