A Beginner’s Guide to Film Photography

Shooting analogue cameras is not difficult, as long as you have a solid idea of how to do it right, which this guide should aptly provide.  


Part 1 : Types of Film Cameras
Part 2 : Types of Photographic Film
Part 3 : Common Film Sizes
Part 4 : Different Film Speed 
Part 5 : Loading and unloading film
Part 6 : Metering light and making exposures - The Sunny 16 Rule
Part 7 : Hot tips of buying a camera


📸    Part 1: Types of Film Cameras 


Category A - Entry-level or starters. The cameras that fall into this are single-use or disposable camera, Point & Shoot camera, basic SLR - Fujifilm Instax.                                                                                                  

👉  Our Collection Of Disposable Cameras

Basically for anyone want to dabble into first single-use or disposable camera is probably the best way to start, this might not be the most environmentally friendly option, but they usually are 27 exposures in these cameras. They only cost about $25, fun easy to use, comes with flash, suitable for party/festival and travel, like our IRO single-use or Kodak or Fujifilm simple Ace.                                                                                          

👉  Our Collection Of Point And Shoot Cameras

Then you moved to point and shoot, where you buy 35mm film rolls, load them, shoot them and rewind them when you are done. You got the option to purchase a colour or BW films, and you can reuse the cameras, they are often better in quality, comes with an optional zoom feature. However, fixed lenses typically produce sharper images, comes with flash, and yes, you often need something like a CR123 or a double A battery to operate.  An example will be like your Olympus Mju Zoom series or Seagull SC-198 series, ranged around $300 and it's super easy to use. 

 Seagull SC-198



Category B - Stepping Up, generally for people who are incredibly giving this a go, will probably cost around $500, but it's worth it.                               
👉 Our Collection of SLR Film Cameras                                                         
SLR stands for Single-Lens-Reflex, these cameras around you to control aperture, shutter speed and focus, which is more advantage over the point and shoot, which only allow you to choose ISO.  SLR allows you to focus at closer proximity to compared to point and shoot and single-use.      


Category C - Another step up, with a budget of around $500 -1500These are the Premium SLR, like Nikon FM2, F3, Contax F1, Contax G1 rangefinder, more quality and better built. Often they are pro gears for their era, a workhorse with full manual control as well as a light meter.  


 Contax G1

Category D - Premium with a budget of $2000 and up 

👉  Our Collection of Medium Format Cameras

In this category, we see customer value quality over others; they want an outstanding shooting experience, with the best gear money can buy. After all, most of us can only use one camera at a time. In this category, we have cameras like the Leica M series, M2, M3, M6 and M7. Also, the medium formats like the Hasselblad, the Pentax 67,Contax 645 all falls in this category. When this happens, the user will value the tiny things that complete the whole shooting experience over price. 


 pentax 645

🎞️  Part 2 : Types of Photographic Film


Color Negative Film

This type of film is popular among portrait and wedding photographers because of their vivid colors and contrast. C-41 chemicals found in color negative film yields negatives and prints through regular image processing.

Color Positive Film

Color positive film produces colorful images or slides through regular image processing. It contains E-6 chemicals, which can be used with C-41 chemicals (color negative film) to create photos with intense contrast and bright colors, as seen in lomographic photos. This is known as cross-processing.

Black and White Film

Black and White film comes in two types: “traditional” B&W film and C-41 B&W film. Traditional or Silver Gelatin B&W film uses gelatin with small silver salt crystals dispersed in the substance—hence the term “Silver Gelatin.” It is considered more stable and entails a much simpler developing process (as compared to the C-41 B&W), which is why it is typically the preferred film of B&W shooters. On the other hand, C-41 B&W film has numerous layers that are all sensitive to light, plus it involves a painstaking developing process that is easy to mess up. Also, exposure to various colors of light can make them unstable, and they often produce inconsistent results.

