The Easy Guide To Travelling With 35mm Film – Camera/Film/Airport Scanners/Taking Good Shots

I’ve been shooting film for a hell of a long time and over that time I’ve shot a lot on my travels too.

You need a good point-and-shoot or SLR camera and some budget or high-quality film depending on what you shoot. You need to be aware of the airport scanners because they can cause damage to your film. And finally, you need to figure out a way to take interesting photos rather than the same old holiday shots.

And of course, I’ve put together this simple and straight-to-the-point guide on how to do all of this easily!

Camera & Lens

First off, what’s a workman without any tools, you’re gonna need a camera and for travel, you need the right camera and lens.

I’m gonna give you two options here because I like you. If you just wanna shoot quick shots of your friends while they slam tequilas then you’re gonna wanna grab a point-and-shoot camera.

Point & Shoots – For The Casual Traveller

A point-and-shoot is a compact automatic camera that’s super easy to use. It’s ideal for you if you want nice pictures that have that film feel but you don’t want to be messing around too much.

The Olympus MJU II is hailed as one of the best point-and-shoots but for half the price you could grab a MJU I and it’ll still get the shots you want –  you can put the £100 or so you save to a tattoo on your arse or whatever. 

Generally, there’s not a dramatic difference between most point-and-shoot shots so there’s not much point in shelling out on the MJU II.

SLR Cameras – For Serious Snappers

If you’re actually wanting to get some good photos and you’re getting a little serious with it then you’ll probably want a little SLR camera. Now I know everyone goes on about the Canon AE-1 and that’s a fine (ish) camera.

I’d personally suggest something like the Pentax K1000 because it’s a tank and I love the Pentax lenses that go with it. If I were going to suggest one lens then it’d be a 35mm prime lens because it’s a little bit wide so you can get nice pictures of the city you’re in or a mountain range or whatever really. 

Any good SLR like the Canon A1, Nikon FM/FE or Pentax K1000 or ME Super is a great option for an SLR to take travelling and a 50mm or 35mm prime lens will be brilliant.

If you want more camera options then take a look at this article I wrote!


Once you’ve got you’re camera then you’re gonna wanna put something in it… Film!

And once again I’m keeping it simple, if you’re on a budget like most of us serfs are then you’ll probably want something like Kodak Gold 200, it’s cheap, it’s punchy and it does the job. Some people actually really like Kodak Gold, I’m not one of them but it’s a good film to shoot on a budget. 

Kodak Gold is ideal for the casual shooter and it’ll give your shots a bit of a vintage feel to them.

If you’re out there trying to get the best photos you possibly can and you’ve somehow got the money spare since your dad sold the second home in Spain. Then you can shoot Portra 400. Portra 400 is versatile, it has a great dynamic range and it produces great skin tones.  

It’s used by a lot of professionals and amateurs who really want to get high-quality shots. Generally, Portra 400 can be pretty pastel in terms of colour which a lot of people like because it makes it pretty editable!

If you want to explore more film stocks for your travels then I’ve got the perfect article for you right here!

Sling Bags (The Unsung Hero)

I have to include this part because I can’t tell you how handy it is to have a good sling bag. I haven’t got a picture of one but it’s kind of like over the shoulder and head. Usually you could fit an SLR in the main pocket and your phone and keys in another.

There are loads of companies that make these bags, Baggu, Peak design if you want something really sturdy or even Uniqlo.

I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have your camera right there on the front of your body (without having to have it on a traditional camera strap). It’s more comfortable, it’s much safer and it allows you to shoot pretty freely because you’re not taking it out of a traditional camera bag or backpack.

Invest in a sling bag, you will not regret it!!

Beware Of The Airport Scanners

Believe it or not, if you’re flying with film then you’ve gotta be extra careful because some security scanners can damage film. 

There’s so much conflicting info on this one and most of it’s anecdotal. People say you need to get your film hand-checked, some security workers do it some don’t.

Loads of people go through security without it causing any damage to their film and some people say scanners messed up their film completely. 

My best advice is to either buy film at the destination if possible or take film with a low ISO, the lower the ISO, the less sensitivity, the less sensitivity, the less damage. 

I’ve been through a bunch of times and not had any issues, but all the scanners are different so you could easily get unlucky. 

When To Shoot

In all my years of being an incredibly mediocre photographer, I’ve made every mistake in the book. And noticing this one thing has really changed the way I take photos when I’m travelling. 

Usually when we’re travelling we tend to go out throughout the day and shoot photos as we go along and when you get your photos back they’re all blown out in harsh light and they kinda look just like anyone elses travel photos. 

This is where you’ve got to flip the script and wake up at 6 am and get out there while the light is hitting just right and there’s nobody else on the streets. 

This will give your photos that have a  soft, warm glow and it’ll also give you a chance to shoot while no one else is around which usually isn’t gonna happen when you’re in a tourist trap. 

Of course, there’s a golden hour at each end of the day but usually the early morning is safer and quieter but the evening is a good chance to get a totally different vibe too. 

How To Not Shoot The Same Boring Stuff

My final step is the most important thing and it can be hard to do but god it pays off. 

If you’re anything like I used to be then you shoot what you see, there’s an old tower there, I may as well capture that, oh there’s some petrified remains of a man wiping his arse on the side of Pompeii, I’ll snap that.  

The truth is, no one cares about that because they’ve seen it all before. It’s far too easy to fall into shooting passively. 

Instead, try to think more about capturing the feeling of a place and if you do take pictures of tourist attractions then think about how you can take them more creatively.  

When I talk about capturing the feeling I mean the food in the markets, the hustle and bustle, the way the sunlight creeps in through the window and how people live there day to day. 

If you can think more about shooting like that rather than shooting like any other tourist then you’ll take pictures that are way more interesting and tell a story. 

Get It Processed At A Good Lab

Once you’re back home and you’re ready to get your pictures developed and scanned, take the time to find a good lab in your area.

I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes to go to a good lab rather than high street lab. You’ll get better quality scans that won’t have any thumb prints or anything else.

Personally, I use Filmdev here in the UK, you can post your film to them and I think high-quality scans are like £8.50 and they look so good. Use reddit to find the best lab in your area and figure out what’s important to you.

If price is important then go to a cheap lab but expect slightly worse results. If quality is important then look for the best quality scans!

Have Fun

At the end of the day, don’t take this stuff too seriously, have fun and snap away!

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