A complete guide to Film Street Photography

Film Street Photography

Street photography and Film Photography have been linked for years, the moody film look and the emotions you feel photographing candid moments on the go when no one is expecting it, or recording life as it happens in all its banality, beauty and complexity is unique.

Using film instead of digital for street photography can be challenging, but also rewarding if you get it right! The process has an element of unpredictability; you don’t know what images will come out until you develop them. And the results are incredibly beautiful – gritty textures, muted colours and subtle contrast that enhance each scene.

In this blog post I’m going to give my opinion on why shooting film street photography can be more effective than using digital cameras. We’ll look at the technical aspects such as camera choice and exposure settings, discuss different approaches and techniques so that you can make informed decisions when creating your own street photos with film. Read on…


Key Takeaway Summary
Film Look Street photography and film photography are linked due to their moody film look, capturing candid moments and emotions.
Unpredictability Film photography brings an element of unpredictability, as you don’t know the results until the film is developed, resulting in unique textures, colours, and contrasts.
Film Street Photography A branch of documentary-style photography that captures everyday life in the streets, usually using a 35mm film camera and lens.
Camera Choice & Exposure Settings Consider technical aspects such as camera choice and exposure settings to create effective film street photography.

What is Film Street Photography?

Film street photography is a branch of documentary-style photography, which captures everyday life in the streets. It has been around for decades and is still practised by many photographers today. To be part of this type of photography, you’ll need the right equipment; usually a 35mm film camera and lens.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to create stunning street photos; all you need is a creative mind and willingness to experiment with your camera settings. With this type of film-look photography, every shot matters as there’s no way to retake it without wasting precious film!

What Camera Should I Use?

Film street photography has a lot to offer and it can be an exciting way to capture the world around you. The main thing you need to decide when starting out, is what type of camera should you use?

There is a range of different film cameras that could work for this genre of photography, from SLRs to Rangefinders and Compact Cameras. For a more cinematic look, the Leica rangefinder and Contax T2 are both great options as they allow for shallow depth-of-field shots with wide enough lenses to capture subjects on the go.

For documentary photographers looking for something more entry-level, there are some great compact cameras such as the Olympus MJU II or Konica Big Mini that have fixed focal length lenses which give images a unique character.

Street photographers often prefer 35mm and 50mm lens combinations like 28mm f/1.5 or 50mm f/1.4 depending on how closely they want to get in on their subjects and still retain quality images. If you want even less bulk then digital Fuji shooters like the X100 series provide great image quality in discreet packages – perfect for capturing candid moments without being too obvious about it!

But no matter what type of camera you choose, make sure it’s one that speaks most directly to your creative vision – since street photography is all about capturing life as it happens!

Benefits of Using a Film Camera

Film cameras have been a staple in photography for centuries and are still widely used by street photographers due to their unparalleled ability to capture the perfect moment.

Using a film camera for street photography has numerous benefits over digital cameras, such as enabling you to focus on composition rather than worrying about settings, getting the right lighting conditions or post-processing techniques.

Film cameras allow you to create unique and emotive images with just one shot; they provide an element of surprise when you find out how the image turns out after it has been developed and scanned, harkening back to a more raw form of artistry that doesn’t require any computerized manipulation.

Also, since film is not reliant on electricity in order to work like digital cameras are, it’s much easier to move around with your gear since you don’t have batteries or cables taking up space in your bag. Additionally, there’s something very special about creating tangible memories that can be stored for decades without losing quality – nothing beats having physical prints of photographs!

Types of Film to Use

When it comes to selecting the right type of film for street photography, there are so many different options. Each photographer has their own personal preference, but some popular films used in this genre include Kodak Tri-X, Ilford HP5+, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros II and Kodak Portra 400.

Film speed is also important when selecting your type of film as this will determine what shutter speeds you can use without risk of blurring your image due to camera shake or subject movement. Generally speaking, higher ISO films (400+) are better suited for low light conditions while slower speeds (100 – 200) work best during brighter daylight shots.

