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Travel Photography Tips: Shooting With Film While on Vacation

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Advantages of and tips for shooting with film while on vacation

Advantages of and tips for shooting with film while on vacation

Why Shoot on Film?

In a digital age in which every modern smartphone boasts a quality camera—and DSLR and mirrorless cameras are readily available at a relatively low entry price point—it may seem crazy to think about shooting film, especially while traveling.

Over the past decade, however, there has been a major comeback in film photography with a wealth of younger photographers exploring it for the first time and quite a few seasoned photographers dusting off their old gear.

The process of loading a roll of film, dialing in camera settings, and focusing the lens manually to take a limited number of images forces you to slow down. You'll consider your compositions in a new light. Then you'll have to wait to see the finished results until the photos or scans come back from the lab. If you want to mix up your routine during your next vacation or you're simply looking for a new photography challenge, consider taking a film camera and several rolls of film on your next trip.


4 Major Advantages of Film

In case you're not already convinced, let's go over four major advantages of shooting with film.

1. You Slow Down and Consider Every Shot

Digital photography allows you to take as many photos as you like. While it can be nice not worrying about how many photos you're going to take, it can also lead to laziness. When you're limited to a certain number of shots for your entire trip, you're going to make each one count. Slowing down to get the composition just right and to focus the lens manually gives you more time to take in and appreciate your surroundings. Some people even describe this practice as meditative. Embrace the process to make your trip more relaxing.

The Canon AE-1 is a flagship Canon film camera. Canon produced the AE-1 for nearly a decade, selling over one million units and paving the way for the modern era of photography.

The Canon AE-1 is a flagship Canon film camera. Canon produced the AE-1 for nearly a decade, selling over one million units and paving the way for the modern era of photography.

2. You Give Yourself a New Challenge

In any creative field, it's far too easy to stagnate or even decline. Finding ways to challenge yourself on a regular basis helps you stay refreshed and motivates you to keep improving your skills. When you're accustomed to shooting digitally, film is a challenge. Taking the time to produce fewer, higher-quality images will make you think differently about your composition, focus, and setting choices when you get back behind your digital mirrorless or SLR camera again.

Seeing images you have created on negative strips is extremely satisfying.

Seeing images you have created on negative strips is extremely satisfying.

3. You Spend Less Time Editing

It's not unusual for a photographer to shoot 1,000 pictures during a week-long vacation. You'll spend an hour culling these photos, deciding which ones are worth editing. Then you'll spend at least a few more hours editing your selected photos. Many photographers only ever edit a few dozen vacation pictures, leaving the rest untouched. This is particularly true for people taking pictures with their phones.

Shooting film eliminates the entire editing process and the hassle of deleting unwanted photos. Instead, you'll be eagerly awaiting the finished photos or scans from your print shop. The excitement keeps your trip going for a little longer, and the result is so gratifying.

4. You Can Enjoy the Element of Surprise

When you can't review a shot right after taking it, you don't know what to expect from the final result. Initially, it may be frustrating not to check your images, but it quickly becomes freeing. After spending a minute setting up a shot just so and hitting the shutter, you can move on. You won't be tempted to try a different aperture or shutter speed or take the same shot from a slightly different angle. Consequently, you'll spend less time behind the camera, missing important moments with family and friends while adjusting your settings, and you'll still get to enjoy your images when you get home.

Tips for Shooting on Film

  • Keep your film dry and out of direct sunlight: Film is a very powerful medium, but it's also very easy to ruin it. Store rolls of film you aren't currently using it a dark environment where they'll be safe and dry.
  • Never put your camera equipment or film in checked luggage: As a general rule, you should never check your camera gear, regardless of whether you're shooting film or digital. You increase the risk of theft when your gear is out of sight. If your luggage gets lost, you'll be out a lot of money and if you're returning from a trip, you'll also lose your images. Additionally, for film shooters, checked luggage undergoes a much higher dose of radiation than carry-on luggage.
  • Store film in a transparent Ziploc bag in your carry-on luggage where it's easily accessible: Many security check officers will hand-check your film instead of making you put it through an X-ray machine. Yes, most film will survive an X-ray or two without compromising image quality, but the more you can limit radiation, the better. Do your part to help the security process go smoothly by keeping your film in a Ziploc bag in your carry-on where you can grab it quickly at a checkpoint.
  • Whenever possible, avoid having film in your camera when going through security checks: While most officers will hand-check film, they won't hand-check cameras. Start your vacation with an empty camera, waiting to load film until you arrive at your destination. As the trip wraps up, try to finish shooting your current roll before heading to the airport. Your film may hold up just fine in the X-ray machine, but it's always best to avoid this risk.
  • Keep your film organized: Mark the rolls of film you've shot and keep them separate from your new rolls to avoid confusion and to help streamline the security process at airports and other locations with X-ray machines and metal detectors.
  • Always allow extra time for security: Again, many security offers are more than happy to hand-check your film and will not make a fuss or hold you up for very long. However, you never know when you'll encounter a difficult officer or when the lines will be exceptionally long. Plan for more time than you'll most likely need so you can get through security with your film safely and still make it to your plane.

More Photography Tips

A Great Resource for Film Processing and Scanning

  • The Find Lab
    The Find Lab offers professional film processing and scanning at competitive rates with a timely turnaround.

Kodak Portra 400 Film Is Among the Best in the Industry


FlourishAnyway from USA on August 28, 2016:

Just the other day I saw a sign in an old photography studio window that advertised film processing. It had slipped down in the window behind some large store furniture and appeared dated and I wondered whether anyone still uses film. I always liked the surprise factor about what I was going to get, although sometimes I was disappointed with an entire roll!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on August 18, 2016:

Good tips