The ten films we recommend 

What would we do without Black and White films? Leading the charge are evergreen film stock the Kodak Tri-X and the Ilford Hp5 film stock. Both of these based on older Black and White Chemistry and crystal exposure technology, their newer counterpart is the Tmax series from Kodak and the Delta series from Ilford both so versatile that has the 3200 ISO range film.
For colour film, hands down will go to Kodak Portra series for skin tone and portraits shots (warmer colour), and for Landscape, where you want more vivid colour Ektar 100 and E100 (transparency film) does the job very well. One of my favourite transparency films is Fujifilm Provia 100 (which give superb skin tone colour rendering), and their Velvia 50 or 100 series are excellent for Landscape because of their high colour saturation.
Going less Pro, very good films are Kodak Ultramax 400 and Kodak Gold 200 and Colourplus 200, all these are good films stock to try when you first give films ago. Fuji c200, Superia 400 and also Fuji industrial 100 are more pastel colour film which different from Kodak film. In general Kodak film like its box colour is more yellow and Fuji, like it's box colour, it is greener. 
And if you are ever curious you can also try our own KIRO 400 film which is more similar to the Kodak 400 films stock.                                                       
Further Reading : Top 10 film we recommend  (link to another blog)



📐  Part 3 : Common Film Sizes


135 or 35mm – 135 or 35mm film is both easy to find and process, as they’re available at drugstores and can be developed in one-hour photo laboratories. 35mm film produces images with a common size of 24x36mm.

👉 Our Collection of 35mm film

120 or Medium Format – 120 film comes in various frame sizes, but the most common would be the 6x6cm. Depending on the frame size, it offers exposures of up to 15 or 16.

👉 Our Collection of 120 film 

Large Format – Large format film is generally at least 4×5 inches or 9x12cm, giving you around 15 times the resolution of the typical 35mm film. It also comes in other less common sizes, such as quarter-plate, 5x7in, and 8x10in.


⚡  Part 4 : ISO Film Speed  


Slow Film Speed – ISO Film 200 and Below 
ISO 100 or 200 film speeds are best for bright lighting conditions and outdoor photography. As this is a slower film, more light will be required for exposures. If there is not enough light available, slow film may result in dark or blurry photographs. A tripod is highly recommended when using low-speed film unless the photographer has an extremely steady hand for slightly longer exposure times. Slower speed film is best used to photograph outdoor landscapes, inanimate objects, and outdoor events on a bright day. Slow speed film should generally not be used for dimly lit areas and fast-moving subjects.                                                                        
Medium Film Speed – ISO 400 

ISO 400 film speed is a great all-purpose film that can be used for most situations. Photographs can be taken without the need for high amounts of lighting and moving subjects can be photographed with ease. The versatility of this film makes it ideal for photographing in a variety of circumstances such as open landscapes or indoor areas. Indoor photographs can be taken with significant lighting available through a window or doorway. Medium speed film is best used to photograph overcast outdoor images, indoor portraits with natural lighting, and when photographing a combination of indoor and outdoor images on the same roll. Medium speed film should generally not be used with fast motion photography such as sporting events, indoors without much lighting, or in extremely bright lighting.             

Fast Film Speed – ISO 800 and Above 

Fast speed film will result in the grainiest photographs but is great to use when shooting fast-moving subjects in low light conditions. This film is often used by sports photographers or journalists who do not always have the best lighting to work with and need to capture images without blur. In addition, it is typically not used for larger prints due to the noticeable grain. Fast speed film should be used for fast-moving subjects in low light, dimly lit situations without a tripod, and when using a zoom lens in low light conditions. Fast speed film should not be used in bright conditions or images that you would like to enlarge more than 8×10 inches. 


⚙️  Part 5 : Loading and unloading film into 35mm camera                   

A) How to load film 

First - here's a quick tutorial on how to load film. into this specific camera. All film cameras are a little different but similar; automatic film cameras can be very different. 
👉 Click To Watch 35mm Film Loading  and Unloading Tutorial (Youtube link)                           
  1. Remove your film from the canister, and ready your film. 
  2. Gently pull up on the knob on the left side; you will feel it 'pop' and the back of the camera will open. 
  3. Insert the film into the camera - the cylindrical bit that sticks out should be faced down, and the flat part on the side should line up with the camera window. It should fit in fairly naturally. 
  4. Push the knob down again, to lock the film in place. 
  5. Pull the film out a couple of inches, across the back of the camera and over the camera window. 
  6. Insert the leader (the weird shaped bit of film that sticks out of the roll) into any of the slots on the slotted cylinder on the far right of the camera (NOT under the little spiked cylinder). 
  7. Start winding the film forward with the film lever, and depressing the shutter release button when the lever stops (both of these are on the outside part of the camera) above the slotted cylinder). 
  8. Just one or two pulls on the lever for now. 
  9. You will know it is working if the film starts to flatten itself out across the back of the camera and over the window. If it is not, repeat any necessary steps from above. 
  10. Once the film is flat and things are winding properly, close the back of the camera. 
  11. Look at the tiny 'window' on the top of the camera, next to the shutter release button. It should say 'S' - wind and click the shutter release button one to three more times, until the S disappears and the number 1 appears. 
  12. You are now on shot #1 and are ready to shoot! 
  13. You MUST shoot the whole roll of film before unloading the camera. 




