Getting Back Into Film Photography II

So the last post was more about my little adventure in acquiring my “forever” camera. Forever 35mm camera, anyway. But what has it been like to actually shoot film rather than digital these days? It’s been expensive, slow, sometimes frustrating and I’ve probably lost or ruined a few too many shots. What I’m trying to say is that it’s been super fun and I’m enjoying it now more than ever.

It definitely costs more to get back into it than I was initially expecting. Especially at first. You have to buy your film which comes in a range of prices. It really just depends. Do you want to go consumer-grade or professional? Do you want to try some unique stock like CineStill 800t? Color or black and white?

After I got my camera I bought a 5 pack of Portra 400. Excellent film, fine grain, beautiful colors and about $60 for 5 rolls. Does film slow you down because you really want to think of the shot, or does it slow you down because you don’t feel like paying for it so often? Eh? You definitely don’t want to waste it, so maybe a little of both.

After you buy film, pay for development, scans and shipping (if your lab isn’t local) and then to ship the negatives back, shooting film is looking pretty pricey. This soon led me to buying a bunch of Ilford HP5 and supplies to develop my film at home. Developing your film at home not only saves a lot of money but I feel like it’s a lot more rewarding. You made that photo from start to finish.

man throwing baseball

Ilford HP5 pushed to 1600

Developing black and white film isn’t all that difficult if you make sure you have the right supplies. I learned how in college and it was like riding a bike, you pick it back up fairly quickly. I currently use Ilford’s Ilfotec DD-X and Ilford’s Rapid Fixer. I just use tap water for a stop bath. It’s fine, really. Kodak Photo-Flo is an absolute must when you’re done. For equipment I pretty much grabbed all Patterson stuff. Tanks, reels, etc. Funnels and a good thermometer are necessary, as are clips to hang your film to dry.

Developing color is a bit more involved and I wasn’t able to find any C-41 kits for a while due to Covid-19. I guess everyone decided to develop film at home at the same time?

dog laying in bed outside

Fuji Superia X-Tra 400

The big issue with developing color is that the temperature is a little less forgiving than with black and white. If your temps are off by more than a bit during development you can have some not-so-great color shifts. If you choose to develop color at home I can’t recommend CineStill's chemistry enough. It’s super easy to mix and use. You will need to get things up to temp, though, and what works best? A sous vide machine. Yeah, not only can you slow-cook your salmon to perfection, you can also raise the temperature of your C-41 chemicals. Maybe at the same time? I’m not a chef.

All-in-all the process of shooting film isn’t much different than digital. I feel like the more hands-on approach to developingg and scanning your own photos is where the real fun is. And speaking of scanning film? That’s been an adventure in and of itself. I will surely cover my process in Getting Back Into Film Photography III: The Scanninning.