It can be daunting to choose one particular type of film when first getting started in street photography but experimenting with different types may help you discover something new about yourself as a photographer — allowing you to take more creative risks!

How to Shoot Film Street Photography

Once you’ve decided on the subject of your Street Photography, it’s time to choose the camera you want to use. A classic 35mm film camera is great for capturing candid moments in a more discreet manner compared to digital cameras. Many professional street photographers prefer using an SLR or Rangefinder with lenses that range from 28mm-50mm. With smaller and lighter cameras being available now, they are becoming increasingly popular among street photographers.

Once everything is set up properly, all there is left to do is take your photos! Look around and observe what’s going on around you before making any moves – once something interesting catches your eye don’t hesitate and shoot away! You may miss some shots due to slow reflexes but with practice (and lots of patience) this won’t be an issue anymore!

Step 1: Choose Your Subject

Before you start shooting, it’s important to take the time to plan and think about what kind of street photography you want to do. Are you looking for interesting people? Capturing unexpected moments? Shooting film for a documentary project? Whatever it may be, having a goal in mind will help guide your creative process.

When choosing your subject, look around the streets and think outside the box. Use people, animals, architecture or even nature as your subjects if that fits with your vision better! It’s also important to consider the mood and emotion of each scene – is it light-hearted or more sombre? Make sure whatever you choose reflects the feeling that you’re after.

Finally, always keep an eye out for interesting stories and situations that are unfolding before you. Street photography often involves capturing something unique or fleeting; so make sure not to miss any opportunities by being prepared with your camera settings and ready to shoot!

Step 2: Choose Your Camera Settings

Once you have chosen your subject and gone out to shoot, it is time for the most important part: setting up your camera. The settings on your camera will determine how your photo will turn out and whether or not it captures the essence of street photography. Depending on what type of film street photography you are shooting, different settings may be necessary. For example, if you are photographing people in motion, then a higher shutter speed would be required.

ISO is an important setting to consider when shooting with film as it determines how sensitive the film is to light. A high ISO speed such as 400 allows more light into the lens so that images can be taken in lower light conditions. On the other hand, a low ISO of 100 will require brighter lighting in order to capture a clear image without noise or graininess.

Aperture affects depth of field in photos and should also be carefully considered when taking street photos with film cameras. A wide aperture (f/1.4) creates a shallow depth of field which makes certain elements stand out from their background while a narrow aperture (f/8) creates more depth in an image by making all elements appear sharp and focused – this works well when capturing urban scenes with lots of detail that need to be seen clearly within one frame shot at a single exposure.

Shutter speed should also not go unnoticed – faster speeds stop movement while slower speeds allow movement through frames creating blur effect which can help create interesting visuals like cars passing behind someone standing still or water droplets radiating around them in slow motion shots!

Step 3: Take Your Shot

Once you have your subject, camera settings, and illumination all squared away, it’s time to take the shot. As a street photographer, you don’t have unlimited time to take a picture; so when taking your shot make sure it is composed perfectly. With film cameras especially, there’s no opportunity for re-dos if something goes wrong with the exposure or framing – you only get one chance with each roll of film.

Look through the viewfinder and re-check your composition before pressing down on that shutter release button. Make sure real-life elements – like people walking in the frame – are contributing to the photo in an interesting way rather than distracting from it. In digital street photography, photographers can take hundreds of shots until they find “the one” that looks perfect; but when shooting film you must stay sharp and look for those special moments that will make great photos on their own without any additional post-processing or adjustments beforehand. This can be challenging yet rewarding as it allows photographers to capture truly candid moments without any extra help or manipulation.

