52 Photo Tips #20 – Shoot lots

(Pic: Khanh Hmoong/Flickr)

This is the 20th article in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

Film costs too much. Film itself is expensive. You can spend a fortune as a beginner with no guarantee that your talents will reward all that expense. And then it costs to get it developed, and it costs to get it scanned. If you’ve come from digital, the expense can be eye-watering.

The thing is, if you’re going to get the most out of shooting film, you’re going to have to shoot a lot. Shoot consistently, but above all shoot continually. Like practising a musical instrument, great results rarely come from dipping in once or twice every six months.

So how can you ensure that you’re shooting enough to get encouraging results without breaking the bank?

Film is a photographic niche now – the days of emulsions rolling off production lines in their tens of millions are now over. There are still companies making it, and it likely to be with us for many decades yet, but the laws of economics have made it more expensive for us to buy because there are less of us buying it. But there are ways to cut down the cost.

Buy cheap film. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can still find great deals. In the UK, cheap retailers like Poundland and the £1 shop often have rolls of ISO 200 35mm film for a pound (mostly Kodak, though sometimes it’s Agfa-branded). It’s perfect to learn on. If I was starting out film photography now that’s where I’d head – a fiver can sort you out for a whole weekend’s shooting where you don’t have to worry about conserving frames.

Another cheap brand worth spending your money on is Fomapan, a Czech company which makes black and white film. Fomapan print film comes in 100, 200 and 400 ISOs in both 35mm and 120, and it can be had for very little money; buying a few rolls at a time can get the price of a roll down to around £3. Fomapan might not be up to the quality of Kodak or Ilford black and white films, but it’s still well worth shooting with. (You can see my Flickr sets taken on Fomapan 100, 200 and 400).

It’s great to work with slides and pro-grade film, but spend that kind of money when you’ve developed your eye and your technique.

Shoot consistently. This isn’t about going out and wasting film, pointing a camera at whatever you come across til you reach the end of the film. But your photographic eye, your ability to read the light in a scene, the way you compose a frame, they all improve the more you do it.

Author Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talked of the 10,000 Hour Rule; that you have to spend 10,000 hours practising a skill in order to be able to able to truly master it. And the more you shoot, the more you should find your eye improving. You’ll be more confident about what you shoot, and more likely to get results you’re happy with.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famed street photographer and creator of the Magnum agency, had an even more pertinent phrase for photographers. “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” You shoot and shoot and shoot, and you make mistakes. The more you shoot, the more you learn from them.


  1. Here in the States, probably the best deal on color film is Fujicolor 200 for about $2.50 a roll at Walmart or Meijer (a Midwestern Walmart clone). Processing is a challenge. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a lab in your town, your option is mail order, and it’s about $15 to have the film processed and scanned. If you have time, you can just have it processed and scan it yourself. If you have even more time and some skills, you can buy a color-processing kit and do it all yourself. But barring all of that, processing and scanning is the real cost of film photography, at least in the States.

  2. I use the film from Poundland (usually Agfa Vista 200 24’s) and get good results I normally by 10 rolls at a time and my local processors charge around £7 for processing (negs) and CD the cost of B&W pics is just the cost of the film and Chemicals (Chemicals are reasonably cheap) as I develop and scan my own. Thank you for the Tips.

  3. Excellent article. We’re not as lucky here in South Australia. The cheapest film I can get from a shop here is is Ultramax 400 at $16 for three films. Mailing costs don’t make it as worthwhile to buy from overseas.

    • Mailing costs from a lot of places are actually quite reasonable. Im in Perth and buy 80% of my film from the states. Works out about 30% cheaper than local shops if you buy 15 or 20 rolls.

    • Hi secludedsea. Yes it can be worthwhile when you in bulk 20+ rolls. You can go try it in any of the online stores http://www.bhphotovideo.com/ is the one i bought from when i was living in Sydney. You don’t need to make a purchase. You could check how many rolls you could get for the postage you’re paying and do your calculations. Whats more important than the difference in price, is the ability to try different films if you wish to. If you shoot, and you know you will keep shooting, the rolls won’t be wasted.

  4. I’m a pretty big fan of consumer-grade film, and yep, there are deals on it out there if you know where to look. I cut my teeth on Fuji Superia and it still makes it into my camera quite often. I don’t think I’ve ever run across Kodak Color Plus before, though, is it new?

  5. I think I already mentioned in a previous post, for those of you living Europe that have a DM store in your city, check out the DM Paradies 200 film. It’s a rebranded Fuji emulsion. And those of you who are lucky might still find the 400 ISO version.

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