So you're starting with 35mm film and getting to know your camera? After dedicating so much money, time and effort, your photos didn't turn out as planned.

Here are five common mistakes that may be preventing you from getting the photos you've been dreaming of.

1. You've loaded the film into the camera incorrectly.
Yes, I will admit, my first roll of film after developing came back completely black. WAH!

After so much excitement built up, I was now left with a pit in my stomach. What went wrong?

The leader of the film wasn't in the spool properly, not letting the film advance to the next photos smoothly. If you don't correctly load the leader into the slot of the spool and advance, there's a high chance the film will not advance at all.
To make sure this doesn't happen, lock your film into your camera, pull the leader and place it into the slot of the spool. Line up the sprocket holes on the sprockets. Advance your camera and watch the end of the film overlap. Once it's overlapped, I like to give it a second crank. The first two shots on my film will be test shots. This is in case any light leaks are on the first two photos.

2. You're shooting with the wrong ISO.
The lower the number of the ISO, the more light you'll need. 200 and 400 are my go-to for sunny days!
Wanting to shoot at night? Go for a high ISO like 800. Just remember, the higher the number, the grainier the photos may turn out.
If you hear the shutter slowly click, you'll get a motion blur and this may be due to not enough light.

3. The light meter may be off.
The camera you are using could be older than you and the light meter readings could be off.
You can download a light meter app on your phone or use a handheld meter.

4. Getting to know your camera.
It doesn't hurt to look up the manual for your film camera. The more you know, the more control you'll have in translating what you're envisioning.
Today, there are so many YouTube tutorials and vlogs about film cameras.
TikTok is a great app for looking up camera models and what the film will look like after development.

5. Use a tripod
The horizon is tilted and/or there's too much motion blur? Yeah, just get a tripod.
I rarely use mine, but I will admit they are handy for portraits and night photography.
Sometimes we're caught in the moment and our energy is spent on focusing the lens, we forget about the horizon in the background! Depending on how crooked, you can lose a lot of the image when cropping.

Don't beat yourself up if not as many photos turned out as you had liked. We look back on our photography, embrace the happy accidents and learn to love the grain.


Back to blog