B) How To Unload Film 

  1. Push the RELEASE BUTTON on the bottom of the camera. This releases the film, so that when you wind it, it doesn't rip. 
  2. Wind the pin CLOCKWISE. There will be a small amount of resistance until it is finished winding. If there's a lot of resistance, don't force it - instead push the release button again. 
  3. Once it is finished winding, it is safe to pull the knob to open the camera and remove the film. Once you do, immediately put the film back in the film canister and close the back of the camera again.


  🌞 Part 6 : Metering light and making exposures 

The Sunny 16 Rule                 

The basic rule is very simple: if you have a bright, sunny day, then use f-stop 16 for your camera lens aperture. The shutter speed should then be set to the equivalent of your ISO film speed – or the next number over. For example, if you are using an ISO film speed of 100, your shutter speed should be set to 1/125. More than often, your shutter speed number will be higher than the ISO film speed, but it is simply easier to remember that film speed equals shutter speed.                                                                         
The Sunny 16 rule can also help to determine aperture and shutter speed settings when conditions are not typical sunny days. For example, a hazy sun will require you to close one stop to f/11 while an overcast day would require f/5.6. Normally, changing the f-stop would require you to also change your shutter speed to ensure an even exposure. With the Sunny 16 rule, disregard that. Simply remember to keep you shutter speed set to the film speed ISO and the aperture to the amount of sun available.
Here is a quick table to help you understand the Sunny 16 rule, how it applies to different film speeds, and how different amounts of sun will affect the f-stop.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


Distinct Shadows

Hazy Sun
Soft Shadows

Barely Visible Shadows

No Shadows


f / 16

f / 11

f / 8

f / 5.6

ISO 100





ISO 200





ISO 400





ISO 800







⚠️  Part 7 : Tips of buying a Camera 

If you are buying an old, used film camera, there are a number of potential problems you could encounter. Here are the five things you should check before you make the purchase to make sure that your new toy works properly.                                                                                                                   
👉  Click here to watch the video version of this 5 steps tips                                                                                                                                                 

✔️Check shutter speeds  

If the camera hasn’t been cleaned and re-lubricated in a long time, slower shutter speeds might get clogged up. They tend to die before the faster shutter speeds, so before you buy the camera, make sure to check the 1 s shutter speed. Turn on the timer on your phone and test if one second is really one second. If this is working properly, then the faster shutter speeds are most likely good, too. 

If you’re buying a camera with a leaf shutter, sometimes the leaves might get stuck due to oil that has accumulated on them. You can sometimes clean it with alcohol and make the leaves move again, but keep in mind that it doesn’t always work. 

✔️Check light seals  

The only light you need when taking photos is the one coming through your lens. Light leaks could destroy your images, so make sure to watch for those. Look around the edges of the door of your potential new camera. It should have flocking that creates a seal once the door is closed. If this flocking is damaged, keep in mind that it could affect your shots. It’s possible to fix it, just make sure to do it before you start shooting. 

Some cameras have cloth shutter curtains, which is another potential place for light leaks. Before buying the camera, check this curtain for holes by shining a very bright flashlight through it. Although, holes in the shutter curtain can sometimes create some interesting effects. But if you don’t want lil’ fairies in your images, you can fix holes in the shutter curtain with some liquid tape. 

✔️Check lens  

Other than checking the camera, you also need to check the quality of the lens. The first thing to check is if there’s any fungus or haze. Even if there are, it’s possible to clean them. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll have to take the lens apart. 

Another thing to check is if there’s any oil on the aperture blades of the lens. It can cause the aperture blades to jam and not close properly. It’s also possible to clean it, but it’s not recommended if you’re new to film cameras. 

✔️Check focus  

I guess you want your photos to be sharp, so be sure to check the focusing accuracy as well as you can. For example, if you’re buying a rangefinder camera, make sure that the patch is moving correctly and that it’s focusing at the roughly correct distance. Another thing to check with the rangefinder cameras is that the two patches are oriented correctly horizontally and vertically when they align. 

✔️Bring a battery and a flashlight 

If the camera you want to buy uses batteries, you should have a fresh battery on you to check whether everything is really working properly. As for the flashlight, it’s useful to have it so you can check the inside of the lens and light seals.