The glory of good ol’ fashioned film photography is that you never know exactly what results you’re going to get. There’s no handy LCD screen on which to review your shots, so you’re completely at the mercy of your film — though half the fun is that any mistakes can be passed off as intentionally-arty effects. Here are some top tips to get you started…
1. The cost of buying and processing film may be relatively high to those who are used to fitting hundreds of snaps onto an SD card, but the camera itself needn’t cost you the Earth. Analogue specialist Lomography offers a wide selection of low-cost film cameras such as the sub-£50 Diana Mini and wide-angle La Sardina, or you can get yourself a Holga or Blackbird if you’ve got a bit more budget to play with. Most of the top camera brands are digital-only nowadays, but you can pick up second-hand units such as the popular Canon AV-1 on eBay or in specialist camera shops.
2. If you’re after steady, quality shots, then using a tripod is a no-brainer. Most cameras sport a standard tripod mount on the underside making it easier to simply fit your accessory of choice. Pro tripods will cost you a fair few pennies but there are plenty of cheaper options around, not least Joby’s wide range of flexible Gorillapod tripods which can be adjusted to suit their surroundings and won’t break the bank either.
3. An easy way to add a splash of colour to your snaps is to make use of a colour filter on the flash. Some flash models will come with their own set of colour gels or you can pick up a cheap set like these colour lens and flash filters from Photojojo, which as the name suggests, can also be held over the lens for colourful effect. Alternatively you can make your own filters for next to nothing using coloured sweet wrappers or by colouring a piece of sticky tape or clear plastic with a marker pen.
4. Investing in some extra lenses is a good idea, even if you’ve only got a lo-fi toy camera. Even if it’s a fixed focus snapper, attaching a close-up, wide-angle or fish-eye lens using gaffer tape can produce some surprisingly good results (although it might make you look like you’ve lost the plot slightly).
5. Instant cameras make a nice retro-flavoured addition to your camera collection, whether that’s a vintagePolaroid SX-70 or a brand new Fujifilm Instax 210. Alternatively, Lomography sells instant backs for itsLC-A+ and Diana+ models, which can be easily fitted and offer you Polaroid-style snaps (albeit the size of a credit card), without the hassle of getting the film processed.
6. Getting yourself a negative scanner could well save you a lot of pennies as you’ll only need to pay the photo lab for processing. There are plenty of models to choose from, ranging from budget negative scanners for under £50 to multi-function flatbed scanners that can be used for documents and photos as well.
7. You can get all kinds of camera film, although it’s not quite as readily available as it once was. There are still limited supplies available in most chemists and camera shops, but specialist shops, like the Lomography stores, are your best bet. It’s also worth having a scout around on eBay for expired film. It may be out of date, but it’ll still work and you might even get some fancy effects that you weren’t expecting.
8. When choosing which film to use, it’s important to check the ISO, which refers to the speed of the film. The higher the number, the faster the film. If you’re shooting on a gloomy day then it’s best to go for a high ISO (800 and over), while you’ll need a very sunny day to get any decent results from a film with a low rating (100 and under). Film with an ISO rating of 400 is a safe middle-ground for most conditions.
9. If you want some cool results, then try to think beyond the classic colour neg film. Black and white film will give you moody monochrome shots, while slide film offers striking colour saturation for a bold, arty look. It’s also worth checking out redscale film which will give your snaps a nostalgic orangey-red glow.
10. Colour infrared film is notoriously hard to track down these days since Kodak stopped making it a few years back, and it now only occasionally turns up on eBay. Originally designed for aerial photography,colour infrared film offers crazily bright colour combinations, especially when teamed with a suitable colour lens filter.
11. If you’re feeling extra brave, then try re-spooling and re-using your film. This will effectively give you two sets of shots on one film and it’s pure luck as to whether this will give you awesome results or just a big mess, which is part of the fun. All you need to do is rewind your film as you normally would, but leave a small section of film poking out of the canister. You can then simply re-load the film into your snapper (or a different camera if you want to mix up the results).
12. If you’ve got yourself a vintage Polaroid snapper then the only place you’re likely to find the genuine Polaroid instant film is on eBay. The good news is that the clever folk at The Impossible Project, formed by former Polaroid employees, offer a new generation of instant film, which can easily be picked up online or in specialist camera shops. You can also still buy Fujifilm instant film for use in its Instax Mini 7 (also re-badged as the Polaroid 300) as well as Lomography’s instant camera backs.
Image credit: Golfpunkgirl