Starting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable Camera

9 May 2024

The film photography vs digital debate has been raging ever since the first digital camera hit the shelves, and with film photography undoubtedly making a comeback, you’ll find many photographers changing sides and making new alliances. While going all out on film photography and using a traditional camera can be a little daunting if you are used to surviving in a digital age, there is a straightforward and budget-friendly way to take your first analogue steps - disposable cameras!

Disposable or single-use cameras may be cheap and simple, but they still maintain many of the features that we love about film photography. Read on to find out what they are, what you can do with them and more.

What is a disposable camera?

A disposable camera comes pre-loaded with a single roll of film, and as the name suggests, once this roll is complete, so is your time with this camera; that’s how disposable cameras work! These cameras provide you with a delightfully simple way to capture life's mundane moments, once-in-a-lifetime travel shots, or whatever other photographic portfolio you wish to produce.

Unlike complex digital cameras, there's no need to worry about adjusting settings and modes. Your only concern is how many pictures a disposable camera can take before it’s time to unwrap the package on a new one; if you are wondering, this number is typically 27 exposures. When using a disposable camera, your focus is purely on the subject – you simply point and shoot. This allows you to concentrate on things like composition and the arrangement of elements within the frame. By eliminating the burden of technical settings, disposable cameras can encourage a return to the core principles of capturing a captivating image, emphasising why a disposable camera exists – to capture a moment and enjoy the wonder of photography.

There’s no need to take the film out of your disposable camera when the roll is complete. You just take it down to the lab as is, and the staff will do the rest. You will have to wait a while to view your results, but this need to slow down and reflect is part of the beauty of analogue photography.

Starting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable CameraStarting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable Camera

Disposable cameras come in a variety of options, including disposable cameras loaded with black and white or colour film, waterproof disposable cameras, and disposable cameras with flash for capturing brighter images indoors. Browse a range of our favourite disposable cameras below:

What's so good about film photography anyway?

Starting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable CameraStarting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable Camera

Film photography offers a unique aesthetic that digital cameras struggle to replicate. The colours tend to be richer, with smoother gradients and more natural grain.  Despite its age, film photography is alive and well. You can still get 35mm film developed at many photo labs, and disposable cameras remain popular choices for capturing casual moments and even life-changing events - we are sure you have seen first-hand the trend of using disposable cameras for wedding photography.

If you don’t want to avoid the online world completely, remember that these captured analogue memories can be preserved for the digital age, thanks to the technique of scanning. That’s right, you can scan your negatives or printed photographs to digital files, allowing you to share them online or print them later. 

Unlike digital photography's reliance on built-in filters, film photographers achieve their stylistic goals through the selection of the best camera film stocks. This deliberate approach, from choosing a black and white film for a timeless feel to a vibrant colour stock for a playful mood, imbues the photographs with a personal touch.

Looking into the future

Once you have caught the film photography bug, disposable cameras are just the beginning. Graduating from a disposable camera to a real film camera unlocks a whole new world of creative possibilities. While disposable cameras offer charming simplicity, they lack the versatility of their reusable counterparts. A real film camera allows you to experiment with different film stocks, focal lengths, and manual controls. It's the difference between a point-and-shoot experience and a camera that becomes an extension of your creative vision. You trade convenience for artistic freedom and control of a true film camera.

Starting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable CameraStarting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable Camera

And if you aren’t quite ready to go all out on film cameras and lenses, you should consider a simple point-and-shoot film camera, like the Kodak M38 35mm film camera, which could be thought of as a disposable camera that you can reuse! It offers the same simplicity and ultra-portable build but you can keep using it again and again, experimenting with different types of camera film as you go - this is more convenient and in the end, more cost-effective. Take a look at some of our favourite reusable film cameras below:

Film photography tips

Starting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable CameraStarting Your Film Photography Journey with a Disposable Camera

For beginners, film photography offers a unique and rewarding experience, that can be challenging at times. While it may lack the instant feedback and limitless storage of digital cameras, it fosters a deeper connection with the creative process. Here are some essential film photography tips to guide you on your journey into the world of film photography:

  • Don’t be too trigger happy. Unlike digital photography, film has a limited number of exposures per roll. Consider each frame and show some constraint; this encourages careful composition and thoughtful shot selection.
  • Slow down and savor the process. Film photography inherently requires a more deliberate approach. Take your time, and enjoy the focus on the present moment.
  • Explore the world of film stocks. Experiment with different film types: black and white for timeless aesthetics, high ISO for a grainy, artistic effect, and vivid colour film for a saturated look.
  • Master the exposure triangle. Understanding aperture, shutter speed, and ISO is crucial for achieving optimal film exposures. It is more important to get it right in-camera when using film, as you don't have the same ability to edit without consequence as you do with a RAW digital file.
  • Keep a detailed exposure log. Jot down your camera settings, film type, and lighting conditions for each shot in a notebook. This will be invaluable for analyzing your results and improving your technique. This is how film photographers did it, long before metadata was a thing!
  • Learn about film development. Consider developing your black-and-white film at home. Knowing exactly how film photography works can be a rewarding process that deepens your understanding of the medium. We stock a range of film processing chemicals and equipment here, to get you started.
  • Embrace the unexpected. Film photography has an inherent element of surprise. Accept that some shots may not turn out perfectly, and learn from the results.

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