Should You Learn Film Photography?

Should You Learn Film Photography? - Mastin Labs

If you’re wondering whether or not you should learn film photography, you’re not alone! 

Film photography is definitely making a comeback, and we’re not mad about it. 

After all, we started Mastin Labs with a goal to offer the best film presets on the market because we love the look of real film photography, and we wanted to make it more accessible to everyone. 

That being said, we think shooting film photography is still a great practice for any photographer who wants to hone their skills, explore their creativity, and better understand the love we and many others have for the film look. We think any photographer who thinks they might want to learn film photography should give it a shot!

So if you’re wondering how to shoot film photography or how to get that classic, film look in your photos, read on.

What is Film Photography?

First of all, what is film photography? Film photography is the analog way of taking photographs. Unlike when using a digital camera, when shooting film camera photography, the images are processed onto photographic film strips that are then developed in darkrooms.

Portrait image of Shari, from Shari and Mike Photography, taken by film photographer Kirk Mastin from Mastin Labs.
Image taken by Kirk Mastin on real film: Portra 800 
Emulate this look with Mastin Labs Portra film presets

The photographer has control over all the camera settings, but without the ability to preview how the image will turn out once it is processed. 

Photographic film comes in different sizes and formats, and there are also different photography film types to choose from. This will also determine the look of your photographs once they are developed. 

Is Film Photography Difficult?

Shooting film photography does come with challenges. You can’t preview how your camera settings are impacting the photo. There’s no LCD screen to preview how your shot will turn out. There’s no autofocus. And there’s rather limited ability as far as post-processing and editing goes. 

However, learning film photography doesn't have to be super difficult! Instead of viewing film photography as an insurmountable task, we recommend looking at it as a way to hone your skills, get creative, and learn something new.

Getting into film photography can be a great way to spark your imagination and will likely make you a better digital photographer and all-around artist. 

Are you sold yet? Now let’s talk about how to get into film photography! 

The outside of a red restaurant, a travel film photo taken by Kirk Mastin, who creates film presets and also offers education for those looking to learn film photography.Real film image taken by Kirk Mastin

How Do I Learn Film Photography?

How should a beginner learn film photography? By getting out there and practicing, with some guidance along the way! 

But first, you’ll need to get your hands on a film camera, of course! 

Where do I start with film cameras?

If you’re planning to purchase a film camera, check out our guide to the most popular film cameras on the market

That being said, if you’re just wondering how to get into film photography, any film camera will do! Whether it’s the old camera sitting in your parents’ basement that still works, one that you’ve borrowed from a friend, or an affordable used film camera you found at a garage sale, the key is to just get out there and start shooting. 

Once you decide whether or not shooting film photography is something you want to keep doing, you might want to start researching your ideal film camera and make a larger investment.

Film photography classes

Once you have a camera and you’ve decided which roll of film to purchase, you might want to look into film photography classes to help you get started.

There are plenty of options out there for anyone looking to learn film photography. We recommend checking out our free “learn to shoot film” course. It’s simple and easy to follow, so that instead of overthinking it, you can learn the key basics and get out shooting film right away!

A portrait of a man with glasses, a red beard and a blue scard taken on portra 800 film by Kirk Mastin, the owner of Mastin Labs film emulation presets.
Image taken by Kirk Mastin on real film: Portra 800 
Emulate this look with Mastin Labs Portra film presets

Do Professional Photographers Still Use Film?

The short answer to this question is: Yes! Many professional photographers still use film. 

Some photographers shoot with film exclusively, but it’s quite common for film photographers to also shoot digital photography, and use the two to complement each other. 

Shooting an entire wedding, family session, or commercial photoshoot on film might not always be practical. These types of professional photography sessions often come with high expectations and sometimes the speed, forgiveness, quantity, and editing abilities of digital photography are a must.

That being said, using a film camera for more creative shoots or snapping a roll of film during the session on top of taking digital photos can be super fun and add a little something special! 

Many photographers who shoot both film and digital, or who simply love the look of film but need the versatility of digital photography, will use film emulation presets to match their digital photos with specific films.

A film photo of a buddhist monastery type building in front of a pond.Real film image taken by Kirk Mastin

Can I Get a Film Look on Digital Photos With Lightroom Film Presets?

When shooting real film isn’t an option, you can achieve a film look on your digital photos with the help of film presets

The trick is to make sure you’re using high quality Lightroom film presets (or Capture One film presets) that actually emulate the look of true films.

Creating quality film emulation presets takes time and a deep knowledge and understanding of the various film looks and what makes them unique. 

It can be tempting to just use free film presets for Lightroom, but the truth is that most of the free presets you find online won’t emulate real films and are often difficult to work with. 

Image before using Lightroom film presets
Two young women with white shirts and straw hats looking serious while standing in a field in an image edited with provia 100 film emulation presets by mastin labs, perfect for those who want to learn film photography.
Image after applying Lightroom film presets by Mastin Labs: Provia 100 film preset


That’s why Mastin Labs doesn’t offer free Lightroom presets or Capture One Styles—we’ve spent years studying real films in order to create the best film presets for Lightroom, that not only make your digital photos look like film, but are easy to work with and tweak. 

