First written November 2020, updated November 2021
If you are struggling for gift ideas for the film photographer in your life, the below list provides some options, starting from small gifts or stocking stuffers, through to some larger or more expensive options.
And don't forget, the gift of film will always win the day :-)
I've provided links below to some products, but recommend you research the best way to purchase these and if you can find a seller close to your city, go with them. No affiliate links, although the link to Analogue Wonderland may end up providing me with points that I can put toward discounted film purchases.
If you buy anything from the ideas listed below, I'd love to hear about them. Leave a comment at the end to let me know.
1 – Lens pen/cleaning cloth
Every photographer, whether they use film or digital, needs to have one (or more) of these in their bag, and quality one will help to keep equipment from getting scratched or damaged.
2 – Camera and film enamel pins
3 – Film photography log books
Unlike digital photography, which records all of the information about each photograph, so you can refer back at a later date, if you are taking a lot of different rolls of film, or are just starting out in film photography, using a logbook to record the details of each roll of film and each individual shot can be invaluable.
It can be frustrating not being able to remember what film you loaded into the camera weeks or months later, or once the film is developed trying to remember where a shot was taken. And if you want to try to replicate a shot (or learn from your mistakes), then tracking the details of each photo is highly recommended.
4 - Photography inspiration cards
I developed a series of photographic inspiration cards a couple of years ago as creative prompts, and are particularly useful if stuck for ideas. There are 52 cards, so could also be used as prompts for a year-long 'photo-a-week' project.
5 - Film containers
Film holding containers are perfect for a film photographer to store and carry around their film. Made from hard plastic, they can be thrown in a camera bag, and can keep film safe and out of bright light.
- Japan Camera Hunter
- – depending on which you buy, can only hold 35mm or 120
- Film bento by 'Since Alive' – if you are able to track one done, these are great (and my preferred film holder) as they can hold both 35mm and 120 film at the same time and it don't take much space in the camera bag
- Multi-format film container
– from Amazon can hold both 35mm and 120 film at the same time
6 – Camera hack film adapters
When wanting to test out a unique old camera you can often hit a roadblock of discovering that it takes a film size that no-longer exists. If you happen to know that your gift recipient has a camera they havne't been able to test out, try to find out what size film it should take .... you can guarantee there is a film adapter out there ready to help.
7 – Waterproof camera bag cover
Camera gear, and film cameras in particular, don't like getting wet. So always carrying a waterproof camera bag cover is recommended ... you never know when it might suddenly start pouring down with rain and you need to protect your gear.
Some camera bags come with a waterproof cover built in, but not all, so for those who don't already have a cover tucked in their bag, this is a handy gift option, that they'll be thanking you for in future.
Make sure to go for a cover that is larger than their camera bag, and try to avoid one that has a big glaring logo on it, for example Osprey rain covers are top quality, except for the giant logo plastered across it.
(suitable for smaller bags/small messenger bags)
8 – Clothing
A photography related t-shirt, that perhaps only other photographers may be able to relate to.
9 – Unique films
If the film photographer you know enjoys experimenting with different things, there are a number of different film options available to get different effects on the final images, often without needing to have any additional equipment.
NOTE: Film comes in a range of different sizes. The most used films are 35mm and 120 (also known as Medium Format). I recommend you find out what size film your photographer generally uses, and buy that, and if you aren't sure 35mm is the best bet.
– a tungsten balanced film similar to that used by cinematographers. Great for lowlight/night street photography
– launched last year, this film is the first brand new colour film to be launched in over 5 years, and its muted tones are perfect for shooting city scapes.
– based in France, this small film company sells and hand-makes some very different and unique film. I recommend looking at the 'Specialty Film' section if you are looking for a gift, as their other films may require some more specific processing requirements.
– This company sells all kinds of weird and wonderful films, and is a treasure trove for finding something unique to gift. They also stock movie camera film, and occasionally the very difficult to find unique sized film (such as 620 and 116) to fit in older cameras.
– I've been planning to buy one of these myself. The Solarcan is a long exposure 'camera in a can' that takes one photograph over a very long time period, recommended of 6 months or more. Install it in a location pointing towards the horizon looking North if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, or South if you are in the Northern Hemisphere. The perfect time to install is around the winter or summer solstice, and leave for 6 months, so your final image will show the movement of the sun across the sky.
Analogue Wonderland also recently started a film subscription box. Although they are based in the UK and I'm in Australia, I signed up straight away, to see how it would all work, and from the first two boxes have received a number of unique films I'd not used previously. The excitement of receiving a box of 'mystery' film in the post every two months is worth it alone.
10 – Gift card for film developing
Unless you develop your films at home, paying for development and scanning can add up. A gift certificate for a good local film development business (not the local Kmart), is a fantastic idea. Most film development businesses also sell film, so you know a gift card won't go to waste.
