Back to Journal

Western Rise Ben Matthews Tips for Film Photography Outdoor

Film is beautiful. In the grand scheme of things, film cameras have been used in photography for much longer than the new digital format cameras.

For me, I started learning photography by using a film camera because with film, you have one shot, so you better make it count. It helps you really think about what you’re taking a photo of instead of just taking ten or fifteen photos of the same thing until you get “the” shot you want.

I personally love shooting with film not only for this reason, but for the joy and excitement you get once you finally get the roll developed. A feeling that you can’t get when shooting with digital.

Here are a few tips I have when working with film in the outdoors. 

Western Rise Ben Matthews Tips for Film Photography Outdoor

1) Find a working camera. This can be easier said than done, since film is somewhat outdated now. But if you go to your local thrift store, Goodwill, or antique store, you will surely find some type of film camera.

However, many of these will be simple “point-and-shoot” cameras, which, in my experience, tend to quit working first. (I’ve bought multiple point-and-shoot cameras that never ended up working.)

The best film cameras are the ones that are all manual and don’t require any power for the winding motors and things on the internal part of the camera. I personally use this type of camera, a 1978 Pentax MX.

Western Rise Ben Matthews Tips for Film Photography Outdoor

2) Select the right film. With digital cameras, you can change the settings very easily to get the correct exposure, but with film you can’t change the “ISO” or “Film Speed”once you’ve selected the film.

With film, the type of film you use sets the “Film Speed”. This can range from a Film Speed of 50 to 3200. The most common speed for film now is 400.

Film speed is similar to the digital setting in that the lower the number is, the less light it lets in and the finer the grain in the film is. Whereas with a higher film speed, the more light it lets in and the grainier the final image will be.

Typically when I shoot outdoors, I like to use Kodak Ektar 100 for a finer grain and when shooting outside, you’re in the bright sunlight, so the lower film speed, the better. However, if I want a more versatile film that can be used indoors and outdoors, I’ll use Kodak Portra 400.

Western Rise Ben Matthews Tips for Film Photography Outdoor

3) Get outside and shoot! After you have the camera and have the film properly loaded, go outside to your favorite climbing, fishing, or hiking spot and test out the camera!

But remember to make every shot count because there’s no deleting a film photo. Once you’ve finished the roll, take it to your local photography store or send it off to a film lab.

Really, just find somewhere that will still process film and get excited when your photos are ready!


Words and photography by Western Rise ambassador Ben Matthews, @bentommat