life . Portrait . street

Madison, WI


Fontana Giusti

Five tips to keep you shooting film in 2023 without going broke

Like any film shooter, I’m feeling the sting of repeated film price increases. The recent hikes of Kodak and Cinestill film hurt, and they hurt bad.

But I’m going to keep shooting film. 

It’s not that I’m a masochist, but the medium is simply everything to me, and not just for aesthetic reasons. It paces me, forces me to count my frames, be intentional in my shooting, and try to get it as close to “right” as I can in camera. It allows me to step back from screens. And it’s a medium that can be as predictable as digital, but that also allows more space for the weird, the experimental, the funky, in unpredictable ways – Think plastic cameras, think film soup, think blind doubles, think exposing-both-sides (EBS) of the film. 

So here are my five tips to keep shooting film, keep experimenting with it, and not go broke.


This is souped Fuji C200 - no memory of the recipe

How much of your film budget goes to shipping out your film and paying for development and scanning? This is a no brainer.

So before we go any further, let me say that yes, there’s an initial investment to this, and yes again, there’s also a learning curve. But trust me, it’s worth it.

What you need, essentially, is 

  1. Somewhere pitch dark – a dark bag, or a  light sealed closet
  2. a developing tank with reels, 
  3. chemistry, 
  4. a digitizing setup (either a scanner that does negatives, or a light source + DSLR + system to hold the DSLR)
  5. lightroom and the Negative Lab Pro app

The developing in itself, while intimidating at first, comes actually really quickly, and it has the added advantage that you can do whatever you want to your film.

And here’s a secret nobody tells you: C41 is actually really easy! For BW you have to follow time charts (unless you go the monobath route – hello Cinestill Df96!), but color film is always the same (unless you intentionally want to do it different, for example to push your film).

The real learning curve, however, is scanning. There is no sugarcoating it, it’s steep and it takes time to understand how to digitize, convert, and edit your images, and some images will be hard to work on no matter how. But when you start doing it, you’ll realize how much more control you have over your images when you do it yourself, rather than when you just trust a lab to do the work. 


Agfa APX 400 - Olympus OM2

It’s beautiful.

It’s timeless.

And it teaches you so much about light!


Just do it, commit to shooting only BW for one month. I recommend the cheap ones: Arista Edu (35mm, 120, and large format), Kentmere (35mm, 120), and Agfa APX (only 35mm). Beautiful stuff, for a fraction of Kodak.


Kodak Gold 200 - Pentax 67

I’ll admit, Kodak Portra 400 doesn’t agree with me. But even if it did, it’s not irreplaceable!

Kodak Gold 200 is glorious, in 35mm and in 120. And so is Ultramax400. Just (and this is actually really important) shoot them at box speed, Kodak’s consumer films don’t over-expose well, at all.

And then there’s also Fujifilm Superia Xtra 400, it’s a treasure, and after all the abuse Fujifilm put us through in recent past, I’m afraid we’ll lose it too at some point. 

And let’s not forget Lomography (❤️❤️❤️)!

And there’s more, but you’ve got to look for it, work a little: depending on where you live, you might have access to small batch productions.


Expired Kodak Gold 200 - Agfa Paramat half-frame camera

Instead of 36 frames, a half-frame camera gives you 72 images. I honestly can’t deal with this many frames, it feels endless, but that’s a real money-saving tip: stretch those resources.

Sure you’ll get more grain, but that’s part of the charm, so why not just embrace it and start shooting with a Diana Mini. And if you’re like me and can’t deal with that many exposures to go through, that camera can also shoot square format, in 35mm, and that’s pretty special.


Bulk loaded Tri-X 400 - Kodak Retina IIIc
Kodak Vision3 500T - Nikon FG20

Alright, last but not least: this tip’s another big one.

Tri-X 400 prices got you down? Buy 100ft of it, and roll it up yourself in a dark bag or – if you’re fancy – in a bulk loader.

Color options are limited in bulk, I regularly look, but there really is very little. What is there, though, is pretty special: give a go at the cinematic charm of the Vision 3 line of Kodak films. Before you take the plunge, though, know that they have a remjet layer you’ll have to remove, but that’s totally DYIable, trust me, I’ve done it!

Let me know if you’re interested in a tutorial, I promise it’s within reach for anyone who already develops at home.

Another advantage of this, is that you’ll be able to load as much film as you want in your canister, which is especially useful if, like me, you lack the patience to go through 72 frames before you develop your images.

I’ll keep shooting film for the many reasons I listed above, and many many other reasons, some I can’t even explain.

However, even without these reasons, I keep thinking that shooting film isn’t necessarily more expensive than shooting digital. I know it’s an unpopular opinion (just like my distaste for Portra 400), but if you doubt that, go have a look at how much a good digital kit would set you back. While there’s fantastic analog equipment still to be had for very little, you just have to work at it, be patient, put the word out, and trust in your powers to manifest what you need. The cost structure is just different, and with a bit of elbow grease, you can make it work without sinking all your life savings into the craft.

Let me know what you’re already doing, and what you’re interested in.

And let me know what you’d like to learn more about: I know so much about this stuff, the wins, the fails, the duds…

Oh and one more thing, I have a small selection of cameras for sale. I have used them in the past, but not anymore, not nearly as much as these cameras deserve. They have been tested for functionality by myself, and some have quirks (they’re old ladies) that I detail in the description. If you’re looking for a film camera, go check it out, there are some lovely options there:

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