Start Shooting Film Without Breaking the Bank

Shooting film can quickly become an expensive endeavor. But you don’t have make a huge financial investment when you’re just starting. Here are some simple ways you can save money (and use it to buy more film).

Buy used gear

Sure, pricey cameras and lenses might get you better quality images, but retro cameras are a significant part of the reason many people still shoot film. Consider seeking out a vintage camera from eBay, Goodwill, or at a garage sale. Better yet, ask around. More likely than not, someone you know has film camera sitting around that they would love to give to a photographer who would put it to good use. I received my two favorite cameras, the Minolta X-700 and the Mamiya 645 1000s, this way. Plus, going old school is on the upswing.

Ethan posing with the Mamiya 645 1000s
Minolta X-700, Kodak Portra 400

Skimp on film

It may sound cliché but it’s true: A bad photographer with all the expensive gear in the world won’t be able to create a good photo. (For more on this, visit Casual Photophile’s post Not Everyone Needs a Leica.) Likewise, expensive film will not automatically improve your images. While you’re learning the basics, mishaps are bound to happen. When I was starting, I made almost every mistake possible: accidentally loading film improperly, exposing it to light, developing it wrong. Save yourself the heartache and purchase inexpensive 35mm film. You can still buy a four pack of Fujifilm Superia for about $15 at Walmart or CVS. Plus, normal color film uses C-41 processing which you still may be able to find locally. If not, there are mail-in businesses that will develop and scan a roll of film for you for about $11.

Minolta X-700, Kodak Ultramax 400

Try a toy camera

If you want to capture the effects cheap film cameras are known to create like vignetting and light leaks, you can look into cheap, plastic cameras. Toy cameras are notoriously fun to use because they allow you to unleash your creativity. (Think double exposures, over-saturation, infinite panoramas, and pinhole images.) A new Holga camera can retail at as little as $30 to $40. Of course, you can get similar effects digitally on Instagram and VSCO, but you can achieve a more authentic look on actual film.

Diana F+, Kodak Portra 400
Diana F+, Kodak Portra 400


3 thoughts on “Start Shooting Film Without Breaking the Bank

  1. I love how helpful this post is, in that if someone were to read it and decide to start shooting film they could theoretically have everything they need by way of the links to sites and services you’ve included. Perfect.

  2. Thanks for the comment! I wish I had known these things when I first started. Like you said in your post, I found the amount of gear people claimed to need very intimidating.

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