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Wanna take cool photos without a film camera?

Over the past three years, film photography has splashed onto every trendy Capetonian’s Instagram page. Whether it’s photos from your latest ‘jol’ or snapshots from your June holiday, the desire for vintage ‘candid’ shots has become the norm. However, buying film and a 35mm camera can rack up quite the bill. Developing your shots can also cost a pretty penny—no offense, Cape Film Supply. So, what if I told you that you could capture film-like photos straight from your phone? I’ve got the tips to elevate your snapshots and infuse them with nostalgia and creativity.

1. Learn From The Pros

Most phones come with built-in pro camera features, such as ISO, white balance, and shutter speed. I always recommend that new photographers begin by learning the basics of photography, even if they don’t use them all the time. It’s also helpful to look up camera settings used in film photography on DSLRs, as they can provide additional guidance. This can personalize your shooting experience, especially if you have a specific inspirational photo in mind. Learning from well known photographers can also improve your technical abilities greatly. I highly recommend photographers like Pat Kay, Jason Vong and Brandon Woelfel on Youtube, who give in depth technical guides on photography.There are many great free tutorials and courses available on platforms such as YouTube, Skillshare and Domestika. A strong foundation can take you far especially if you are still in the early stages of cultivating your style.

2. Be Natural

Natural light is your best friend when capturing interesting photos. When taking landscape or nature shots, natural lighting enhances the sharp contrast often seen in film and imparts the washed-out quality found in many film camera photographs. In portrait photography, I’ve observed that having the subject stand either directly in or out of the sunlight can be very captivating. Natural light can also create a beautiful halo effect, especially when capturing light penetrating through a dark space, such as dense trees.

3. Go Over The Speed Limit

Motion is an amazing tool for capturing the vintage blurriness achieved by film cameras. Some phones offer a delayed speed feature that can assist in creating dynamic compositions. I recommend experimenting with light and your camera’s focus. Shake your phone from side to side — I know it sounds and looks a bit odd, but it has helped me capture some cool shots. Adding motion to your images can significantly enhance depth.

4. Take a Deep Dive Into Your Closet or Pantry

Sometimes, the best tools for a photoshoot are right in your pantry or closet. Take a peek for sheer fabrics with interesting textures or colors. One personal favorite that I frequently use in shoots is pantyhose, with bonus points if they’re a nude or brown pair, as they add instant grain and a dreamlike quality to the photos. I would also recommend using colanders and other intriguing tools that allow light in.

5. Go Against The Grain

There are numerous free editing apps, like Snapseed, VSCO, and Lightroom, that can be used to add a minimal grain. Tweaking your images slightly is not a crime; sometimes, you might want to add more grain, increase your exposure, or turn up the contrast a bit. Just ensure to preserve the original beauty of the shots without going too overboard. The key to film shots is not to strive for perfection but to aim for emotion—something that evokes nostalgia.

In Conclusion:


I understand that many people will still opt for traditional film, and that is completely fine. There is beauty in using an analogue form of capturing images, and personally, I have a strong affection for the medium. However, I hope that this has also inspired you to try something new and minimize the process of shooting and developing. Phone photography can be nostalgic too, but it is all in the eye of the photographer. Go out and explore, try these techniques, and figure out your style. The photos you take often represent your heart. Trying out new things doesn’t always have to be daunting, and you never know – you may have found your preferred way of taking photos.

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