Make sure to find out if your recipient has a favourite place they like to use, and if not, research which film development businesses are located in your city or state and which has the best reviews.
11 – Zine
Many photographers create their own 'zine' (short for Magazine, and often a one-off) as a way to showcase and share the photographs from a project they've completed. Zines can often be filled with weird, wacky and creative photographs, that make for a really interesting publication to look through, as well as provide wonderful inspiration to others.
12 – Magazines
There are a number of printed and digital magazines dedicated to photography, these are some of my recommendations which also have a focus on film photography.
13 – A photography workshop
There are so many new things to try out when it comes to film photography, whether it be shooting with a different film type, a different film size, or an experimental or historic photographic technique. Look up workshops in your own area with these keyword prompts:
- Large format photography workshop
- Cyanotype or sunprint workshop
- Tintype workshop
- Colour printing (C41) workshop
- Platinum/palladium workshop
- 35mm walking tour/workshop
- Beginner and intermediate darkroom printing
14 - Photography books
Books on photography masters and famous photographers
- Vivien Mayer, such as
Books by lesser known, but amazing photographers
Books on film photography techniques
15 – A photograph
Source a printed (and perhaps signed/framed) photograph from a local film photographer or a famous photographer. Figure out what style of photography your recipient likes, or try to find out who are their favourite photographers.
Many of the photographic Masters throughout the 20th century have trusts who sell prints of their photographs online.
Local photographers also often sell at weekend markets, and are a great place to find a suitable gift, and discover a bit more about the photograph and the photographer.
16 – Home film developing supplies
If the gift recipient has never tried home film development, starting with Black and White is the way to go. There isn't a need for a darkroom, just a space that they can safely work with chemicals, away from food, pets or children, such as a laundry, garage or bathroom.
Paterson and Ilford offer a couple of kits that together includes almost everything you need to get started. They will also need a completely darkened room for the first part of the process, or if that isn't possible, a changing bag, to be able to load the film into a development tank in complete darkness, ready for developing.
I've provided links directly with the suppliers, both based in the UK, but they sell their kits worldwide through local businesses.
17 – Negative holders to easily digitise images
Once negatives are developed and dry, they can be digitised. This can be done instead of printing photographs in a darkroom, or having to also own a scanner. With a digital camera or smart phone, a holder for negatives, and a backlight, they can be ready to go.
(this one is still on kickstarter, which will be active until early January 2021)
18 – Home film development chemicals
If the gift recipient has already been developing their own black and white photographs at home, they may be interested in trying out some of the other types of film development options out there, and many businesses have been releasing small batch, easy to understand packs of chemicals, such as:
– Melbourne Film Supply have a great one-shot kit to give this a go
19 – Light meter
Most film cameras don't have a built in light meter, or are no longer able to be considered accurate. Whilst you can download apps onto a smartphone, they aren't always the most accurate things. Therefore having a hand-held light meter in the camera bag is a great idea. Light meters range from lower end smaller models, through to full digital affairs.
20 – Camera bag
Camera bags come in all shapes and sizes, and can fit everything from a small point and shoot style camera, all the way up to large hiking packs. Over the last few years some interesting new brands have popped up, releasing bags that don't look like a 'traditional' camera bag.
21 – The ultimate gift – a new camera
Let's face it, photographers have a habit of collecting cameras, and can never have enough in their collection, and would be over the moon to unwrap a new (old) camera on Christmas day. There is such a wide array of film cameras, from those that were sold in the 90s-2000s, through to cameras that are 100+ years old.
There are so many different places to purchase old film cameras from, but if you are wanting to guarantee that the camera has been serviced and will work on Christmas Day, then Kamerastore.com is a good place to purchase from. Kamerastore and The Camera Rescue project are working to source 100,000 film cameras to restore and re-sell back to the public, and ship worldwide.
If you are looking for something a bit older, and perhaps more from an aesthetic perspective, then places like your local antique centre, or even op-shop, can be worth a look. These may be more hit and miss, especially if you aren't sure how to check on their condition and whether the shutter still fires. Near Melbourne there is Andrew's Antique Antipodean that can help you select a suitable camera and advise on whether it still works.
This gift list has been compiled by Madeline Bowser
I've been photographing with film for what seems like forever ... well since the late 90's. I shoot both film and digital, but film is where my heart is and I get the most ongoing enjoyment from and what I enjoy sharing and teaching to others. I also travel the world hunting down old cameras and unique locations to photograph in, and exhibit and sell my travel photographs.
When out shooting film, I often get asked the questions 'can you still buy film?', 'I thought film stopped being made 10 years ago' and 'why would you want to shoot film when you can shoot digital'.
My answers are, 'yes', 'no, it didn't', and 'I also shoot digital, both have their place in my mind'.
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