Photography Tips for Using Retro Film Cameras

Nowadays, more people are interested in picking up a film camera. Despite newer and faster digital cameras and novel smartphone camera technologies, a not-so-niche community still prefers the grain and organic feel that comes with film cameras. A feature from The Guardian attributes this global new wave of film photography enthusiasts to the younger generation’s intrigue of slower-paced technology and nostalgia.

Whether you’re interested in film photography for its unique aesthetic or because you’re after a more manual approach to photography, film photography is a constantly evolving art form as people find new ways to keep the retro medium interesting. Today, we’ll go through some photography tips for using these retro film cameras:

Understand the different film cameras

Like any other art form, you need to know what makes each tool special in order to harness its full potential. In the case of retro cams, Adorama’s collection of specialty film cameras highlights that there are many differences between makes, models, and film brands. For example, view cameras pair a lens and a mechanical shutter with a piece of glass and a sheet of film. This old technique appeals to landscape photographers, portrait artists, and architects for their incredible details and control of perspective. On the other hand, pinhole cameras are great for photographers who want to experiment with exposure times in wide-angle frames. Ultimately, this means that the better you understand a camera’s nuances, the better you can execute your vision.

With so many different types of film cameras available, it’s best to check reviews and sample various camera types to figure out which one fits what you’re trying to achieve. Also, consider how light or heavy the models are to determine which are best for travel or long periods of use.

Keep it simple

As previously discussed in Folio Browser post about common photography mistakes, overspending on camera equipment is a common faux pas. For many people, the more intricate or expensive a model is, the more impressive they expect it to be. With film cameras, however, eliminating this mindset is especially important. After all, a huge part of film photography depends on straightforward techniques rather than fancy accessories. While add-ons can enhance your final image, some of the best film photos are those that are raw and untampered with.

In line with this, focus on learning the basics — rule of thirds, lighting, etc. Without the basic principles, equipment and accessories can only go so far. Learn to appreciate that film photography, with all its grains and exposures, can be imperfect, and that’s alright. Once you think you’re ready to add new equipment, lenses, or gear to your arsenal, remember to benchmark and ensure your camera’s compatibility with the equipment you want.

Try to experiment

Once you understand the foundation of film photography, don’t be afraid to have more fun with the art form. For instance, PetaPixel’s article on film hacks details the interesting results one may get when cross-processing between different film rolls and developing chemicals. When done properly, this can create unique new “filters” and color tones on images. Although these may not produce the most traditional-looking film images, experimenting can diversify the output of your retro camera. Over time, this can even make the process more personal and fun for you.

As you can see, there are so many ways to make film photography more interesting. Depending on your approach and preferences, a single retro camera can create various images for every occasion. The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to you to discover them.