Tips to Get the Most Out of Film Street Photography

As a street photographer using film, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your craft. Here are some tips that can help take your photography to the next level:

1. Keep It Simple: When shooting on the streets try not to overcomplicate your process. Focus on one or two elements at a time and only use what is necessary for the shot. This could mean limiting yourself to one camera and lens, or just focusing on capturing people’s expressions in candid moments – whatever works best for you!

2. Focus On Composition: A great photograph lies in its composition, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different perspectives when shooting on film. Try incorporating lines, shapes, and negative space into your images – this will help give each frame more structure and impact.

3. Don’t Forget The Details: Pay attention to small details while taking photos too – they can add an extra dimension to the image that would otherwise go unnoticed! Look around for interesting textures in buildings or light reflections off objects in the street; these will all contribute towards creating an eye-catching photo that may otherwise have gone unseen if it weren’t captured on film!

4. Use Natural Light: When possible use natural light as much as possible when shooting streets with film as it can really elevate an image from good to great! Utilize shadows cast by buildings or trees during golden hour, or focus on catchlights from lamp posts at night – there are plenty of ways natural light can benefit your work if used correctly.

5 . Take Your Time: Film takes longer (and sometimes cost more) than digital photography so allow yourself enough time per shot without feeling rushed – this will give you a better chance at getting exactly what you envisioned before pressing down that shutter button!

1. Keep It Simple

When it comes to film street photography, many photographers tend to overcomplicate things. They overload their camera with too many features, carry heavy equipment that hinders mobility, or make it difficult for themselves by shooting complex scenes.

The key is to keep it simple: use one camera, one lens and minimal settings. You don’t need the most advanced lenses or cameras on the market; basic equipment can still capture great shots! Focus your attention on composition and framing instead.

If you’re just getting started in film street photography, a 35mm lens and an entry-level SLR would be a great starting point – this combination will give you plenty of reach as well as control over exposure settings like shutter speed or aperture. With some practice and patience (plus lots of trial-and-error), you’ll soon find yourself taking amazing photos!

2. Focus On Composition

Composition is at the top of the list when it comes to film street photography. You want to be sure that your subject is in focus and you have a great background, as well. If you’re shooting with a 35mm lens, you don’t have much room to capture an interesting composition since they are generally wide enough to capture only one or two people at once, so it’s important to get creative!

When composing your shots, think about what elements will make them stand out from other street photographers. Think about how different lighting and angles can enhance the story behind each photograph; use shadows and light in unique ways by playing with aperture settings and shutter speed. Think about how people interact with their environment around them—are there any interesting body language gestures or unique expressions that can help tell a story? Look for symmetry in your frame—how does the architecture impact where people are positioned? What shapes do their bodies form against backgrounds, like buildings or walls?

By getting creative with composition techniques like these, you can create captivating images that will draw viewers into your work – something every photographer strives for!

3. Don’t Forget the Details

Details are an important part of street photography, and as a photographer, you should never miss out on them. Whether it’s the architecture of a building in the background or the facial expressions of people nearby, all these small details can add another layer of meaning to your photos.

For example, if you’re shooting on a street corner with lots of passersby, try zooming in on one particular person to capture their unique look – from their hairstyle to their clothing and accessories. This will give your photo more texture and depth than just capturing an overview shot without any detail.

The best way to spot these details when shooting film is by using different lenses like 35mm or 50mm lenses which allow you to get closer while still maintaining good field-of-view control. Also keep in mind that with film cameras you don’t have access to autofocus so manual focus is crucial here.

4. Use Natural Light

Natural light can be your best friend when shooting film street photography. Whether you’re shooting at dawn, during the day, or dusk, using natural light gives you access to a range of colors and textures that will bring a unique quality to your photos.

When looking for good lighting conditions, keep an eye out for backlighting and side lighting which can create some beautiful contrast in your composition. The golden hour is always a great time for shooting – both morning and evening – as the softer light makes it easier to capture beautiful moments on film without having to worry about harsh shadows.

