To say I was intimidated the first time I put my hands on a film camera would be a generous understatement. I’m not a photographer by any standard. I’m a millennial with a smartphone, accustomed to all things automatic. And the last film-thing I touched was an old Polaroid in 2nd grade. So why shoot film?
Trev, my boyfriend, nudged a little Olympus XA across the table in June.
“I want you to take this and shoot with it and send me the film when you’re done.”
Two minutes later, he was next to me and pointing at different parts of the camera, burning through a list of photography tips for beginners and saying things like “range finder” and “shutter speed” and “aperture.” None of it made sense to me, of course. But I took the camera back to Sacramento with a few rolls of FujiFilm FujiColor 200 and started shooting.
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 is a great low cost,
high-quality beginner’s film.
By the time I loaded roll number three into the XA I was hooked.
In the middle of the fog and muted tones of San Francisco, I noticed it: film was changing the way I saw things. It had me slowing down, appreciating and marveling at light and color like I hadn’t before. It was even making me brave, nudging me out of my comfort zone more and more so I could capture the new beauty I saw.
While learning how to shoot film, remember to take
your time—good shots require patience.
Recently, my grandpa sent me his old 35mm Nikon Nikkormat EL. It had been ages since the last time he shot film with it, so he brushed off the dust and passed the torch. It’s a sweet camera too—boxy, all metal, and complete with a hidden 8 second shutter that makes me feel like a super spy. Last weekend I loaded it with Kodak Portra 400 and took it out for its first spin at the family cabin in Lake Arrowhead. It was an exciting thing—honestly—freezing family memories the way my grandpa once did with the very camera he used years ago.
Killer moments like these
remind me why I shoot film.
I’m convinced film has dibs on serious and unique beauty smartphones can’t touch.
When you shoot film and it turns out, you did something to make that happen. You turned a dial and guessed at light, and pulled a trigger and it worked. Why every Harry Potter fan doesn’t shoot film, I don’t know. It’s a small act of wizardry in itself—a sort of tangible magic.
And it’s not perfect. I think that’s the most captivating thing about it.
We live in an age of instant gratification. Little effort. Everything is digital, clean, edited to perfection. Film does not accommodate our need-it-now mentality. It doesn’t entertain perfectionism. Film slams on the brakes and it yells authenticity.
It is a pinch of grit and grain—a bit of life uncensored.
So why shoot film? It’s a fresh breath.
For those of you flirting with the idea of film, I’d encourage you to go for it. It’s only intimidating if you let it be—so don’t. And if you’re worried about cost, The Darkroom’s standard package is only $11. And it might surprise you how inexpensive it can be to get a film camera in your hands.
Thrift stores, garage sales, Amazon, and your grandma’s closet are all great places to score sweet film cameras for beginners. Some point-and-shoots start as low as $15. And FujiFilm FujiColor 200 film comes in at around $10 for a four-pack.
Afraid you’ll burn cash on a bad roll? At The Darkroom, if you send in a blank roll, they’ll send you a voucher for your next roll free. A “redo” if you will. And they even provide a prepaid mailer to send your film in.
You see? There are far more expensive ventures. Like scrapbooking. And starting a band. So grab a camera, ditch your editing apps and get your hands on some untailored, film goodness. Chances are you’ll love it.
About the Author
Hannah Lush is a freelance writer from Sacramento, California. When she isn’t stalking her favorite coffee shops and contributing to her blog, she enjoys all things Sci-Fi and hanging out with her dog, Mulder.
For more information, visit her website hannahlush.com.