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Film Photography Jargon Buster For Beginners



Film photography opens up a whole new medium to beginners that goes further than just what film to use...


From aperture to half frame and light leaks, there is a lot of jargon floating around out there that just doesn't need to be confusing.


So, we're cutting through the noise with the ultimate film photography jargon buster for beginners. Bookmark this one for later!


Film Photography Jargon Buster For Beginners - The Ultimate Glossary


135 Film (35mm Film): A popular type of camera film that measures 35mm wide. It is also known as "135 film" because of its official designation in the Kodak catalog. This format is used in both professional and amateur photography due to its versatility and availability. It typically comes in cartridges of 24 or 36 exposures and is used in SLR and rangefinder cameras as well as in compact point-and-shoots.


Aperture: The opening in a camera lens through which light passes to enter the camera. It's measured in f-numbers (like f/1.8, f/5.6). A smaller number indicates a larger aperture that lets in more light, useful in darker settings.


APS Film (Advanced Photo System): A film format introduced in the 1990s that is smaller than traditional 35mm film. APS film is 24mm wide and comes in cartridges that are easier to load and handle than the spools required for 35mm film. It was designed for ease of use, offering features like mid-roll change (allowing photographers to switch film types or ISO settings mid-roll) and the ability to record information about each exposure on the film itself. APS film was marketed with three image format options: H for "High Definition" (16:9), C for "Classic" (4:3), and P for "Panoramic" (3:1). Despite its innovative features, APS film never fully replaced 35mm film and eventually faded from mainstream use as digital photography became dominant. We do still offer an APS film processing service though should you require it!


Darkroom: A specially equipped room, usually devoid of any light other than a special safelight, used for processing photographic films and papers. In a darkroom, film is developed, fixed, and washed to produce negatives, and photographic paper is exposed under an enlarger, then processed to produce the final print. The conditions in the darkroom must be carefully controlled to prevent unwanted exposure and to ensure proper chemical processing.


Depth of Field (DoF): The range of distance within a photo that appears acceptably sharp. A large depth of field (achieved by using a small aperture) means that most of your image will be in focus. A shallow depth of field (achieved with a large aperture) keeps only your subject in sharp focus, blurring the background.




Developing: The chemical process used to make photographic images from the exposed film visible and permanent. It involves developing, stopping, and fixing the film in a sequence of chemical solutions.


Expired Film: Refers to photographic film that has passed its recommended use-by date. Using expired film can lead to unpredictable changes in colour balance, contrast, and sensitivity, often resulting in unique and sometimes desirable aesthetic effects, such as increased grain, colour shifts, and reduced sharpness. Photographers use expired film to achieve a vintage or abstract look in their images. The specific changes depend on how the film was stored and for how long it has been expired.


Exposure: The amount of light that reaches the film or camera sensor, determined by the combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. Proper exposure will accurately render scene details.


Film Souping: An experimental technique where photographers intentionally introduce chemical alterations to their film before developing it to achieve unique, unpredictable effects. This is done by soaking the film in various substances, such as lemon juice, tea, soap, or saltwater, before processing it. The chemicals affect the emulsion in ways that can alter colors, increase grain, or create abstract patterns.


Film Speed: Another term for ISO. Films with higher speeds are better for lower light conditions but might produce grainier images.


Fisheye Lens: A wide-angle lens that offers an extremely wide, hemispherical view of the scene, creating a distinctive visual distortion known as fisheye effect. The resulting images capture a panoramic view with a 180-degree radius, making them appear convex or rounded, as if seen through a fishbowl. This lens is popular for creating unusual, exaggerated perspectives that emphasize depth and produce striking, artistic images.


Fogging: A completely fogged roll of film appears totally black, without any visible markings on the edge of the film (this is true in colour and black and white films, but the opposite is true in slide film which when fogged is totally clear).


Grain: Visible specks in a film photograph caused by particles of metallic silver left behind during the developing process. Grain size is influenced by the film’s ISO: lower ISOs have finer grains, while higher ISOs are grainier.


Half Frame: A type of camera and film usage where each film frame is half the size of a standard 35mm frame, allowing you to take twice as many photos. Cameras like the Olympus Pen are popular half frame models.


Instant Film: A type of photographic film that contains the chemicals needed for developing and fixing the image, which begins to occur immediately after exposure. Instant film produces a finished photo within minutes, directly from the camera. Popularised by brands like Polaroid and Fujifilm, loved for the instant gratification you get from your instant shots!


ISO: Stands for International Organization for Standardization, but in photography, it refers to the film’s sensitivity to light. Lower numbers (like ISO 100) are less sensitive to light and ideal for bright days. Higher numbers (like ISO 3200) are more sensitive and better for low light conditions.


Light Leaks: Unintentional exposures where light seeps into the film chamber through gaps or cracks, creating areas of overexposure and colour shifts on the final photo. Often considered flaws but can be used artistically for a unique effect.


Loading Film: The process of placing a roll of film into the camera to be exposed. It's crucial to load the film correctly to prevent light leaks or film jams.


Metering: The process of measuring the brightness of the subject to determine the optimal exposure. Most cameras have built-in light meters which help the photographer make adjustments to aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.


Negative: The developed film that contains the inverted colours of the original scene. Negatives are used to make positive prints where the colours and brightness are restored to their original appearance.




Rangefinder: A type of camera where focus is determined by aligning two images in the viewfinder. Known for being compact and silent, they’re a favorite among street photographers.


Shutter Speed: The amount of time the camera’s shutter is open to expose light onto the camera sensor or film. It's usually measured in seconds or fractions of a second. Faster shutter speeds freeze motion, while slower speeds create a blur effect from moving objects.


SLR (Single Lens Reflex): A camera that uses a mirror and prism system so that the photographer can see exactly what will be captured, unlike rangefinders or point-and-shoot cameras where the viewfinder and lens do not always match perfectly.


SLR vs. DSLR: SLR cameras use film, while DSLRs (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) use a digital sensor to capture images. Both use the same mirror and prism system.


This glossary should serve as a helpful starting point for anyone new to film photography. With these terms in hand, navigating through the exciting world of film becomes much easier and more enjoyable!


If you have any other questions about getting started or what films to pick, do get in touch with us!



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