How to avoid six common mistakes in film photography: A beginner’s guide

Nov 2, 2023

Anson Tang

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How to avoid six common mistakes in film photography: A beginner’s guide

Nov 2, 2023

Anson Tang

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Hello, film photography explorers! As you embark on your exciting journey into the world of film, it’s essential to be aware of some common mistakes that can trip up even the most enthusiastic beginners. But fear not! We’re here to guide you through these potential pitfalls and provide some handy tips to prevent them. So, let’s get in and turn those potential “oops” moments into successful “ah-ha” ones!

You may want to check out this post about how to avoid shooting blank rolls too!

1. Incorrect Loading of Film

One of the most common mistakes beginners make is incorrectly loading the film into the camera. Result? You might shoot an entire roll, only to find it blank when developed.

How to Prevent: Familiarize yourself with your camera’s manual and follow the instructions carefully while loading the film. Ensure the film is correctly engaged with the camera’s winding mechanism. After closing the camera back, wind on a few frames and watch the rewind knob. If it turns, your film is correctly loaded.

film photography mistakes film back

2. Shooting with the Wrong Film Speed (ISO)

Film comes in different speeds, denoted by their ISO value. Using the wrong film speed can result in overexposed (too bright) or underexposed (too dark) images.

How to Prevent: Choose the right film for your shooting conditions. Lower ISO films (100 or 200) are perfect for bright conditions, while higher ISO films (400, 800) are better for low light. Don’t forget to set your camera to the correct ISO setting of your film! Check out my other post about wrong ISO speed.

3. Not Checking the Battery

Most film cameras require a battery to power the light meter or even the shutter. A dead battery can lead to incorrect exposures or a camera that doesn’t work at all.

How to Prevent: Always check your camera battery before heading out for a shoot. Consider carrying spare batteries, especially if you’re going somewhere where replacements aren’t readily available.

4. Opening the Camera with Film Inside

Opening the back of the camera before rewinding the film can result in an exposed (and ruined) roll of film. 

How to Prevent: Always rewind your film fully before opening the camera back. Most cameras have a film rewind lever and a small window to show whether film is loaded. If in doubt, assume there’s film inside and rewind! If it happens to be stucked, check out this post to get assistance!

5. Forgetting to Adjust Focus or Settings

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to adjust your focus or settings, resulting in blurry or poorly exposed photos.

How to Prevent: Take your time. Film photography is not meant to be rushed. Before pressing the shutter, double-check your focus, shutter speed, and aperture settings. 

6. Not Considering Composition

Without the instant feedback of digital, beginners often forget to consider their composition before shooting.

How to Prevent: Practice the rule of thirds, look for interesting angles, and consider your foreground and background. Remember, each shot costs money on film, so make each one count!

Wrapping Things Up

The world of film photography is filled with opportunities for learning and growth. Mistakes are part of the process, and they’re often the best way to learn. But by being aware of these common pitfalls, you can avoid some of the frustration and make your journey into film photography more enjoyable and rewarding.

Remember, the key to mastering film photography (like any skill) is practice, patience, and perseverance. Don’t be disheartened by mistakes. Instead, embrace them as stepping stones on your path to becoming a skilled film photographer. 

So, load up that film, get out there, and start snapping away. Happy shooting, and enjoy the beautiful journey that film photography is sure to be!

film photography mistakes building panorama
Hasselblad Xpan 2, 30mm f/5.6 asph, Reflx Lab 400D, Hong Kong

About the Author

Anson Tang is a film enthusiast based in Hong Kong, with strong passion for street and film photography. Through his website Tahusa, he showcases his work, shares tutorials, and connects other photographers and camera enthusiasts. Other than his website, make sure to follow him on InstagramFacebook, and YouTube for more of his work. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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2 responses to “How to avoid six common mistakes in film photography: A beginner’s guide”

  1. Peter Tindall Avatar
    Peter Tindall

    Leaving the camera back open with film in it is a biggie.

  2. Koku Anani Avatar
    Koku Anani

    Are Films and film cameras still produced at all? I thought Digital Cameras have taken over the scene.