Five Accessories Every Film Photographer Should Own and Use

Five Accessories Every Film Photographer Should Own and Use

2800 1575 Charlotte Davis

When I got my first proper film camera, a Cosina PM-1, for the grand total of £3 from a car boot sale, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had one camera, one lens, and a couple of rolls of expired film. It quickly escalated from there, and though I cringe when I think of all the money I’ve since spent on photo gear, there are a few accessories I simply can’t live without.

Here are five must-have accessories for the film photographer. These items won’t be too surprising for anyone who’s been shooting film for a while, but for those just starting out, buy this stuff as soon as possible. You will thank me. They’ll improve your quality of life, make the process easier and faster, and (most important of all) make your photographs better.

A decent tripod

When experimenting with long exposures or shooting slow film in low-light conditions, a tripod is absolutely essential. There are plenty of people who will tell you that it’s important to have the most expensive, lightest weight carbon-fibre tripod. Don’t listen to them. Unless you’re regularly hiking up a mountain with your gear, a few ounces of extra weight to save a couple hundred bucks is worth the trade. In fact, for most uses a heavier tripod is better – more weight means less vibration, shake, and swaying in the breeze.

For ease of use, try to find a tripod with a longer tilt/pan handle on the head – this makes it much easier to maneuver. K&F Concept make good quality starter tripods, most with ball heads – unless your setup weighs over 3kg, one of these will see you right for most shooting situations. For heavier rigs, try the larger-scale aluminum tripods from Manfrotto. And if you’re looking to save money and don’t mind older gear, search eBay for a big-honking tripod. James, the site’s founder, uses a thirty-year-old Manfrotto tripod. It cost $30 and works great.

[Without James’ $30 tripod pictured below, Anthony couldn’t have made the photo to the right. In addition, the camera is fitted with a one-stop, center-weighted neutral density filter.]

Filters

There are a few types of filter I’d consider absolutely essential. If you’re a black-and-white shooter, an orange filter will darken skies and increase contrast – I never leave home without one.

For long exposure shots, to pair with the aforementioned tripod, a set of Neutral Density (ND) filters should also be on your list. “ND” stands for Neutral Density, and the purpose of these filters is to block light without impacting colour cast. ND filters come in “stops”, with a ten stop filter being darker than a two stop filter. These filters allow the photographer to make shots in lighting situations that would otherwise be impossible – for example, long exposures to smooth water in a landscape bathed in bright sunlight. The absolute top of the range are Lee’s Big Stoppers, but you needn’t break the bank – Cokin also make excellent filters, and as they’ve been making them for decades, are available second-hand too.

You should also consider buying a set of macro filters (we wrote about these here). With a high quality +10 filter, it’s possible to make stunning images without spending a lot of money or carrying the weight of another lens. These filters screw onto the front of any lens, just like any other filter, and act as a high quality magnifying glass. For under $20, you can make shots like the one below, which is close to the magnification we’d get from a dedicated macro lens (these can typically cost hundreds or thousands of dollars).

Made with a Minolta MD 50mm F/1.4 and a plus ten macro filter.

If, like me, you’ve ended up with lenses in various diameters, look for a filter set with a range of step-up adapter rings. These will allow you to mount larger diameter filters onto smaller diameter lenses, meaning you won’t have to buy duplicate filters for different lenses. Picking a filter set that’s compatible with Cokin’s A (ideal for smaller 35mm lenses) or P range (larger, for medium format lenses) means you can take advantage of the huge range of fun, creative filters too – starburst, anyone?

Notepad

When switching between different film stocks, cameras, or lens combinations, it’s essential to keep notes on what works, and what doesn’t. ShootFilmCo’s PhotoMemo books are perfect for this – with space to record the specifics about each roll, plus extra notes, it’s all you’ll ever need. Yes, you could record this on an app, or a regular notebook, but the PhotoMemo book is made for photographers, and it’ll never run out of batteries. They’re slim enough to fit in your pocket, too. Just don’t forget a pen!

Light meter

Being able to use an external light meter can open up a whole new range of cameras to you. Funky pre-war Soviet tank cameras, old Leicas, or bargain cameras that other people might pass over for not having a built-in meter – all of these can make perfectly exposed photos if you have access to a good light meter.

We’ve previously covered the Sekonic Flashmate L-308s, and it’s definitely my pick when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck. Before picking up an external light meter, I was using an app on my phone, which worked just fine, but was fiddly – after unlocking the phone, getting rid of notifications, getting distracted by Twitter, I’d usually lost my focus. Light meters can be a little confusing to get to grips with at first, but they’re worth the effort of learning – after a few rolls, you’ll be a natural.

Camera bag

Of all the recommendations on this list, a camera bag is the most personal choice. Backpack or messenger-style bag? Modern, black nylon or retro cool canvas? My recommendation would be to find a bag that will fit a camera body, two lenses, plus a few external pockets for the other bits and pieces you need to lug about day-to-day.

My preference is for messenger or satchel-style camera bags – I like being able to swing the bag around to access my gear without too much hassle. Consider whether you’ll need waterproofing, or a place to secure a tripod. Domke offer a range of messenger bags, with rugged, understated styling and well-considered finishing touches. They also offer a protective pouch, designed to protect your film from fogging while passing through airport x-rays – evidence that they have the interests of film photographers at heart!


