Film Photography 101 – Pick the right film and camera


There is a common misconception that film has died out, or that you can’t get films developed anymore. In fact, film photography has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. There is something inherently rewarding about shooting with film, maybe it is the tactile feeling of winding on after each shot, or flipping through prints as you finally see your images for the first time.

If you’re considering trying out film photography, start here for top tips and some of the basics. In this blog, we will talk about 35mm, film cameras, and film processing.

What is 35mm?

Given how popular and widespread the use of this type of film is, it would be fair to call it the standard. Used by consumers and professionals alike. The 35mm simply refers to the width of the film. It comes in a light-proof cartridge, ready to load into a 35mm camera (or preloaded in a disposable).

Film Cameras

Disposable cameras are an affordable gateway into the world of photography. Most feature a built-in flash and small viewfinder for framing your shots. Best of all, you can shoot straight away because the film is already loaded! These cameras are truly point-and-shoot, all you need to do is choose whether or not to use the flash. Once you wind on the last exposure, drop them off to be developed. Easy-as! For the environmentally conscious, there are even reusable point-and-shoot cameras that still keep things simple.

If you want to take things to the next level, you will most likely be looking for a second-hand film camera. There are several stores selling tested film cameras in NZ, so you can be confident they are ready to go. If you are doing the leg work yourself, whether on Trade Me or in your local op-shop, be sure to look out for fungus in lenses and check the wind-on mechanism.

What kind of film should I get?

This choice is entirely personal, there is no “right” film. The look of your images will be decided by the film, and there are many 35mm films still in production around the globe. So there are loads to choose from! Planning ahead is a must, as once the film is inside the camera, it’s quite tricky to change it. The key things to know are:

  • Do you want Colour or Black and White?
  • What is the light going to be like?
Red: Film type/sizeBlue: Exposures (number of pictures)Green: ASA/ISO
135 = 35mm24 or 36 are the most common number of shots you will find.ASA and ISO are different names for the same thing, more on this below.

ASA/ISO are different names for what is, in a nutshell, sensitivity to light. To avoid getting technical, here are some guidelines for what ASA/ISO suits which shooting conditions.

  • 100-200: Bright, full sun
  • 400: Overcast days
  • 800: Inside

Film Processing

Once you have shot the whole roll of film, it’s time to get the images developed. Developing film is a chemical process that sets the image on the film. A film is sensitive to light until developed, never open a film camera unless you are sure the film is back in the canister. If you don’t feel confident doing this, the staff at Photogear are happy to help!

When the film is developed, the images can be seen as negative (which is why you might hear them referred to as ‘negatives’). Next, the lab will scan the images, making a digital copy of your photo to share online or print. Negatives are hard copies of your images, useful to have in case prints fade or the digital files are lost.

Film Photography Quick Start Guide

To get shooting quickly, first grab a disposable camera or if you already have a camera, a roll of film with ISO 400 so you can snap away no matter the weather.

Next, bring your finished film to Photogear for the photos to be developed, scanned and printed! How good.

To give you some inspiration, here are some of our film photography favourites!

  1. Kodak Gold
    • A great film for summer thanks to that 200 ISO, and it gives you warm colours to capture that feeling of fun in the sun. Plus, it’s a bargain that can keep you shooting all summer with this affordable 3-pack!
  2. Kodak Portra 400
    • If you love to shoot portraits, it’s hard to beat Portra. This film is more premium than ol’ Gold, but well worth it for the results! Portra will give you exceptional skin tones, giving your portraits a more flattering and professional finish.
  3. Ilford HP5
    • Ilford HP5 is a classic with a long history. This Black and White film is fantastic whether you are just starting out, or an experienced film photographer. It suits most shooting conditions, and packs in detail.
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