How can I shoot film on the cheap?
The cost of shooting on film is increasing - With Kodak recently announcing the upcoming increase in prices (apparently due to increased costs and demand for the little caps that top and bottom your 35mm canisters - you might've noticed some of your Kodak canisters have changed recently), along with the ever-inflating (and somewhat insane) prices of some of the better known 35mm and medium format cameras, you might be wondering whether it's still worth it, and "how on earth can I shoot film for cheaper?".
First of all, we absolutely think it's still worth it - There's absolutely nothing quite like the tactile and quite frankly magical feeling of shooting a roll of film and getting those photos back. Whether they're exactly what you visualised when shooting, or whether you're seeking the perfection in the imperfection - That's the beauty of film and nothing will ever replace it.
But we want to outline a few ways we think you can reduce the costs of shooting film:
1. D-D-D-Don't Believe The Hype!
If you want to buy a 35mm camera these days, it's an absolute bloody minefield. The internet is a wonderful place, without it we might not even be seeing this amazing renaissance of film that we're seeing right now. However, it also plays its part in hyping things beyond belief. You might be after an SLR (single-lens reflex), or a nice and simple point-and-shoot, or maybe you're even considering branching out and dipping your feet into shooting some medium format for the first time. Our advice is don't believe the hype.
By this, we simply mean don't feel like you need to spend a shit load of money on the cameras your favourite photographers on Instagram or YouTube have - It won't make you a better photographer and it won't make your pictures better. Sorry. Only shooting more and more and more and fucking up and learning is going to improve you as a photographer - It's how we all learn, and continue to.
You don't need a Leica to shoot street photography, or a Mamiya RZ67 to shoot portraits, nor do you need a Contax T2 for some party snaps. The photographer, Chase Jarvis, once said "the best camera is the one you have on you" and we promise you that that couldn't be truer.
Keep your eyes peeled for a series of blog and Instagram posts soon, where we give some love to the under-loved and under-appreciated cameras that you can pick up for a fraction of some of the bigger named cameras, and that'll still be an absolute joy to shoot with.
2. Try Shooting With Expired Film
Film ain't cheap these days. With a roll of Kodak Portra 400 35mm sitting at about £14 per roll at the time of writing this, the once the cheap and cheerful Kodak go-to Colorplus 200 costing you about £7 a roll and Fuji 35mm is somewhere around the same, and that's if you can even get hold of any, with stock replenishments on backorder in most places in the UK - Whereas you can generally buy greater quantities of expired film at much lower costs, and eBay can often be your best bet.
Great, but what is expired film and why should I shoot it? All film has an expiry date, a bit like food, think of it as a 'best before' even -The layers of emulsion on film will deteriorate and become less sensitive to light over time (as well as other factors such as temperature and how it's stored etc.) - These factors can and usually will effect the look of the film when it's been shot and developed; you can experience things such as colour shifts, weird spots and marks on the film, and because the film has become less sensitive to light over time, it can often look a bit duller. BUT YOU CAN STILL SHOOT IT! You just have to accept the risks, understand how best to shoot it, and have a bit of fun with it!
Ideally when looking to buy expired film you'd look at buying expired film that's been 'cold stored' (kept in a fridge or freezer), as film degrades at a much slower rate when it's kept cool, but as you may not happen to come across any that's been cold-stored, you might just have to take the plunge on some - Never be afraid to ask questions of the seller, sometimes they might know how it's been stored, other times they may not, but it's always worth asking.
So how do we shoot expired film? The general rule of thumb with expired film is to over-expose it by 1 stop for every decade that it's out of date. It's a bit of a general rule, as you're not guaranteed anything with expired film, but it can render some really lovely and unexpected results.
For example, if you have a roll of Fuji C200 that expired in 2001, then it's about two decades out of date, in which case you want to overexpose that film by 2 stops. Or if you've got a roll of Kodak Porta 400 that's perhaps only 3-4 years expired, then you might not even need to over expose it at all, depending on how it's been stored. Though our advice would be to always give it a bit more light, film is much happier being overexposed than underexposed.
We recently had a visit from one of our favourite photographers, Kyle McDougall, who came to drop off a few rolls at the lab. While he waited, Kyle went for a wander around our local area and shot some expired Fuji C200, with some absolutely beautiful results.
3. Use Jack's Lab for all your 35mm and 120 developing and scanning needs
You saw this coming, right? Shameless, I know. But it's true - We've got some of the most competitive prices in the UK for developing and scanning your colour and black and white 35mm film and medium format (120) film. We also develop and scan E6 slide film too (Provia, Velvia, Ektachrome etc.)
With us, we can develop and scan a roll of your 35mm or medium format colour film from £7/roll or black and white from £9/roll. The negatives and scans we produce for each and every customer are of the highest quality, and we're confident you won't receive a better or more friendly service anywhere else.
Check out a few examples below of some frames we scanned for Kyle, from his roll of expired Fuji C200:
You can read more of our blog posts here, where we write and talk about all kinds of nerdy film stuff. And to get updates on when we post new content, and for all the latest discounts, giveaways and general lab news, you can subscribe to our mailing list here.