How To Actually Shoot 35mm Film On A Budget In 2023

I’ve been a film photographer for about seven years over that time I’ve discovered how to shoot film in the most cost-effective way.

If you want to find out exactly how to save money in the short and long term then read on!

1) Shop Around Local Photography Stores

Often local stores and photography shops can sell film for really good prices compared to the Internet. I don’t mean just any High Street store but sometimes if you find a local photography shop which is a bit small time then you can find some really good prices. 

This kind of thing wouldn’t reduce your prices dramatically but could be the difference between £15 and £10 a roll that’s pretty substantial these days. 

If you find a good spot then I would suggest taking quite a few rolls and stocking up while you get the chance to get them at a good price. 

2) Shop Around Online

Most online stores will sell film for less than Amazon so if you shop around a bit then you will tend to find that you can get much better deals. Places like Analogue Wonderland usually have far better prices than Amazon. 

In the US I’m sure there will be some other companies that do the same sorts of things sometimes it’s just about looking around and trying to find the best deals which could save you quite a lot over the course of 5 to 10 rolls!

I know that these can seem like quite simple ways of saving money on film but they can easily be missed.

3) Some Places Throw Flash Sales

Places like Take It Easy Lab release film at reasonable prices but you have to be really quick in order to get these well-priced deals.

Finding a small lab or company that does this kind of thing can be a great way to get hold of some film for a good price.

4) Bulk Load Your Own Film

Not every camera stock can be bought as a bulk load but you can buy some film stocks as a bulk canister. Once you purchase a bulk canister, you’ll have to also find some empty film canisters that you can load the bulk film into. You’ll also need a film loader, once you have these things you’ll be able to bulk load your own film and save yourself a lot of money.

If you want to find out how to bulk load your own film then take a look here.

Not every type of film is available to be bulk loaded, usually, there are more black and white film stocks available for this, so it may not work for everyone.

5) You Can Develop Your Own Film

Developing for yourself can be much less expensive as long as you have the space and time. Generally developing black and white film is much cheaper and easier to develop than colour film is. 

You just need to buy a bit of equipment and the right chemicals can you’re pretty much good to go. Colour film needs different chemicals and it can be quite a bit harder to develop than black and white.

Developing film will cut quite a significant cost in shooting film photography, however, you’ll still need your film to be scanned.

6) Scan Your Own Film

Scanning your own film is a really important thing that you can do to reduce the cost of everything. The problem is that scanning your film to a high standard can be fairly hard to do if you don’t have much money. 

You even need to buy a scanner or high-quality digital camera that you can effectively use as a scanner. The problem is if you want really high-quality scans you probably are better off going to a developing lab and getting them scanned professionally because the scanning machines cost a hell of a lot of money. It’d be unlikely for you to be able to pick anything up the create good standard scans. 

7) Shoot Black And White Instead Of Colour

Black and white film tends to be significantly cheaper than colour film however the development costs tend to be a bit more.

Ilford HP5 is a nice black and white film stock which costs usually costs around £5 per roll, this is much cheaper than something like Kodak colour plus which is now at least £10 per roll. 

If you were to shoot black and white and develop it yourself then that’s when you’d start to make a significant saving!

8) Sell Your Photography Prints To Offset The Costs

Most great photographers tend to sell prints generally but when you’re starting out it may help to sell a few prints just to try and offset the cost of shooting film. 

To produce prints, all you need to do is either send your file to someone locally that can print them, or you can take your negatives to a proper photography lab and get them hand enlarged. Hand enlarging is arguably the much more professional way of doing things but taking your digital file to print is still just fine. 

9) Use A Half Frame Camera

This is definitely a great option for people that want to shoot more casually or for things like travel and lifestyle.  There are a good selection of half-frame cameras such as the Olympus Pen EE or the Kodak Ektar H35. These are film cameras that shoot with a half frame which means that you can get 72 shots from a roll of 36. 

Of course, because these are half-frame cameras it means is half as much quality throughout the image because it’s half the size. However, if you’re going into a good film developer (which I’ll suggest later on) you should find this shouldn’t matter too much. 

10) Choose The Right Film Stock

Okay, I know I mentioned black and white film earlier, it’s a lot cheaper but you may still want to be shooting colour film. A lot of people start shooting film and think that they need Kodak Portra 400 for everything. The fact of the matter is, unless you’re shooting for more professional purposes, you can probably use something like Kodak Colour Plus.

You can save quite a lot of money by just making more economic decisions when buying film, this could be downgraded to a cheaper film stock or even buying out-of-date film (within reason). I’ve personally found that some of my favourite work was shot on Kodak Colourplus, sometimes you can allow yourself to not have ‘the best’ all the time.

11) Make Use Of Every Shot

This is a really simple one, I know but hear me out. How often do you waste the first few shots and the last few shots? Sometimes I’ll have around 8 shots left and decided I really just want to see what I got, we’ve all been guilty of it.

Making use of every shot and not wasting them can be a significant saving, especially these days when a roll (including development costs) could be around 50p+ per shot.

12) Shop Around For The Best Lab

This is actually a really handy tip if you’re not going to develop and scan for yourself. When I first started film photography, I was taking my film to Max Speilmanns, which is a high street lab, they were charging £15 per roll, it was outrageous. Now I use a lab called Filmdev, which I honestly think is one of the best photography labs around, it’s £8.50 for the highest quality and maybe £5 for the lowest.

If you can find the best development prices where you are then you can save yourself a tonne in the short and long term.

In the UK I’ll always recommend Filmdev or Take It Easy Lab, you have to mail your film to either of these labs unless you’re in the area.

Final Word

If you combine a few of these tips and use them together then you should begin to see yourself make significant savings on your film photography. I know it’s hard and frustrating if you want to shoot film and you don’t really know how you can afford it, so I hope that a few of these tips will provide you with a good way of doing it.

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