How to Start Shooting Film

I'm not an expert by any sense of the word. But I've been shooting film since 2012 and have picked up a thing to two. So, I decided I should share. I'm a completely open book when it comes to everything photography - how to, cameras, light, film, lenses, etc. So if I'm not clear, leave a message in the comments or shoot me an email.

Without further ado...

Photography is more about light than anything else. And when you keep that in mind, shooting film is easy to pick up.

There are three main components when shooting:

  • Aperture
  • Shutter speed
  • ISO


This is the whole/opening in your lens, dictating how much light it’s letting in. The lower the number (1.4 or 2), the the more light that is let in. The higher the number (16 or 22), the less light that’s let in.

Shutter Speed

Exactly what it sounds like - how fast or slow the shutter is, once again, indicating how much light is coming in.


For film, this is your film speed (100, 400, 800, etc). This is the level of sensitivity your camera is to light. Lower numbers are less grainy and designed for more light. Higher numbers will have more grain and are designed for less light.

Where to Start

Buy or borrow a camera. My first film camera in the digital age was the Lomography Diana+. This is a medium format (120mm) toy camera. It’s a fool-proof camera to shoot with. However, if you really want to learn film, start with a 35mm SLR.   I bought my first SLR for about $50 on Etsy. Just make sure it’s tested and works.


Buy film. I recommend that everyone starts with Kodak Portra 400. It’s forgiving and does well in many lighting situations. Or if you know you’re going to shoot outside on a very sunny day, go for Kodak Gold 200. Set the ISO in your camera.


I'm going to suggest you start at f/16 (16 aperture) and shoot outside on a sunny day. If you're shooting with 400 speed film, set your shutter for 1/400 or 1/500. If you're using 200 film, set your shutter for 1/200 or 1/250. 

Shoot the entire roll in one go. Don’t rush through it, but don’t over think it either. Sometimes the best film photos are flubs. When you’re done with the roll, rewind it, release the film, and send it off to the lab.


Boom! Congratulations, you just shot your first roll of film!

Do you have any questions? Did I miss something? Need additional information? Comment below. I’d love to help!


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Richard Film Lab

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Where to Buy Film

B&H Photo


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Where to Buy Cameras

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