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A Beginners Guide To 35mm Film

If you're new to the world of film photography, the term "35mm film" might sound a bit mysterious.

Simply put, 35mm film refers to the width of the film strip used in cameras. It measures 35 millimeters across and has been a standard in photography for over a century.

This format became popular due to its balance between image quality and convenience, making it a favourite among both amateur and professional photographers.

What Are The Benefits of 35mm Film?

35mm film is popular for a reason, and it boasts a huge range of benefits that make it easy to work with for photographers, no matter their skillset behind the lens.

  1. Versatility: Suitable for various photography styles, including portraits, landscapes, and street photography.

  2. Availability: Widely available with a variety of film stocks to choose from. At Film Processing, we have over 50 different types of colour and black and white 35mm film on offer!

  3. Ease of Use: Compatible with many vintage and modern film cameras.

  4. Image Quality: Delivers high-quality images with rich details and beautiful grain.

This image was shot in Japan on Fujifilm 400.

Choosing The Right Type of 35mm Film

With so many different types of 35mm film on offer, it's totally normal to feel overwhelmed with choice, especially if film photography is new to you.

When I started shooting on film for the first time, the ISO numbers and even the EXP part of the products name felt completely alien to me. The good news is, it's easy to understand when it's explained to you, but you really start the learning process when you get out there and start shooting! It really is a bit like passing your driving test, I promise!

The best place to start when choosing your 35mm film is to consider what you're going to be shooting, what the conditions might be like and if you're looking for a specific style of photo.

Here are some elements that will help you to choose the right film for you.

Film Speed (ISO):

  • Low ISO (100-200): Ideal for bright, sunny conditions. Provides finer grain and higher detail.

  • Medium ISO (400): Versatile and good for various lighting conditions. Balances detail and grain.

  • High ISO (800+): Best for low light or fast action. Produces more noticeable grain but handles dim lighting well.

Colour or Black and White:

  • Colour Film: Perfect for capturing the world in vivid detail. Offers various tones and saturations.

  • Black and White Film: Emphasizes contrast, texture, and composition. Great for artistic and dramatic effects.

Film Type:

  • Negative Film: Most common and versatile. Easier to develop and print.

  • Slide Film (Positive Film): Produces vibrant colours and fine details. Requires precise exposure and special processing.

Conditions to Use 35mm Film In

Understanding the conditions you're shooting in will help you choose the best film.

Obviously, that's easier said than done if you're dealing with unpredictable weather (especially in the UK!).

If you're not certain, it's always best to go for something with a little bit more adaptability, such as a film with an of ISO 400 or 800.

1.Sunny Outdoors:

2. Overcast or Indoor Lighting:

3. Low Light or Night Photography:

Image shot on Kodak Ultramax 400 - perfect for adapting to the lighting conditions on our trip to Japan.

What 35mm Film Should I Buy?

There are lots of 35mm films to choose from, but here are some recommendations based on different needs.

  1. For Beginners:

2. For Professional Quality:

  • Color: Kodak Portra 400 – Renowned for its fine grain, colour accuracy, and dynamic range.

  • Black and White: Ilford Delta 3200 – A classic choice known for its beautiful grain and contrast.

3. For Creative Projects:

Shot on Rollei Infrared.

What Films I Started With As A Beginner

My first time shooting on film was for a trip to Japan. I took 3 films to begin with which included Fujifilm 200, Fujifilm 400 and Kodak Ultramax 400.

The real learnings for me came after the films were processed and I could see what did and didn't work on the photos.

Every shot does count with your film and you don't get the instant gratification that you do with phone camera photos which takes a little bit of getting used to!

These three films are great for beginners in my opinion. Japan had quite changeable weather in terms of the sky, some days it was bright blue skies, whilst other days it could be quite overcast. Because of this, the films with the ISO 400 performed best for me on this trip and I would definitely use these again!

Perhaps, if I was holidaying in a place like the Maldives with beautiful weather each day, the Fujifilm 200 would be a better choice.

Image shot on Fujifilm 400.

Final Tips for Shooting with 35mm Film

  • Experiment: Don't be afraid to try different films to see what works best for your style and the conditions you're shooting in. The real learning happens when the film has been developed and you can review your shots.

  • Keep a Log: Note the film type, ISO, and conditions for each roll you shoot. This helps you learn and improve.

  • Store Properly: Keep film in a cool, dry place. Refrigeration can extend its life.

  • Develop Promptly: Develop your film with us soon after shooting to prevent degradation.

Image shot on Fujifilm 400.

Don't forget after choosing your 35mm film, to get your films processed with us, we guarantee a super quick turnaround once your film makes its way to us! As you gain experience with film photography, the beauty really is experimenting with new film stock to find your signature style. If you have any further questions about picking your first film, please do get in touch with the team.

If you're a beginner, we also recommend checking our our film photography jargon buster to help you navigate the early stages of your film photography journey.

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