Using the sun in the frame can also add character and depth to your images, so don’t be afraid to move around and play with different angles until you get something interesting. You might even want to experiment by adding something between yourself and the sun – like trees or buildings – as this can also create some beautiful shapes within the photo itself.

5. Take Your Time

Taking your time is one of the most important things when you’re shooting street photography with a film camera. You cannot simply delete or edit the images later, so it’s essential that you get the shot right in-camera, without any post-processing.

You’ll want to be mindful and intentional about each frame that you take; don’t just snap away randomly. Take a few moments to really think about what it is you’re trying to capture – an interesting subject? A certain emotion? A unique moment in time? Once you’ve identified this, take your time setting up the image and moving around until everything looks perfect through your viewfinder before hitting the shutter button.

It’s also crucial that you leave yourself enough frames on each roll of film so that if something doesn’t go as planned, like an overexposed or underexposed photo due to incorrect settings, then there will still be some usable shots on the roll. Film shooters often refer to this as “the golden rule” – always make sure never run out of frames!

Evolution of Technology in Street Photography

In recent years, there has been an incredible evolution in the technology used for street photography. Digital cameras have become more compact and lightweight, while still packing enough power to capture professional-quality photos. With digital cameras, photographers have access to a variety of features that weren’t available with traditional film cameras – including manual settings and autofocus capabilities.

However, despite all these advancements in digital technologies over time, it’s important for street photographers not to forget about their roots – shooting with analogue equipment can open up possibilities that just aren’t possible digitally; allowing them to experiment more freely without worrying about spending extra money on costly equipment or software upgrades.

Film photography vs Digital Street Photography

Film photography and digital street photography have been growing in popularity over the last few years, but there are still some key differences between these two styles.

Film photography is an analogue process, which means that you’re shooting on physical film, rather than capturing images through a digital camera. You don’t have access to the same range of features and settings as you do when shooting digitally – such as ISO, shutter speed, aperture and focus – but it can still produce great results.

Many photographers also find that shooting film gives them greater freedom in terms of their creativity since they’re not distracted by trying to get their settings right before taking a shot. Allowing yourself time away from viewfinders and screens is important when it comes to honing your craft; with film street photography, this is much easier since the process of taking photos will be more intuitively directed.

Plus when using film shooters are able to capture unique colors that digital cameras cannot replicate!

The cost of Film Photography

Depending on the type of film you use, and whether or not you choose to develop and scan it yourself, film photography can be quite affordable.

The cost of film itself varies greatly depending on the brand and type. Color films like Kodak Portra 400 or Fuji Pro 160H often come in 36-exposure rolls that range from $5-$20 USD per roll. B&W films like Ilford HP5+ usually come in either 35mm or 120 formats with prices ranging from $4 – $15 USD per roll.

Developing and scanning your own negatives is a great way to save money. You’ll need to invest in a few pieces of equipment such as a changing bag, plastic reels, trays, tanks, thermometers etc., but once you have those items the process becomes relatively inexpensive. Professional developing services will run around $10-$15 USD per roll for color processing and up to twice as much for specialized black & white development. Scanning can also cost around $7-10 USD per image if done by an outside lab or service provider. If you decide to digitize your work yourself at home then expect to pay around another hundred dollars or so for an entry level DSLR scanner.

The Film

When you’re shooting film, a great deal of the quality of your images depends on the type of film you use. There are many different types and brands of film out there, each with its own characteristics and look.

The most popular films for street photography are black and white films. These include Ilford HP5 Plus, Kodak Tri-X, or Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100. Each one has its own unique look that can be used to create stunning images with deep shadows and beautiful texture in the highlights.

Color films can also be used for street photography if you’re looking to capture something more vibrant or interesting than black and white photos can offer. Some popular color films include Fuji Superia 400, Kodak Portra 800, or Lomography Redscale XR 50-200 35mm Film – all excellent choices for capturing people on the streets in vivid colors!

