Fontana Giusti


street . Portrait . art



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…


Warning, this article contains a lot of words, but also some beautiful images, and it’s worth it, I promise.

Creative mom, photographer or other, let’s be honest, when is the last time you took real time off by yourself?

I know all too well what you’re thinking, believe me. Like you, I am not the primary breadwinner (by very far), I hear just as much as you do how much I’m probably not doing enough for my family (or at least I think I do), and from 2016 (the year I got pregnant with Emilio, my first of two sons) until sometime this year, I had given up entirely on extended time off by myself, doing what fills me up.

To make matters worse, I don’t even live on the same continent as our families of origin (all split up across Europe), so all the “vacation” time we made as a family for the past five years has been claimed by relatives who expect us to come back and tour them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there was no good in this, but for five years, I didn’t do much for myself, by myself. 

And that’s wrong. What’s even worse is that despite that, I felt guilt. My own guilt, for not making income (though it wasn’t entirely my choice), for spending money on childcare, for progressively losing my mind and myself in motherhood, for somehow not doing/being enough because I was definitely not running on a full cup, and for so many other things. And the guilt of not meeting the expectations that family and society at large had set for me.

However, lately I had several falling offs with family members, so last summer I canceled my flight and let my husband and the kids do the Euro-tour without me. I stayed home, thence claiming my summer back. It wasn’t really a holiday, I built a fence in our backyard among other home improvement projects, but I also took time for myself, driving a few times to Milwaukee to spend time with Maddie Mason and the amazing group of film photographers clustered there. 

And the best part was that in the end, everything was fine. The kids survived, Moritz survived too. My own parents survived not seeing me. And everyone felt better by the time school started.

And this brings me to the crazy thing I just did…

Fast forward to December 2022. I was feeling my seasonal depression quickly creep on me. I am not exaggerating when I write that every day I managed to avoid a panic attack felt like a victory. I’d go on long walks to fend the anxiety off and I knew it was not enough. I wasn’t getting enough light, as a person with a body but also as a photographer. I could only think of one thing: heading south. I had little money to spare, but enough for one flight, my flight, no kids in tow.

Before I could reason myself into not doing it, I booked a flight to Brazil, for two weeks.

Before I go any further, you should know that I have a twin sister, Aurelia, and that she’s been living in São Paolo since 2017. A trip to visit her was long overdue. How on earth could I allow children, family obligations, the pandemic, money stress and my own self to get in the way of such a simple thing for so long?

This is Aurelia, by the way, living her best tropical life:

The hardest thing was to chose which cameras and film to bring, but that’s not that hard, truly, I just grabbed half the contents of my film fridge, a 35mm camera my Yashica Mat EM, and I counted on Aurelia’s Holga 120 GCFN that wasn’t getting any love to do all the toy camera work I was planning on doing.

Within 48 hours in São Paolo, my anxiety lifted. The first two days we’d walk around town and I’d regularly stop us because my chest felt so tight, but then it dissipated. Maybe it was the sun, or maybe it was taking time away from being a mom, but it worked, and worked fast. Just like that.

So we unapologetically packed our swimming suits and headed for the beach, in Bahia. 

That’s when Aurelia’s Holga became useful, because once I felt better, I was ready to experiment, to play around without expectations. I still had my serious cameras, but I couldn’t get enough of the toy.

I did almost all the things: layered doubles, flipped camera doubles, experimental film, changing film mid-roll and re-spooling with my dark bag (that’s a really nice accessory to pack by the way and it takes very little luggage space), photographs while bathing, regular shots without expecting perfection, you name it. 

Toy cameras have the added bonus to carry less risk that taking a Yashica Mat, or a Kodak Retina, or whatever tool you use. I mean, even when we went to Rio, notorious for thefts and all sorts of other dangers, I had the Holga with me. 

Some people will inevitable disagree with me on this one, but the Holga/Diana is the best travel camera.

Back to my main theme, going on a trip in the middle of winter, while my kids stayed home and went to school/daycare and my husband prepared his classes for the semester was freeing, it was empowering, it filled my cup to the brim, and I came back with incredible images to tell you, yes, you, fellow mom who’s losing herself in motherhood, that it’s OK to think of yourself for a few days, it’s OK to take that vacation you’re dreaming of.

Just don’t forget to pack the toy camera.

Take it from me. You owe it to yourself, your family, and your art, because I guarantee you’ll come back a better person. You’ll come back a better parent. You’ll come back a better artist.

Yours truly.


PS: I write mom, but please interpret this as liberally as you need to. 

PPS: I know Brazil might be out of reach for some, but that’s not the point, the point is to take that vacation, and suit it to your needs, your budget, and your abilities, because there are many many ways to get that serotonin boost you may so desperately need.

I took all these photographs on a Holga 120 GCFN, with Fujifilm 400H professional, Fujifilm Acros 100, Lomography lomochrome turquoise, and Kodak Portra 160.