Did we forget a crucial accessory that you won’t leave home without? Let us and our readers know about it in the comments.

You can shop for all of these accessories and more at B&H Photo

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Charlotte Davis

Based in Bristol, transplanted from London, I have been taking photos since I could hold a camera (sometimes I still drop them, but the sturdy ones survive).

All stories by:Charlotte Davis
28 comments
  • leicalibrararian April 1, 2019 at 8:41 am

    Another great old super heavy tripod is the Manfrotto 074B. This is really a studio tripod as too heavy to carry far. It has a geared crank up central stem. It is easily heavy enough to use with a transverse bar with a flash or lighting at the other end of the bar or for reprographic use, with the camera cantilevered out to the side. I normally use it with a Manfrotto joystick head, modified to Arca compatible. I bought the tripod for £25 from a second hand shop. Old professional video camera tripods are another great buy from S/H shops or Fleabay.

  • Merlin Marquardt April 1, 2019 at 11:55 am

    All good.

  • Merlin Marquardt April 1, 2019 at 11:57 am

    When did Casual Photophile add ads?

    • About two weeks ago. We are working on fine-tuning the placement to strike a good balance. They may not stay. I personally do not like them, and if I hear enough complaints I suspect they’ll disappear. Let me know what you think (everyone).

      • Merlin Marquardt April 1, 2019 at 1:01 pm

        Well, ads are certainly a distraction and can be more than annoying, but if the ads are related to photography, they may be more palatable and less objectionable.

      • The kind of ads displayed are disruptive to reading, in part because they span the text column and in part because they’re so large. If they were the square kind and could be right-aligned with text flowing around them, they wouldn’t be so disruptive.

        • Thanks for the perspective Jim. It’s very important to me to achieve a good balance and I’m going to do what I can to minimize the distraction of ads. If I can’t find a good balance, the ads will go away. I dislike them as much as any reader. Probably more so.

    • What ads? I know I am not blind and I only saw the photos James used and nothing else anywhere in this article. Only four signs of heart attacks is shown at the end.

  • I would add one simple thing that every film shooter should have: a film retrieval device. I shoot a lot of double exposures by doing two complete passes of the film through the camera, and in between those passes I often have to retrieve the film from the canister after the first exposure. With some cameras it’s easy to rewind the film without winding it all the way into the canister, but any camera with automatic film rewinding makes this impossible. Even when shooting single exposures, mistakes can and will be made that require retrieving film that was accidentally rewound all the way.

    • That’s a good tip! I use the DIY method of a piece of sticky tape and a length of old film: roll the tape so that it’s double-sided, stick it on the outside edge of the spare film, and feed it into the canister slot. Then roll the canister spool clockwise until the tape catches, and gently pull it out, with the leader stuck on! Mind you, a film picker would probably be simpler.

  • Ideally no adds please. 🤙

  • add a good old fashioned cable release to the list for me!

  • Maybe if you said ‘Sponsored Post’ at the beginning, it would take the sting out of the last sentence. All good regardless.

    • Hey Don 🙂 It wasn’t a sponsored post, I’ve just always lusted after a Domke bag! They seem to be a good mix of function and form. What’s your favourite camera bag?

    • Thanks for reading and sharing your concerns about the article. For the record, this wasn’t a sponsored post. We don’t do sponsored posts ever, actually. Never have. When a product is sent for review purposes we disclose this in the review every single time.

  • Christopher Brown April 2, 2019 at 5:17 am

    As well as the cable release, I’d include well designed hoods for each lens (as in square or rectangular). If you’re taking the time and effort to carry tripods then decent lens shades add little extra weight. Intuitively one expects lens hoods to be most effective in strong light, but photos with diffuse light coming from all angles benefit too.

  • Great article – but the ads are distracting. Also thank you for not doing some April Fools day post.

    • Yeah, the April Fool’s Day posts are a bit of a pain and a distraction. Interestingly enough (or maybe not?) Casual Photophile was launched on April Fool’s Day in 2014. Not sure what that means….

  • I look right past the ads. I didn’t even realize they were there until I read the comments. If they help to keep CP viable they’re ok with me.

  • And the ad plopped down right on top of your usually beautiful banner image! The other WordPress ads that drive me crazy are the ones that start playing a video without me clicking on the ad. Sometimes, these even lock up my Mac.

  • Fine with ads as long as they aren’t autoplay videos with sound, or “pop ups” you have to close with an X. Good kudu, only recently into photography and have a whole bag of filters that came with my camera I’ve ignored up to now – I need to see what I’ve got and how to use them!

    • Kudu? Article. Some fabulous auto correct work there

      • Kudu! Haha. I love buying collections of random Cokin filters on eBay, and seeing what I end up with. A great way to spend a tenner or so, and end up with a few more experimental tools to add to the photography arsenal.

  • I now know the 5 essential photo accesories and the 14 essential hacks every girl should know about.

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Charlotte Davis

Based in Bristol, transplanted from London, I have been taking photos since I could hold a camera (sometimes I still drop them, but the sturdy ones survive).

All stories by:Charlotte Davis