How to shoot film in 5 simple steps! Shooting film for the first time can be intimidating, It took me over 3 years to get the courage to invest in my first medium format film camera.  Film is expensive and so is the gear.  So, here are my 5 simple steps to shooting film and some affiliate links to get your started.

How to shoot film in 5 simple steps

How to shoot film Step 1: Rent a Film Camera

The first time I shot film on a medium format film camera I rented the camera.  No joke when it arrived I had to You Tube how to remove the film back, I had no idea how it worked. So I suggest renting before buying.

I rented a Contax645 from Contax Rental.  I recommend the Contax645 system because it comes with a Zeiss 80mm f2 lens that is like butter.  It’s bokeh is unsurpassed.  Also, the Contax645 is very easy to load and has autofocus, much like back button focus. 

San Xavier Mission, Tucson, photographed on Ektar100 film

How to shoot film Step 2: Find a Film Stock and light meter

Browse instagram hashtags for film stocks such as #fuji400h, #portra400, #portra800, or #Ektar100 to get a feel for the look you want to achieve.  I really love Ektar 100 for its punch of color and Fuji 400h for it’s classic soft tones of greens and blues. These Cacti were shot on Ektar 100.

Once you have found a film stock you enjoy purchase a box or two.  I purchase most of my film on Amazon.  However, be cautious that your film will not be sitting in a hot mailbox in Tucson for 14 hours in July.  Film should be stored in a cool, dry place.

You are going to need a light meter as well.  I recommend starting out with a Sekonic. They are not cheap, but if you keep shooting film you will want to invest in one to make sure your film is always properly exposed.

How to shoot film Step 3: Find a lab

I have used a few labs over the years and have enjoyed all of them.  The two I highly recommend are Photovision and The Find Lab. 

Photovision is based in Salem, Oregon and will help guide you through your first film submission.  If you have any questions at all give them a call and they will walk you through your order.

The Find Lab has been developing and scanning my film over the last few months and I have been very pleased with their premium scan process.  You are assigned a dedicated editor for every job. That person provides feedback and will make adjustments as necessary. 

Both labs take a week or two to develop, scan, and deliver your files depending on the season.   Your film scans are send to you digitally for instant download.

How to shoot film Step 4: Plan your shoot

Take some time to plan out what you want to shoot and when.  Film needs a lot of light so you may want to shoot a little earlier in the day than you are used to with digital.  Ektar 100 is great for mid day sun, Fuji 400 and Portra 400 are great for early evening or golden hour, and Portra 800 is great for the blue hour right after the sun has set.

How to shoot film Step 5: Practice Practice Practice

This is the most important step!! Practice, practice, practice.  Film takes time! It’s not like learning on a digital camera, you don’t get instant results, you have to be patient and invest in your craft in order to improve.  I suggest shooting a little bit of film every chance you can get.  If you are looking for a less expensive medium format option I suggest a Pentax645 N with a 75FA 2.8 lens, that was what I purchased for the first few years I shot film on a medium format camera.

I hope you found this helpful, I would love to learn about your film journey! Link your website or instagram in the comments!

How to shoot film in 5 simple steps