Get Started with 35mm Film in 5 Steps

New to shooting film? 35mm film photography is one of the best ways to get started. It is both accessible and affordable. Here’s how to get started with 35mm film in 5 steps:

Step 1: Purchase a 35mm camera.

Good beginner 35mm cameras (like the Pentax K1000, Canon AE-1 and Nikon F series) are pretty affordable and plentiful! Begin your search by trying used camera stores, eBay, thrift stores, your neighbor’s garage sale, even your grandpa's closet!

Step 2: Snag 35mm film.

Support your local film crew and purchase your film directly from labs you trust! Buying your film from labs not only helps us keep rising costs at bay, it ensures your film has been stored in safe conditions.

Step 3: Shoot a test roll.

A test roll will tell you if your camera is functioning properly! You want to make sure there aren’t any light leaks, shutter issues, scratches, etc. Don’t worry if you are unsure of how to identify these issues, we got you! If we see any red flags in processing, we’ll send you an email describing the issue.

In your test roll, be sure to include an exposure ramp. An exposure ramp is shooting the same subject in the same scene (and lighting) from 4 stops underexposed to 9-ish stops overexposed. Exposure ramps do two main things:

1. Allow you to become familiar with your camera's internal metering system (if you aren’t using a handheld light meter).

2. Show you the exposure latitude of your film stock of choice and help you determine how you want to expose your film moving forward!

P.S. Make sure to take field notes so you know which frame correlates with which exposure.

Step 4: Send your film to a lab you trust.

We have been your film processing experts since 1968. And we’d love to work with you, too! Learn how to get started with us here.

Step 5: Study, Rinse + Repeat

Once you get your film scans back and ensure your camera is functioning properly, it’s time to study your exposure ramp and pick the exposure range you are most happy with. Now that you have your own secret “recipe,” you can rinse and repeat!

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out by phone 503-588-3686 or by email

Erich McVey / FujiC200 35mm / Olympus Stylus / PhotoVision Everyday 35mm scan /

Alex Michelle / Fuji400H 35mm / Nikon F6 / Frontier Sp3000 /

Perry Vaile / Portra400 35mm / CanonEOS1V / Frontier SP3000

Kristine Dinsmore / Fuji400H 35mm / CanonEOS1V / Frontier SP3000

Paige Mercer / Kodak Ultramax 35mm / CanonEOS1V / Frontier SP3000