Film photography: where do I even start. These days most photographers shoot with digital DSLR cameras that come with a heavy price tag; however, film photography is not dead. It is coming back with a vengeance as younger generations are infatuated with the retro look. Although, if you are anything like me when I started, you have no idea what you are doing or where to begin. Never fear, I am here to help you with all of your film photography questions and concerns!

How I Got into Film Photography: Disposables

When I first decided that I wanted to take pictures, I looked for the cheapest camera option possible. This led me down the road of disposable cameras. I liked the way the photos looked and I could get a camera for eight dollars across the street at Walgreens any time of day. I decided to just buy a few cameras and take photoshoots of my friends at local restaurants. In the beginning, I struggled with finding the most cost-effective method of operating.

As I began shooting with disposable cameras, they quickly became trendy: gift shops and stores like Urban Outfitters were selling cameras for upwards of twenty dollars. Do not buy these! I found that the best way to buy disposable cameras was on Amazon where you could buy them in bulk ranging from eleven to fifteen dollars. When it comes to which disposable camera to buy my all-time favorite is the Kodak FunSaver, with the FujiFilm Quicksnap Flash in a close second.

Disposable cameras are the reason I fell in love with film photography. It was so easy: one shot and done. The only decision I had to make was whether or not to use flash. I loved the idea of only taking one photo per pose or location: you have one chance to get it just right. I find that I take my time more and it makes you appreciate the act of taking photos. You have to slow down and line everything up correctly. Shooting film photos is a way different experience than continuously snapping hundreds of the same photos on a digital camera.

The editing process is also much easier with film photos: as you have way fewer options. Photos either come out great or they are duds, there is no comparing twenty digital photos of the same pose to pick the best one; furthermore, I find film photography way more rewarding because you have to wait for the film to be developed before you can see your art.

What Film Camera to Buy

Minolta SRT101 film camera
Photo of Minolta SRT101 from Canva Photos

Disposable cameras were great when I was starting, but recently I have decided to get more serious: I wanted a real film camera, but there are so many different kinds. I got my first real camera, a Minolta SRT101, at my local camera store for $99 with a 35mm lens; it is the same camera my mother learned to shoot on. When I purchased it, I had no idea how to use it, but the workers at the camera store were extremely helpful and there are loads of youtube videos on the topic of film photography. I purchased Fuji Superia X-TRA ISO 400 film as per recommendation, and have had no trouble.

Learning to shoot on a film camera was easier than shooting manual on a digital camera for me. As long as you understand the basics of the exposure triangle, it is quick to pick up. All I focus on when taking a film photo is balancing the light meter: the camera does the rest of the work. I recently purchased a second point and shoot film camera, the Olympus SuperZoom 3500 DIX, that is even easier to use. It auto-loads and rewinds film, has an amazing zoom, and has multiple flash options. This is my new favorite camera, as the flash makes my photos much clearer.

My advice to anyone starting out is that it really does not matter. Pick a camera that fits your lifestyle. A point and shoot is best for on the go, but an SLR is better if you want to dive deep into film photography. As for the film, 400ISO is the easiest to use in almost any situation. 

Getting Film Photos Developed

Getting film developed in 2020 is not as easy as it used to be. Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens can develop film, but they no longer do it in-house; your film is shipped out to be developed and you have to wait up to seven days to get your photos back. There are other mail-in options, where you drop your film in the mailbox, but again it can take days to get your photos back.

The best option is to find your local camera store that can develop film the day off or the next day. My favorite place to go in Buffalo, NY to get film photos developed is Delaware Camera, located on Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo. They are great at what they do and always have answers to every one of my questions. The best part is, you can often pick up your photos on the same day as drop off; if they are not too busy.

When it comes to purchasing your photos, you have the option of getting prints or digital versions. In the very beginning, I would buy individual prints, take them home and scan them into my computer one by one. Although there is something special about opening up an envelope of never before seen film photos and laying them all out to see, this method became way too expensive and time-consuming. I finally realized that it was cheaper and easier to simply get my film photos put onto a flash drive. 

My Work on Film

To watch my film photography journey, follow me on Instagram @exhibitionbuffalo and check out my website for an archive of my disposables: