Film Beginner Series with @theanalogbook: Part 1

Beginner Series with @theanalogbook

Part 1: Starting out shooting film

Part 2: Picking the right camera for you

Part 3: Learning to develop

Part 4: Embracing analog in a digital world

Part 5: My process

Part 1: Starting out shooting film

"For me, this all started in the summer of 2007, just a few weeks before I began my last year of highschool. The deadline to pick my courses was coming up fast, and I knew I had to pick something. I remember not caring at all about what courses I ended up with, so, without giving it much thought, I quickly selected a few that I knew would fit my schedule. Photography was one of them. Though I did not know it at the time, selecting Photography was one of the best decisions I ever made.

2008 “Lonely” - Springbank Park, London, On, Canada. Working on framing but forgetting to focus.

2008 “Lonely” - Springbank Park, London, On, Canada. Working on framing but forgetting to focus.

Back then, I was one of only a handful of ‘kids’ with a cellphone. Of course, it was only  supposed to be used for “emergencies”. Yeah right. After starting school in September, I got a job at Blockbuster. Eventually, I was able to earn enough money and upgrade to a phone with a top-of-the-line 2.0 mp camera! Wooo! These days, it is easy to grab an amazing photo using just your phone; I am currently using an iPhone 6S and its camera constantly blows me away! But at the time, the 2.0 mp camera did just fine. 

My dad majored in Photography in college and made a short career of it in the late 80s and early 90s. Because of this, he had some “old stuff” to get me started for my own Photography class. Growing up, I remember my dad always shooting, but I never thought much of it until recently. The first piece of gear he gave me was his beloved Pentax K1000 with a 50mm lens. Even today, I will still shoot a roll with this simple setup. 

On our first day of class, we were presented with a table full of Pentax K1000’s and Canon AE-1s. My friend Joe and I were the only two students in the class that already had our own cameras, so we did not have to borrow one of the school’s. This caught the attention of our teacher, who seemed very pleased that two 17-year-old boys were already so engaged in his class.

2008 “Red Feather” - Oakridge High school, London, On, Canada. Poorly shot and over developed.

2008 “Red Feather” - Oakridge High school, London, On, Canada. Poorly shot and over developed.

The first few lessons focused on artists like Ansel Adams, May Ray, and Annie Leibovitz. Later in the course, we moved on to discuss technical concepts, such as learning about aperture, film speed, light metering, and shutter speed. From there, we learnt how to build pinhole cameras and photograms. There is no doubt, I learned a lot in that class. But there was one particular lesson that changed everything for me.

After about a month, our teacher taught us how to load film into our cameras, and forced us to delve deeper into how photography theory really worked. After several failed attempts, and many lost frames, I was finally able to get the film loaded. I set the aperture, matched up my shutter until the little line was perfectly centered, advanced the film, and then... ‘CLICK’. Oh man, what a glorious sound. I quickly finished the roll.

After exposing our first rolls (ilford hp5+), we were taught how to develop. In the classroom was a table covered in changing bags, reels, containers, and chemical bottles. It was time - we were finally going to see what our images looked like. Joe and I loaded up our changing bags, popped the top of the film canister, loaded up the reel, and put everything in the light-proof container. We then proceeded to develop, first adding in the developer, followed by the stop, and then the fix. After a quick rinse, it was time to see if it worked.

Staring back at us were a ton of poorly exposed frames and some under fixing. We knew we had successfully developed our first rolls of film. We were hooked. Later, when we started printing in the darkroom, I knew for sure that photography would always be a part of my life.

I spent the rest of that year shooting school events, family get togethers, scenes in nature, my walks home, and anything else that I found interesting. I was lucky enough to be able to use the darkroom and all the chemicals at school until I finally bought my own. I shot for a few more months, but when I eventually ran out of film, chemicals, and money, everything started to slow down. Life got busy, and for years, photography was nothing more than a distant memory.

2017 “Caged” - Toronto On, Canada. Working on exposure and framing.

2017 “Caged” - Toronto On, Canada. Working on exposure and framing.

This changed about one year ago, when I pulled out that dusty K1000, loaded up a roll of HP5+, and heard that first ‘CLICK’. What a glorious sound. I was hooked once again.

Josh Hillman

Toronto, On, Canada



First and foremost I would like to thank Josh for writing this article and more to come. We often get into things by accident, realising that this was the thing we were always looking for. It's great to see that a high school offers such courses, introducing people at a decisive age to art and photography. I wish our school had offered something similar, but I guess they were just too focused on classic education and had no space neither resources left for such offerings. We hope you're really looking forward to the second part in which Josh will show you how to pick the right camera for you!


Support the blog

Please consider supporting this blog, my photography and also the YouTube channel by either getting my new book or some stickers through the wasteoffilm shop or by using my Amazon Affiliate links. ( US / UK / DE )