Like we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the reason we started Mastin Labs in the first place was because of our deep love for film photography and a desire to make it more accessible to all photographers! 

Pros and Cons of Digital Vs. Film Photography

There are several pros and cons when it comes to shooting digital vs. film photography. That’s why many photographers use a mix of both.

The main factors that might determine whether or not you choose to shoot film or digital include the specific situation you’re dealing with, your abilities (especially if you’re still getting into shooting film), and the cost.

Film photography pros and cons

Think first, then shoot.

Portrait of a woman with blonde hair, short bangs, and blue eyes taken on portra 800 film by kirk mastin, owner of film preset company mastin labs.Image taken by Kirk Mastin on real film: Portra 800 
Emulate this look with Mastin Labs Portra film presets

Pros of shooting film photography

  • The film look is unique and timeless
  • Film captures details and color in a unique way due to better dynamic range and color consistency
  • More forgiving of minor issues with exposure and focus in-camera
  • Film cameras are typically more affordable 
  • Film can be pushed or pulled to alter the contrast of the shot
  • Film images are higher resolution
  • Several film options means the photographer can choose based on which film look they’re going for
  • Film photography forces the photographer to stop, think, and plan their shots, which often helps gain a deeper understand and appreciation for the craft
  • Limited abilities for post-processing can also save time in the long run
  • No batteries or power required

Cons of shooting film photography

  • Film storage takes up physical space
  • Film images must be digitized in order to share digitally
  • The cost of film and developing film can add up (essentially, every photo you take costs money)
  • Film cameras are typically heavier
  • Less flexibility while shooting (no auto focus or auto settings, no preview screen) can make it more challenging to capture many shots in a shorter span of time, especially in different lighting situations
  • Less abilities for post-processing, especially if you aren’t processing the images yourself

Digital photography pros and cons

Shoot first, then think.

A beautiful woman with red hair laying across a floral couch in an image edited with mastin labs lightroom film presets emulating provia 100 film.

Digital image edited with Lightroom film presets: Mastin Labs Provia 100 film preset

Pros of shooting digital photography

  • Shooting in RAW gives the photographer the ability to do serious editing afterwards
  • Preview screens allow you to see how the image with turn out and adjust settings accordingly; easier to adjust to varying lighting conditions
  • Digital cameras offer the ability to change film speeds as needed
  • Digital cameras are typically lighter
  • Digital storage for photos takes up less physical space, images are easy to share digitally
  • Quicker turnaround time for images, depending on editing time
  • No limit to how many images you can take, as long as you have enough memory card storage
  • Quality Lightroom film presets can help you emulate the film look on digitals images

Cons of shooting digital photography

  • Digital cameras are typically more expensive
  • Editing softwares are typically an ongoing cost
  • Digital cameras require batteries 
  • Editing your digital photos is usually a must and can be time consuming, especially without a limit for how many images you can take
  • Finding your editing style is also very important for digital photography and can be a challenge, especially when using cheap or free film presets

In the end, when it comes to comparing digital vs. film photography, there is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your personal preference and unique situation, and if you can, we recommend trying both! 

Which Film Should I Try? 

Not sure where to start? Here are some popular films and Lightroom film presets to check out! 

A beautiful woman looks over her shoulder while standing in front of pink flowers on a tree in an image edited with velvia 500 lightroom film presets by mastin labs.

Digital image edited with Mastin Labs Velvia 500 film emulation preset

Since our Lightroom presets are based on real films, you can also take our film preset quiz to see which best align with your desired look. 

Vintage Slide Film Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Nostalgic and rich, perfect for portraits, travel, fashion, and landscapes.

Fuji Original Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Light and airy, great for outdoor photoshoots in natural light.

Adventure Everyday Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Bright and vivid, great for travel photography and candid moments. Includes a black and white film preset.

Night & Day Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Versatile and edgy, great for low-light environments and urban settings. Black and white film preset included.

Lifestyle Everyday Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Bold and balanced, great for candid moments and portraits. B&W film preset included.

Fuji Pushed Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Vibrant and airy, great for colorful lifestyle photography.

  • Fuji 160NS+1
  • Fuji 160NS+2
  • Fuji 400H +1
  • Fuji 400H +2
  • Fuji 800Z +1
  • Fuji 800Z +2

Artisan B&W Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Black and white film presets, great for portraits and moody shots.

Portra Original Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Warm and neutral, great for portraits and events in natural light.

Portra Pushed Lightroom Film Preset Pack

Dark and moody, perfect for portraits and boudoir photography.

  • Portra 160 + 1
  • Portra 160 + 2
  • Portra 400 + 1
  • Portra 400 + 2
  • Portra 800 + 1
  • Portra 800 + 2

We Hope You Enjoy Shooting Film!

We hope you enjoy learning to shoot film! And if you end up using Mastin Labs film presets on your digital photos, we’d love to see them! Follow us on Instagram and tag @mastinlabs in your images for the chance to be featured. 

We’d also love for you to join the Mastin Labs Facebook Community, which is a great place to connect with other photographers, ask questions, and get inspired. 

Looking for more film photography education and information? Check these out!