Each brand offers a variety of speeds (ISO) from 100-1600 – allowing you to shoot in a wide range of light conditions without having to worry about getting blurred shots due to slow shutter speeds or grainy images due to high ISO settings. Be sure to experiment with different film stocks so that you’ll know which one best suits your particular style!

Development & Scanning

After you have shot all the images that you want on your film roll, it’s time to process and scan them. The development process is quite simple and can be easily done at a lab or even at home with the right equipment. However, if you are looking for high-quality scanned photographs, it is best to visit a professional scanning service.

The difference between developing and scanning lies in the way they result in an image. Developing refers to processing the negatives into positives while scanning refers to creating digital files from physical prints or negatives using specialized scanners that capture every detail of the photograph wonderfully. These days, many digital labs offer both services together for convenience so you don’t have to worry about finding two different professionals for developing and scanning your photos respectively.

Lightroom Presets: Film Street Presets Emulation Pack

Another popular way to emulate film photography using Digital is with Adobe Lightroom Presets. I have some Film Street Photography presets in my store, I recommend you to have a look. You can see this lightroom film street preset in action on my Instagram/framingstreets

This preset pack is best used for dark and cinematic photography. This pack will help you to get the cinematic look in just a few clicks. It is more inspired by movies and cinematic looks than in Film Photography but you can also get nice film soft images with it with a few tweaks. Just remember Adobe Lightroom Presets they are always a starting point you need to always move the slides to suit your taste.

Original price was: €50.00.Current price is: €25.00.

Wrapping Up

The emotion of street photography on film takes your creativity to another level. No matter if you’re a movie shooter or still photographer, the process of shooting on film will give your images a unique look that can’t be replicated in digital or analogue formats.

While there are pros and cons to both digital and film street photography, many photographers find that they get more out of their shots when shooting with film. The slow process of taking images allows them to take their time and think about composition, light, exposure settings, and even subject under different circumstances – something that’s often overlooked when using point-and-shoot cameras or automated DSLRs.

The cost of shooting on film can sometimes put people off from trying it but developing & scanning fees have come down drastically over the past few years so this shouldn’t be an issue anymore. At the end of the day, all photographers should feel motivated to shoot whatever medium appeals most to them. Whether it’s 35mm lenses for Sony, FujiFilm, Leica cameras or vintage rangefinders – just remember; don’t be afraid to experiment! Go out and practice as much as you can.


What is Film Street Photography?

Film Street Photography refers to a photographic genre that captures candid and unposed moments of daily life in public spaces, utilising traditional film cameras for image capture.

What is the difference between film and digital street photography?

The key distinction between film and digital street photography lies in the technology used for capturing images. Film street photography employs traditional film cameras that record images on film, while digital street photography utilises digital cameras to capture images electronically.

What are the advantages of film street photography?

Film street photography offers several benefits, including:

– A distinct aesthetic that many photographers find appealing
– Typically more durable and long-lasting film cameras compared to their digital counterparts
– A more mindful and intentional shooting process due to the limitations of film

What are the disadvantages of film street photography?

Some drawbacks of film street photography include:

– Higher costs and time investment compared to digital street photography, due to the need for purchasing film rolls and the longer development process
– Limited ability to review and edit images on-the-spot, unlike digital photography

What kind of film is best for street photography?

The optimal film for street photography depends on individual preferences and desired outcomes. Black and white films are popular among street photographers due to their ability to produce high-contrast images with a timeless appearance.

What kind of camera is best for film street photography?

The ideal camera for film street photography varies based on personal preferences and budget. Key factors to consider include:

– Camera size and weight for ease of carrying and discreetness
– Manual controls for greater creative freedom
– Lens options for flexibility in different shooting situations
– Reliability and build quality for longevity and durability

Article: A complete guide to Film Street Photography

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I hope you find useful my article, I also recommend you to read my other posts on my blog.

If you need help with anything join the community or do not hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck! and follow your passion.

Juan Solis

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