A Handy Guide to Shooting Film for the New Film Photographer

To get more articles like this, subscribe to The Phoblographer.

The world of film photography has returned. (We’ve only been clamoring about it for years now.) It’s finally at a place where it’s stable enough to live alongside digital. Lots of us shoot film because it’s different. It’s fun, and we get into a totally different mindset when we do it. You have to think about it in a different way. You’re forced to create in a unique way. So we’re exploring and sharing a quick guide to shooting film if you’re new to it.

Why Shoot Film in 2021?

You may be wondering why someone would be shooting film photography in 2021. Well, some clients demand it for one. Photographer Brenton Giesey is one of the many who said his clients want it. But more than that, film forces you to create differently. You might think that emulation presets exist for digital to give the film look. However, not much really comes close to actual film. If you’re going to look at any presets, we strongly recommend those from RNI film. But there are a bunch of other factors that come into play, like the lenses and all.

Digital photography is very clinical and sterile. You might think that we can just create the analog look in post-production. But the truth is that it’s very time-consuming and difficult. Conversely, it’s effortless to get rid of all these traditional photo flaws instead.

With Film, Get it Right in Camera

With film photography, you have to mostly get it right in camera. A scan can give you a specific look for sure. But you can’t spend a whole lot of time cleaning up an image or doing a lot of editing to a scan. They’re typically not that versatile. And if you’re scanning using a DSLR, then it probably would’ve been better for you to use the DSLR or mirrorless camera instead. 

If you’re simply capturing a scene, that’s one thing. But if you’re really working on something special, then you have to turn it into a production.

Turn Everything Into a Production

Here’s what I mean by turning the photo process into a production:

Basically, you have to shoot like photographers used to shoot. And you have to use every single tool available. But let’s say that you’re not shooting portraits. Then you still need tripods, filters, etc. Even consider warming and cooling lens filters.


There are a few formats around still. 110 film is available from Lomography. 35mm film is the most prevalent and arguably the easiest to use. 120 film suits a bunch of needs in medium format. And then there is large format in the form of 4×5 and 8×10. There are larger options too. For what it’s worth, 35mm film has mostly been superseded by digital. But medium format film is where you’re going to get so much value and great photography.

What Film?

The market has a ton of film emulsions. There are negative films, chrome films, and various black and white films. The vital thing about this format, though, is to shoot for the look you want. Sometimes that means you’ll be locked to a single ISO, so you need to adapt. The other thing that can be important is getting a look that digital can’t deliver. Some films can do that much better than others. 

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.