I’m willing to bet you already take at least 2 cameras on your adventures: a smartphone and a digital camera—and I want to convince you to add a film camera to your bag. It might not be the cheapest way to document memories, but my travel film photography tips will hopefully make you think it’s worth the dough.
Always have your film camera with you
By this I mean not only to keep your camera on your person at all times, so you can capture any unexpected moments, but carry it in your cabin baggage (rather than the hold) to prevent any damage and/or loss.
There’s some concern about X-ray security machines making film go a bit wrong, but I’ve taken various brands through over the years and my photos have never been affected by radiation (not that I’ve noticed anyway). You can carry film through in a clear bag (like for liquids) instead though.
When you do head out wandering, make sure your camera is pre-loaded with film—if you need to change it while you’re out and about try to do it somewhere dark.
Use the right film
If you’re new to film photography, buying film can be tricky initially. Obviously, you need to choose the type that fits in your camera but you also need to consider the speed (also known as ISO), how many shots you’d like on each roll and whether to shoot in colour or black and white.
I find the ISO (which is confusingly also also known as the ASA) has the most impact on my photos. Basically this number indicates how sensitive to light your film is e.g. a 3200 ISO film can work in dark conditions but results in a grainy or noisy photo, whereas 200 ISO film is suited to bright daytime photography and the photos are sharper.
As you can see, in the image above I’d used a low speed/ISO/ASA (400, I think) and the weather that day was too overcast, so the shot came out a bit too dark. Check out this photography cheat sheet for more info.
Spend a bit more time on each shot
Back to the expense of film photography—this isn’t a ‘cheap’ hobby but it is still pretty budget (just not as low-cost as digital photography).
When it comes to 120 film, I typically spend £4-5 per roll (35mm film can sometimes be found in £1 stores!). Processing costs me £15 for development, prints, and a CD with the images on. So photos taken with my most used film camera, a Holga 120N, cost a total of £19-20 per roll and I tend to take 12 photos per roll.
With each image therefore costing around £1.60 I don’t really want to be making mistakes: composition and timing become more important.
Before you press the shutter, walk around to decide on your preferred angle. If there are lots of people in the way of that landmark you’re trying to shoot, wait or come back later. Taking a photo of a street? Wait until a mode of transport famously associated with that country or city is also in the frame to kill two birds!
Enjoy the ‘surprise’!
For me the most difficult part of film photography is waiting for the results!
There are various online/postal options for film processing and they’re usually cheaper than high street stores, however once you factor in P&P costs (most films count as a ‘parcel’ in the UK, due to the thickness) it’s usually not worth risking your precious roll going missing en route—or your photos going missing on their way back to you.
If you’re in London, you might want to try my preferred option: Kodak Express Camden, 75 Camden High St, London NW1 7JL
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I hope you found my travel film photography tips useful—speaking of film check out my YouTube channel for videos from my travels.