Shooting film

Black and White photo of an elderly lady smiling

Cheerful Grandma

After shooting digital for a number of years and after watching and listening to countless photographers claim that trying traditional analog (film) photography will help to develop your photographic eye by slowing down the process, I decided to delve in.  The limitations being that you can take only 36 shots on a roll of film (based on the film I purchased), lack of ability to view the image on a display after taking a shot and the associated cost with each exposure (developing). This made for an interesting challenge, although ironically, only a few decades ago, this was the only option. Peppered though this post will be example images form that roll of film.

Black and White photo of wind turbines at Whitelee Winfarm

Whitelee Windfarm

Similar to the issue of purchasing my first DSLR, I was again phased with the question of what brand and type of camera to consider.  I took the easy way out and bought the Canon AE-1 because I knew it was a classic and I had seen shots on one by a friend who has one (not the most stringent criteria for a purchase).


The gear

I ended up purchasing a Canon AE-1 with 50mm f1.8 lens on eBay, where of course there are many of great deals on analog gear. In terms of film, I went for Kodak 400TX Tri-X because it was again a tried and tested classic and I wanted to try out black and white.

Photo of Canon AE-1 with 50mm 1.8 lens on a tripod

Canon AE-1 with 50mm 1.8 lens

First challenge was how do I load the film? This should have been an easy task, however I Googled it just to be sure.


When using digital, it is easy to be trigger happy, however with my first roll of film, I was cautious in considering when to take a photo – being that each snap would actually cost money. It was disconcerting not being able to check the exposure but now after having a roll processed, I can have confidence in the exposure of the camera.  As this was my first attempt with this second hand camera, I had no idea if it still functioned.


Compared to digital where I would take 36 shots in a mater of minutes, shooting one roll of film on analog took over a year and a half. Not due to lack of interest or the need to get perfect situations but most likely uncertainly of the outcome: would this second hand camera actually function and would the exposures be correct. In addition to those, I usually had a digital camera close to hand and as I had never personally had film developed, I was not sure where to have the film processed.


The camera has been with me on travels to Dumfries, Glencoe and York.  When I finally decided to get organised to process the film, I went to Whitelees Windfarm just outside of Eaglesham to do a few test shot comparisons with my DSLR (which I will post soon).


As I found out that Kodak 400TX cannot be processed at ‘the local shops’, it requires specialised processing.  Being located near Glasgow in Scotland, I found that Snappy Snaps in the West End of Glasgow had the ability to process it, so after winding my last shot, I jumped into the car and drove to the West End. Luckily they had a single day processing (being an impatient individual) so I amused myself by walking around and photographing a local park for the next three hours.

Black and White photo of a lady standing next to a shop in York

Attya in York

I was aware of notable excitement whilst waiting for the film to be processed, a feeling I had not felt in all years I have shot digital.  It reminded me of childhood memories waiting to view the snaps taken on holiday and dropped off by my parents to be processed. I went for 6x4s with a white border (which I though looked more traditional) and a CD copy of the images. Photos feel great in the hand and these film images (although may not be the best compositionally) had soul. I was slightly disappointed with the CD which contained small sized JPEGs but I assume that most people don’t need high resolution copies of their snapshots. The resolution has been possibly been spoilt by my use of digital. I do intend to scan the negatives at some stage and compare a RAW file (when ‘scanned’ using my DSLR – to photographing the negative) to the present JPEGs.


Overall, the experience was worth the wait. Seeing images that you almost forgot about brought back pleasant memories of those times and I enjoyed how the photographic process was slowed down by using film. Let’s just hope it takes less time to get through my next roll.