Your Ultimate Guide to Starting 35mm Film Photography

Starting with 35mm film photography can feel a little bit daunting. There is so much information out there and everyone has their own (often differing) opinions on how to do things. We've created this article to go over all of the questions and doubts you might have about starting 35mm film photography yourself.

Person holding vintage 35mm film camera

Why should I try 35mm film photography?

35mm film photography is super fun, and one of the best hobbies to have. (Although, we are biased in this opinion!) 

It helps to improve your photography skills in general. It also helps you to slow down, and appreciate what you are taking a photograph of, rather than taking 100 photos on your phone. It is a great way to bond with your friends too, as you can show them how cool your 35mm film camera is and help them learn how to use it too.

How does 35mm film work?

We'll try to avoid using science terms here. 

Basically, 35mm film is light-sensitive. So when light touches it, the material reacts. When you control what light touches the material (the negative, or roll of film), you can create an image. 

A lot of people love to call it "painting with light"

When you take a photo with your 35mm film camera, the light hits the negative in the back of the camera and that part of the film is then "exposed". 

To see your image, the roll of 35mm film needs to be developed so that the material is no longer sensitive to light when you want to look at it.

Roll of 35mm film

Where do I get my 35mm film developed?

There are lots of places to get your 35mm film developed across the UK, and the world. These are known as film labs, and they will develop and scan your rolls of film for you. 

Scanning is how the image is turned into a digital file that you can see. It involves the negative being scanned by a scanner and the colours being inverted so it goes from being colour negative to colour positive.

We are partnered with Gulabi for all of your scanning needs.

The excitement when you receive the email with your scans is one of the best parts of 35mm film photography.

How much does 35mm film photography cost?

There is a really good argument for 35mm film photography actually costing less than digital photography. 

Cameras vary a lot in price, but a decent SLR camera would be around £180. This would be a camera good enough to get you started and to teach you the skills. I kept my first camera for five years before I felt the need to upgrade to something else, so you can expect to keep your camera for a long time. Many people keep their first camera forever!

Black and white 35mm film is cheaper than colour film and can be between £4 and £9 per roll. A roll of colour film can be between £6 and £16. 

Getting 35mm film developed also varies. Gulabi offer developing and scanning from just £8.

Illustration of Olympus Trip

How do I find my first camera?

There are tonnes of different 35mm film cameras out there, but luckily for you, you have found our website and we love helping people find their perfect camera. 

We have a film camera quiz that will give you a list of your perfect film cameras, or you can message us directly using our chat feature in the corner of our website.

What do I need to look for when choosing a camera?

There are lots of things to consider when choosing a 35mm film camera, but the main thing is to choose something that you like the look of, so that you are excited to learn how to use it and take photographs with it. 

Vintage 35mm film cameras have so many unique designs and interesting features. You could get a coloured camera, a metal camera, a compact camera, and lots more! We have a huge selection on our website.

Other considerations are which settings the camera has, as it may be automatic or manual. Automatic is great for people who want to take images quickly and easily. Manual settings are great for people who want to develop their photography skills and learn more about how to use a 35mm film camera.

Selection of 35mm film cameras

What are half-frame cameras?

You may have heard of half-frame cameras. These cameras take smaller images, so that you can fit more images on one frame. 

We LOVE these cameras, and you can read all about them here.

What should I take photographs of?

Whatever you want to! The most important thing is that you have a camera you are excited to use, and then you will want to take it everywhere and photograph everything. 

I have been taking film photographs for seven years now, and only recently have I worked out what I actually like to take photographs of.

What do I do with my photographs after they are developed?

When your 35mm film photographs are developed, you will receive digital scans, as well as your physical negatives returned to you. 

Always keep your negatives! If you ever lose the digital files, you can get your photos rescanned. Also, if you ever get your own scanner, you'll have hours of fun scanning and re-scanning the rolls of film with different colour profiles!

We recommend storing your negatives in a ringbinder with paper negative sleeves.

Need more help?

We are on hand to help you with anything 35mm film photography related. We have a live chat on our website, or you can contact us on our contact page.

If this article helped you, please consider buying us a cup of coffee as it really helps us to make sure we can keep creating great content.

Stuck on which film camera to buy?

Try our film camera quiz. All you have to do is answer a few questions, and then you will get a list of personalised camera recommendations. 

Or send us a message on Instagram, send us an email, chat to us on our live website chat, or read some more of our blog posts!

If you like what we do, but can't buy a camera from us, please consider buying us a cup of coffee! It helps us to keep these resources free, consistent, and accessible. 

Max, owner of Cameras By Max

Article written by: Max

Max is the owner of Cameras By Max. They work full-time repairing and refurbishing all the 35mm film cameras you see on the website. Their favourite camera (at the moment) is the Olympus XA, and their favourite city in the world is Edinburgh.


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