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 The Film Safe for all of our scanning needs. You can see their website by clicking the button below.

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. The Film Safe offer developing and scanning from just £7. 

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.

Selection of 35mm film cameras

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 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.

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