When I set out to explore the world of film photography I was immediately infatuated with the process. The mechanical clicks as the film advanced in the camera. The sharp snap of the shutter firing. The process of loading and unloading the film. The anxious wait after sending away my precious photos, hoping that there would be no issues and my photos would come back as glorious as I had pictured them in my head.
What did not happen, was immediate, perfect Instagram success. In fact, I had quite the opposite experience.
I’ve been a Nikon user for the entirety of my photo career (all 7 years of it so far), and very much started in digital. I went through the same process I find many of my fellow peers do, starting with an entry-level body and a kit lens, and very quickly developing GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). So, when I finally decided it was time to explore the seemingly shallow world of film photography (after all, what could film be but digital with extra work?), I had a wonderful range of lenses at my disposal. I picked up a body off eBay (for less than $40! What a steal!), and immediately attached one of my lenses. Grabbing the first roll of film I could find in my local camera shop (a 24 exposure roll of ILFORD HP5 PLUS).
The problem, as I would not be able to realize until after my first two rolls of film came back, was that modern digital lenses do not quite work with film bodies despite the modern lenses fitting perfectly onto the bodies. As anyone who is familiar with film will know, the older film bodies did not “talk” to the lenses as more modern ones do.
To set aperture, you must acquire a lens with an adjustable aperture ring. This is a crucial piece of information I was missing. I assumed (based on admittedly half skimmed Reddit posts and one call with an uninformed colleague) that the lens rested as a base aperture, which is in a way correct. But I also assumed that the light meter inside my new film camera both worked well and could read that aperture. I now know that the light meter tends to overexpose a little.
With this misinformation, I set out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with some of my peers and began shooting what I felt were some of the best photos I had ever shot. Moody landscapes, sculptures from unusual angles, portraits of my friends I was so, so, immensely proud of. The excitement of shooting my first roll of film and sending it away filled my lungs and sat there for the week or so it took to send away, develop print and send back. I was so excited and anxious I could not wait to return home, and instead opened the envelope right in the middle of a plaza.
To my dismay, I discovered what many readers probably have already put together based on the images above. A blank strip of film. Those photos that had filled my dreams and hopes are not here. Instead, what you see here is my second roll.
I also sent a second roll of lower shutter speed photos I took at my place of work, to both shot for the sake of shooting and to experiment with low light conditions. Most of the photos from that roll also did not come through, and the ones that did, needed to be greatly enhanced in post-processing.
Instead of rolling hills and tactful sculptures being the start of my film career, I got these blurry images of water bottles and side streets. It would have been quite easy to give up here, and in fact, I took the rest of the day to mope about my stupidity. But I dusted myself off and purchased a proper lens and have not stopped shooting since.
Want to share your first roll or sheet of film?
Poorly exposed, badly framed and blurry photos? No-one is perfect, especially when shooting their first roll of film...but that's ok and I'd like to spread that message. Submit as many frames from your first roll as you're able to with an accompanying text of at least 500 words using this Google form. If you would prefer to submit another way, please use the contact link at the top of the page.
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