A primer on shooting 35mm, medium format and large format film

Oct 19, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

A primer on shooting 35mm, medium format and large format film

Oct 19, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Shooting film is often seen as more of a novelty these days. Once, it was just the way photography was done. For those who started off in the digital world, the idea of shooting film can feel quite alien. Understanding the different formats and the effect they can have on the image can be difficult concepts for beginners to wrap their head around. And when it comes to developing their own film, that’s just too much for some folks to handle.

In this series of videos from Stefan Litster, we’re taken through the basic process of understanding different cameras & formats, as well as how to develop our own film. The series started about three years ago, with sporadic updates, but was recently revived on Reddit, and it appears that Stefan has started posting to YouTube again in the last few months.

Episode one talks about the three main different formats of film cameras. 35mm, medium format, and large format. Stefan heads out with a friend to go and shoot each of the three cameras to highlight the differences in how they work and the results they can offer.

YouTube video

But once you’ve shot your film, what’s next? Developing. Fortunately, if you’re shooting black & white film, developing the rolls yourself is pretty straightforward. It can easily be done in your kitchen, bathroom, or wherever you have the space. I often develop my own film sat on the couch while watching movies.

YouTube video

Episode three talks about instant film. Unfortauntely, the Fuji FP-100c film Stefan mentions in the video isn’t being made any more. But, there are still old stocks available online if you look hard enough. New55 are also currently preparing to bring out some new large format peel apart film, too.

YouTube video

The last video I want to show you is a little later in the series, at Episode 7, but if you start shooting 35mm with any kind of regularity it’s worth doing this. I switched over 100ft bulk rolls of 35mm film a few years ago, and it’s saved me an absolute fortune. With 36 exposure rolls in the store reaching the equivalent of almost $10 each near me, and developing costing almost twice that, it’s a big money saver.

YouTube video

If you do decide to take up shooting film, you’ll want to do some more research. But, this is a great series to introduce you to the some of the aspects of shooting with film of various sizes and formats.

You can watch all 10 videos here, and now that Stefan seems to be back, hopefully more will be added in the coming weeks. So, head on over and check it out.

Do you still shoot film alongside digital?. Are you 100% film? Are you a digital shooter that’s been thinking about getting into film? Have these videos convinced you to give it a try? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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4 responses to “A primer on shooting 35mm, medium format and large format film”

  1. FilmAmmo Avatar
    FilmAmmo

    For someone looking to get into film your options are huge—both in cameras and film stock! You do not need to develop film yourself. There are plenty of pro labs where you can take or mail your film to. Once the negatives get back you can then scan them in with a dedicated flatbed film scanner or a DSLR rig. Printing your rolls is optional—think of the prints as a kind of contact sheet. The optical prints will give the photographer an idea on how the shots turned out. The real magic happens when you scan and process the film into your computer. Scanning film can bring all the wonderful nuances of analogue photography into the digital world.

    Processing 4-5 rolls of 35mm & 120 can get expensive. Around $60 will get 4-5 rolls to your door along with their prints. But please—never take your film to a 1hr photo lab like Walmart or Walgreens! This is because unskilled employees usually operate those machines. The chemicals are usually too hot or too cold—or just simply old. You will get far better negatives back (and prints) if you go to a pro lab.

    You will quickly look past the cost of film after experimenting with it. Shooting with all sorts of classic cameras is a whole lot of fun. Plus, film cameras themselves are rather cheap to buy.

    1. Zvonimir Avatar
      Zvonimir

      Do it yourself! It is not difficult, and it’s fun.

      1. FilmAmmo Avatar
        FilmAmmo

        I agree! It is fun but I mainly go with the mail-in route because I just have yet to invest into everything for home developing. That can kinda get expensive especially if one doesn’t have any of what is required. I got plenty of experience in developing film in college. Plan on trying out the Caffenol method when things are purchased.

  2. Hector Macias Avatar
    Hector Macias

    Except for the 35mm, the rest is a DIY for hipsters