It is often the case that we come into the world of film photography for very little money, rarely does the expense stop there. Shooting film opens a whole new realm of must-have purchases. Whether its darkroom supplies, accessories, or a camera you simply can’t live without, there always seems to be a hole in the film shooter’s pocket. If you are like me, then you’ll want nothing more than to blow your paycheck on film stuff but often financial obligations prevent you from doing so.
Film is a recurring cost that can add up quickly. As an alternative to fresh dated film, try to get your hands on expired film. Expired film is often cheaper and as long as it has been stored properly it will perform just as well. Another option is bulk loading. Plenty of popular black and white emulsions can be found in bulk 100-foot rolls. Pick up a bulk loading machine and reusable cartridges and you can save quite a bit on each roll of 35mm film you shoot. You may also want to consider purchasing rebranded film. Companies such as Freestyle Photographic Supplies make special arrangements with film manufactures to sell products under different labels that cost much less than their brand named counterparts. The same can be said about photographic paper and darkroom chemicals.
If the majority of your work ends up online instead of on physical prints you can save money at the lab as well. Film processing by itself should be much less than the price that includes prints so ask the lab for development and scans only. Better yet, buy a scanner and you can really cut back what you spend at the lab. The money you save can easily offset the initial cost of the scanner.
When it comes to saving money on purchasing a camera it’s a good idea to be patient. Next time you visit eBay to look for a new camera try adding the auction to your Watch List instead of bidding right away. Prices tend to vary quite a bit between auctions and holding out for one with little competition can add up to big savings. Just be sure to know what you are getting and read the seller’s terms carefully. If you are dealing with a private individual, such as a Craigslist sale, don’t be afraid to haggle. There is nothing wrong with making a lower offer as long as it’s fair. Offending the seller will most likely kill any chance at getting a better deal. Thrift stores, charity shops, yard sales, garage sales, boot sales, flea markets, or whatever other second-hand options you have in your area are always great places to find film equipment. These items may be in poor or unknown condition but getting them for next to nothing can make it worth taking a chance. With a little time and effort you might just turn a “beater” into “a good one!”
Keith Derickson is a long-time Film Photography Podcast listener. When not listening to the FPP, Keith is busy with his wife and two children. Keith has been shooting film for ten years and considers himself a hobbyist, enjoying the tactile process of shooting film. He works at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and his New Years resolution is to find a common voice in his photography.
All images by Keith Derickson / http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithderickson/