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5 Tips to Being a Thrifty Photographer!

In this tipster, you will find out how you can save money on film photography. I will go over the five basic ways on how any film photographer and Lomographer can pursue their artistic dreams and develop their creative outlets without having to spend a fortune.

I have only explored this hobby for about a year, but I have absorbed so much through friends and other fellow Lomographers that it would seem selfish to not share what I’ve learned with the rest of the world. I must admit that I am not some expert, but I am still a beginner, and I have much to learn. But maybe, after reading my guide, your path to Lomography enlightenment will kick-start much faster!

1. Your Camera

Your camera is important because that’s your tool! There are a lot of great cameras that can be had for under $100. At most thrift stores, toy cameras and film point-and-shoots can be found in abundance for under $10. If you can’t find any, or if there are no thrift stores in your area, try flea markets. If flea markets are no avail, go for eBay. With eBay, you can find many old film SLRs, rangefinders, and compacts for under $100. For your first camera, you’re going to want to find something with interchangeable lenses, a working meter, and either aperture priority (semi-automatic) or program auto (fully automatic). That leaves you with basically every type of ‘80s-’90s film SLR. If you are concerned about the size and bulk of SLRs, go for a film point-and-shoot, which are much more convenient, but sometimes lack manual features.

Some quality affordable film SLRs include:

  • Nikon FA
  • Nikon F3
  • Olympus Pen FT
  • Nikon F100

Some quality affordable film point-and-shoots include:

  • Konica Big Mini (any model)
  • Nikon L35AF
  • Canon AF35ML
  • Canon AF35M II
  • Olympus Stylus Epic

Some quality affordable film rangefinders include:

  • Canon Canonet QL17 (any model)
  • Yashica Electro GX
  • Yashica Electro 35 (any model)

2. Cheap Film

Your film is important because that’s your sensor. Luckily, every single shot you take on 35mm film will be full-frame. To get a digital camera with a full-frame sensor, you’d have to pay $2000+. Luckily film is cheap. As a thrifty photographer, you’re going to love Wal-Mart and their Fujifilm Superia. For ~$10, you can 4 rolls of 24 exposures in varying ISOs of 200, 400, and 800. I prefer Fujifilm Superia over Kodak UltraMax, another cheap film found at Target and other stores. Superia is slightly more saturated, which I love.

3. Two-Dollar Developing

At places like CVS and Wal-Greens, there is a way to get your photos developed for only $2. All you have to do when you hand them your exposed film, is ask for “develop only,” where they develop your negatives for you, and they won’t make prints. This saves you a ton of money. They do C-41 process only, so if you have any slide films, you can cross-process for $2 as well!

If there are no CVS or Wal-Greens in your area, Wal-Mart will send out your film to Fujifilm for about $1.80 if you ask for develop-only. They also accept medium format, which I’ve heard is around $5 and slide film, which is $8 for mounted slides.

You’re probably wondering what you’re going to do with all these negatives, which leads to…

4. Investing in a Scanner

A refurbished Epson Perfection V300 is $55, which scans your 35mm negatives and slides. If you might be getting into medium format (120 film) you should probably invest in a refurbished Epson Perfection V600, which is $155. Both of these can be found through the Epson web site. The both of these may sound pretty steep for scanners, but after shooting a ton of rolls for only $2, as opposed to the usual $10, you will end up saving more money than you spend.

And if you would like to one day have large poster prints, that can be done. All you have to do is scan at an insanely high DPI, like 9600 or 12800, and then send the JPG to Wal-Mart. For 3×5 prints, 1200 dpi is sufficient. Since you’ve already scanned and converted your negatives to JPGs, 3×5 prints are only ten cents a photo.

5. Go Out and Have Fun!

A a photographer, what’s most important is getting out there and taking shots! Don’t worry too much about what film you use, what camera you use, what lenses you have, or any of that stuff! All that matters is your eye, because it’s you that takes the photo, not the camera.

written by thedumeister

30 comments

  1. 110isnotdead

    110isnotdead

    Great article. Rite Aid is another drugstore here in the Midwest that offers cheap development. Sadly though, I was told that they will be doing away with it in October :(

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  2. houda21

    houda21

    Really helpful article thanks :) i have a Diana Mini would that come under the 'point and shoot' category? I was also thinking of buying a Russian camera from the Lomography shop, would that be more manual or is getting one from the list suggested better? I have had my camera for a year and don't seem to be making much progress. Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks :)

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  3. houda21

    houda21

    Really helpful article thanks :) i have a Diana Mini would that come under the 'point and shoot' category? I was also thinking of buying a Russian camera from the Lomography shop, would that be more manual or is getting one from the list suggested better? I have had my camera for a year and don't seem to be making much progress. Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks :)

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  4. fartstorm

    fartstorm

    If you invest in a darkroom bag you can spool your slide film into C-41 labeled cassettes and skip the cross process fees but that's got some questionable ethics attached ;-)

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  5. thedumeister

    thedumeister

    @houda21 I think the Diana Mini would be more of a toy camera, because it's very lo-fi and bare-bones. It also depends on what you want. I think one of the best Lomography cameras are the Lomo LC-As, because that's where you're going to get the truest "Lomo effect," if that's what you're going for. But I don't recommend it if you're on a tight budget. $300+ is steep.

    For a point and shoot, definitely look at the ones I mentioned.

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  6. freyaramoana

    freyaramoana

    I bought a EPSON Perfection too! It´s amazing!

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  7. shind

    shind

    Awesome write-up for the budget conscious! =)

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  8. shea_w

    shea_w

    Wow, really helpful article! Thanks for the info!

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  9. catstrindade

    catstrindade

    Great tips here! thank you so much :)

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  10. haziqhashim

    haziqhashim

    great tips pal

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  11. 110isnotdead

    110isnotdead

    Great tips, Its getting harder and harder these days.

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  12. megzeazez

    megzeazez

    Aw I wish Walgreens and CVS did $2 develop only in my town. Everywhere here charges $5, but I still save a ton of money scanning my own negatives! :]

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  13. thebokeheffect

    thebokeheffect

    very helpful tips!

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  14. simonh82

    simonh82

    Great tips, but watch out for GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrom) when you discover all the cheap film cameras out there.

    The Epson v600 is a good scanner and it is always worth getting one that can do medium format, but there is no point in scanning at resolutions higher than 3200, as that is where the scanners real resolution runs out. After that the files get bigger, but there is no actual improvement.

    @houda21 don't bother with Lomography for refurbished Russian cameras, they charge about 5-10 market price. Look on ebay for something in nice condition and I guarantee it will be a fraction of the cost of the Lomography offering. Make sure the seller describes it in detail including the lens and shutter condition, then you have come back if it is not accurately described.

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  15. gatokinetik-o

    gatokinetik-o

    Thanks for the tips! :D

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  16. thedumeister

    thedumeister

    @simonh82 dude I already have GAS lol. I just bought a brand-new Olympus Stylus Epic Limited today. As for the scanner, I just have a v300 which I got for $55, and was a total steal. 8D

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  17. abbsterocity

    abbsterocity

    Flea markets are a great place to look for cameras. If you're lucky, you might come across a vendor who doesnt know anything about cameras, which makes it easier to bargain!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  18. twinklecat

    twinklecat

    awesome tipster! thanks for the scanner info.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  19. jorgesato

    jorgesato

    brave!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  20. bodhiboy

    Good thoughts there, thanks. In the uk for cheap film some Boots stores still sell multi bags of film at 3 for 2 which makes it worthwhile getting. Fuji superior at a lot cheaper than single rolls would cost! Spooling your own is a doodle too and a fantastic way to save money.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  21. Danielle Henry

    Nice thoughts here! Some suggestions: Costco develops film for $1.60, so that's another great place to go for cheap. I also recommend buying film on eBay. I just checked for examples, and expired 400 speed film can be only $28 for 20 rolls, which is insanely cheap compared to $10 for 4 (And the fact that it's expired in my experience probably won't affect picture quality too drastically, unless it's over ten years old). Fresh film is generally up in the thirties for the same amount, ISO depending. This is also really nice if you don't want to always run to the store for film. A roll a week would last you almost six months! There's also a bulk option that you could look up that's supposedly even cheaper, but it seemed hard to me.
    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  22. kf4kco

    kf4kco

    Great article and advice. The nearest photo lab develops 35mm for $3.50 and 120 format for $4.50.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  23. reminator

    reminator

    Thx for sharing the experience ;)

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  24. adrianard

    adrianard

    wow, thanks so much! I'm not sure if everything will be "doable" here in Portugal, we don't have wal-mart, for example, but the flea market and epson tips came in very handy! :D
    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  25. benedan

    benedan

    Some good tips here. Thx for the advice.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  26. jajakim

    I may be wrong, but I don't think walgreens does $2 developing anymore. I think its around like $7 for developing only. I've heard that Costco or Target develops at around $3, but at this day and age they might have gotten rid of their developing equipment.
    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  27. original_j2

    original_j2

    I recently bought a refurbished Epson Perfection V500 scanner from their website for $99 and free shipping. It's one of the best deals out there.
    Also, I'll add that (after the initial investment) you can save A LOT of money developing your own film. A $20 Tetenal C-41 kit can develop 20+ rolls of film if you push it.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  28. impaktor

    impaktor

    Nice. I think the Nikon FE is far cheaper and "better" (what ever that means) than both Nikon FA, and Nikon F3, at least if you're to believe "Ken Rockwell":http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/fe.htm

    @fartstorm Is it really as easy as just spooling the film to C-41? My lab keeps saying cross processing bogs up their chemicals. I guess they would use the E6 machine with C41 chemicals, but is it possible to just run the slide in the C41 machine?

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  29. fartstorm

    fartstorm

    @impaktor The spooling has to be done in darkness. I have run many E6 rolls through C-41 in places that previously told me no. Never have they told me that there was a problem. I haven't gone for prints though as I do scan my own. I use a few labs and one independent owner (who charges a flat rate for c-41 regardless of film type) says the chemicals are changed frequently enough that any change would be neglible. Most labs will even give you the cassettes to re-use again and again.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  30. thejunkman

    thejunkman

    Shoot black and white film and develop it yourself in a caffenol. Sourcing the chemicals and dark room supplies (change bag, developing tank, clothes line and binder clips for drying negatives) and an epson V300 was around $150. Saves me a bundle. I've made friend with a guy that work at a drug store in my area, so he'll process c-41 film and give me prints / negatives and a cd for $10. He develops whatever I give him and will gladly xpro e6 mo questions asked. The olympus xa and xa2 are great point and shoot cameras and give the original LC-A a run for its money. They can be had cheaply on ebay for $5-100.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam

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