Introduction: A Beginners Guide to 35mm Film Photography

About: I absolutley love to make stuff! Everything from go karts to electronics and Arduino.... At age 14 possibly the youngst person to make a prusa mendel?

Hello all! I have recently really gotten into film photography after my father gave me his old Pentax K1000. I am relatively new to film photography buy have learned a lot so far.

The goal of this Instructable is to provide a detailed, easy to follow set of directions so you can be taking pictures as soon as possible.

I am writing these instructions based on my Pentax K1000. These instructions apply for most analog cameras. If your camera won't  accept the film/ won't work according to these instruction, I will be glad to help you out. That being said, I cannot be responsible for any harm to yourself or the camera.

I hope you enjoy!

Step 1: Getting Stuff!

Getting started with film photography is relatively easy. A decent 35mm camera can be found for less that $100. Ask relatives, thrift stores and antique stores. You can also use eBay, but the prices may not be as good/as reliable.

I use the K1000 which is a very reliable and good quality camera that takes nice pictures, and I highly recommend it to the beginner. Please don't get one of those electric auto winding/ auto focusing ones! They are not nearly as cool!

Any type of quality film is good. Black and white is my favorite, but that's just personal taste. Try a local drugstore or photography store.

Look for a flash if your camera does not have one. A neck strap is pretty essential. Other things include a tripod, various lenses to experiment with and a carrying case.

Got it? Good! Let's goooo!!

Step 2: Setting the ASA/ISO

The first part of loading you camera is setting the proper ISO or ASA rating. Your camera has a dial on it. There is a ring of outer numbers. This is your shutter speed, but don't worry about this yet, We'll get there. There is also a small cut away window that has a small number in it. This is the ASA rating. The ASA rating tells your camera what type of film your camera is using so it can adjust accordingly.
ASA and ISO mean the same thing.
The rating refers to the film's reactivity to light. Generally, 200 is pretty versatile and very common, while 100 is good for outdoor shots. 100 and 200 are the most common.

How to adjust the ASA/ISO
-Check your film. It will be very clear what kind of film you are using. I'm working with 200
- Pull outward on the dial. The outer part should lift up a bit. While it is up, rotate to the correct number.

Good! Now let's actually load the film!

Step 3: Opening the Back Panel

This is super easy! Look at the back of your camera. On the left is a knob. This is used to rewind your film when it is all exposed. Pull it upwards. It should stay up about a centimeter or so. Then, give it another tug upwards, and your back panel will pop out a bit. Open it the rest of the way and marvel at the beauty!

Step 4: Putting in the Film Canister

Even easier than the last step! Keeping that little dial we pulled up in the same position, we can insert the film canister. Just line the canister up. When you get it it will fit in perfectly.

The first picture is the slot where the film canister will go. The second shows the little doodad that the dial is connected to. This grips the little groove in the top of the film canister that you can see in the next photo. If what you have looks like the fourth picture, good!
If not, keep working at it. It takes some practice. Make sure you don't pull the film very far out of the film canister, as it will start to expose it, which wastes film.

Step 5: Locking in the Film

Ok, I'll be honest with you. This is probably the most difficult step, but when it's done, you have loaded the film! YAY!

Slowly pull the film across the back of the shutter. Guide it toward the small slot in the plastic spool. This spool is used to wind the film forward between exposures. When the tapered end is in the slot, give the film a slight tug to make sure it is fully locked in. Make sure you don't pull out too much film, as you will start exposing it, which is BAD! You want to try to keep the film pretty taught, and keep out any slack. If you pull too much out, you can try to push it back in, but there is a chance you exposed some of the film. All you need to do next is close the back panel and lock the plunger on the left that we had lifted earlier.

Next, you need to advance the film so you can take pictures. Use your film advance lever ( looks like a small crank on the right) to advance the film. You want to do this until it stop, press the button that would take a picture. Keep repeating this process until the small dial reads 0-3. This is how many exposures you have taken. Ideally you should stop at 0, but if it is your first time, it's OK to go a bit too far.

So, now you have loaded the film. Done!
At this point if you know how to properly shoot with your camera, go ahead, but I will offer some tips for those that don't know how.

Step 6: The Light Meter

This part is half about setting up you camera, half about actually shooting.
The light meter is an essential part of your camera. Shooting without one will yield over/ underexposed images every time unless you are very experienced.
First, we need to see if your camera has a light meter built in. There are two ways to do this:
1- take your lens cap off and look through the viewfinder. If you have what looks like a small lever like in the picture above, that is your light meter.
2- Look online for your model of camera, and see if it has any documentation.

Depending if you have a light meter built in, you either need to buy one, or change the battery in the one you have. 100% analogue cameras (no autofocus or auto wind) usually use a button cell battery. A light meter online is not very expensive, and very helpful.

I'm not going to do into detail about how to replace the battery because it is different depending on the camera. Look up your model online to try to figure it out, but if you can't, comment/ message me and I will help you figure it out.

To use the light meter, you want the little needle to line up in the center of the little gap. You change the position of the needle by changing the exposure rate and aperture size.
You can also have it slightly off center to take artsy pictures, you little hipster.

Step 7: Taking Pictures!

Ok. You have made it this far. You can handle this part.

There are two things you need to have right when taking a picture.
- the aperture size (also known as f-stop)
- the shutter speed.

You aperture is adjusted on your lens. There are two sets of numbers. Some are closer to the end of the lens. This is your focus distance. There is another set of numbers closer to the camera. These are the aperture size. The aperture size is the size of the hole that the light is going through when it exposes your film. A higher number means a smaller hole, while a lower number means a bigger hole. This feature also affects the sense of depth you will get from your photo, which is called depth of field. A smaller hole (larger f stop number) will get you a greater depth of field, giving a greater sense of depth and perspective. This is done because a larger/ smaller hole changes how much of the image is in focus. If the picture has a greater depth of field, only part of it will be in focus. This is also called focal length. You should be aware that the smaller the size of the aperture, the less light is coming in. A larger hole ( smaller number) will let more light in but will reduce the depth of field. You should decide what f-stop you want to use by taking how much light you have around you and how much depth of field you want/ need. Change this setting by rotating the dial on the lens.

Next we need to adjust the shutter speed/ exposure time.

Remember that knob we used to adjust the ASA? We will use that again, but this time we will not be lifting it up. The numbers around the outside are the different exposure rates. They represent one second over that number. For example, the 60 setting is 1/60 seconds. 60 is very important. It is the slowest shutter speed you can use without a tripod or something to brace the camera on. It is also the setting you must always use when using an external flash.

So, when you are ready to take the picture there are a couple things to do.
-Find the shot. Figure out what you are going to take the picture of.
-Adjust the F-stop and the exposure. I usually adjust the F-stop first. Pick your desired f stop based on what we learned about aperture size. Then, looking through the viewfinder, check the light meter. If it is south of the middle, increase the exposure time. Remember, the lower the number, the longer the exposure. If the number is below 60 either set up a tripod or set it to 60, put on a flash and adjust that. If the light meter is higher than the center, turn the exposure speed down. When it is in the center you are ready!
- The last thin you have to do is focus. If your camera is all analog, you will have to focus is manually by turning the lens. When you are happy with the focus, press the shutter.
You just took a picture! Good job!

Keep taking pictures until the small dial says that you are out of film. Make sure that you wind the film each time with the lever.

When you are out of film, you will need to rewind it. This is different for some cameras, and some cameras may have an automatic winding feature. Rewinding the film on my camera involves pulling out a small crank from that knob on the left and turning it clockwise. You want to turn until you feel a tug, then keep winding. You should feel a bit of a snap and hear it. You know you are done when the crank turns very easily. Your camera may differ, so check out the manual or online sources, and if you need help leave a comment. To remove the canister we just open up the back panel like earlier and take it out!
Now all you have to do is take your film to a photo lab or a drug store that offers film development. I HIGHLY recommend that you go to a photo lab, but a drug store is always an option.

Thanks for reading this Instructable. I hope you learned something! If you have any questions/ comments PM me or leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Lomography Analog Photography Contest

Runner Up in the
Lomography Analog Photography Contest