So I am sticking my head above the parapet here with this article about film photography, as I am aware there are die-hard enthusiasts for film photography out there who are going to hate what I am about to say…but I am going to say it anyway in the interest of giving brides and grooms out there the best advice.
A little disclaimer before I start to say that I do not shoot film and never really have within my professional career anyway, and for very good reason.
So why am I writing this, mainly because recently I joined a popular wedding services listing website and was surprised to find photographers on the site listing themselves as “Film Wedding Photography Only” making clams of a more “traditional authentic look” compared with digital photography. Whilst there is merit that film does have a certain style I found these claims outstanding and here is why.
You may not be old enough to remember a time when film was indeed the only option when it came to taking photographs or hiring a photographer to take photos on your wedding. Shooting rolls of film with your camera, taking about 36 photographs and then having to get them developed at a photo lab with no idea what you have captured until the 3 to 4 day wait to see your photographs in your hand.
Comparing this to digital photography we couldn’t see a more polar opposite process. Digital photography allows the photographer to instantly review their image, making adjustments in real time to ensure the photograph is exactly what is required, and in the cases where the capture is not perfect having the ability to take it home, upload it to your computer and using sophisticated software be able to manipulate and correct to deliver something perfect.
For me film is an ancient format that whilst still has its place in the photography world for those who wish to use it, should not be something solely employed to photograph what may be the most precious moments of your life. Here are my top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t hire a film photographer for your wedding:
Photograph Manipulation / Editing
Whilst offering a certain amount of options in terms of exposure, film photography falls short of the mark when it comes to the ability to manipulate a photograph taking on a digital camera.
Let’s look at a real life scenario at any wedding in the country. It is the big moment where the registrar, vicar etc says you may now kiss the bride. Your photographer is set, choosing their position to nicely frame the bride and groom showing the beautiful scene on their wedding day, and capturing this one chance moment. As the moment happens and the shutter is being pressed, a guest stands up from their chair mobile phone in hand and then thrusts it forward entering the beautiful frame the photographer has made and then poof the moment is gone.
The photographer is then left with a near perfect photograph of the now married couple having their first kiss, beautiful scenery or architecture framing them and a blurred mobile phone screen in the corner ruining an otherwise perfect moment. As long as the photographer in question was shooting on a digital camera and had a good understanding of photo editing all is not lost as the film is loading on to the computer and using software such as Adobe Photoshop, the offending item is cloned away.
There was a wedding that I was hired for a couple of years ago where the bride had unfortunately fallen on the days appoaching the wedding. During the fall she received a cut to her lower arm which was visible on her wedding day and was rather nasty looking. Rather than leaving this wound visible on the photographs that I delivered I took the time to remove the evidence of the cut so that a simple trip did not spoil her photographs. As I had used digital photography equipment this was not a problem and rescued what could have been a very upsetting situation.
These are just a couple of examples of an array of things that could happen where the allowance of after editing using digital files can not only improve a photograph but can also rescue an otherwise non-usable photograph. On an occasion such as your wedding day with multiple events happening throughout the day that only happen once and cannot be replicated again in terms of the emotions and situations this ability is something I carry with me to ensure I provide the best possible photographs for my clients.
Reloading The Camera
On the same theme as the previous point of ensuring that all the special moments on the day are captured perfectly I want to look at the ability a digital photographer has of continually capturing images and not having to re-load film. A typical roll of film allows for 36 photographs before having to be swapped out for a new one. Whilst film photographers a very well-practiced in this process it is still something that is delicate, takes time and takes away the focus from what is going on around them whilst opening up the back of the camera to make the swap.
Comparatively with digital cameras and the latest memory cards a digital photograph can take 1000’s of images having the capacity to shoot an entire wedding without having to go through the process of reaching for a new memory card to drop in. All in all it is one less thing for your wedding photographer to worry about especially during for example the ceremony itself where multiple photographs of the guests may be taken, the bride coming down the aisle, the groom waiting at the altar, the father of the bride handing over his daughter. Situations where multiple key events are presenting themselves in front of the photographer, the last thing anyone would want is for one to be missed as the photographer reloads their camera.
“That Film Look” Vs Multiple Styles
One of the main reasons that I see for the argument of choosing a film photographer over a digital photographer is “film just has that certain style” when referring to the resulting images taken. Where I can only agree that film does produce a certain look that is very easy on the eye in general the look it achieves is the look it achieves with little space for other style options. Whilst not the easiest thing to replicate the “film look” can be recreated using digital photography and software for editing and further more is not just limited to that one look with photographs being to be edited an infinite number of times to produce a huge range of styles.
Low Light Performance
When it comes to situations where there is relatively low light, for instance during your wedding day this could be perhaps when the lights are out and the dance floor is jumping at your reception modern digital photography has a huge advantage of being able to capture image at low light.
With film photography the photographer is limited to the speed of the film that they are using, which in general is capped at a top speed if you like of 6400. This 6400 number causes a ceiling on what is known as ISO, one of the 3 key elements in the exposure triangle which is a 3 way ratio that enables that your photographs come out exposed – basically so the photographs are not too dark and you can’t actually see what is going on in the photograph. Having a ceiling on how high you can increases your ISO at what is in modern times considered quite low at 6400 limits what can be achieved with the photography in low light.
By comparison modern DSLR and especially Mirrorless Cameras have ISO limits of anything up 409,600 offering a lot more flexibility and increasing the likelihood of capturing good usable photographs in low light.
Speed of Delivery
Whilst I have never developed a film image in the dark room or had the requirement to send a roll of film over to a photography lab for development it is something I have witnessed and would call a lengthy process. Obviously the length of the process is dependent upon the amount of images taken however with a wedding it is safe to assume even for a small occasion we would be expecting a good 100+ images taking several days for development.
By comparison digital photography allows the photographer to go home and very quickly (in minutes) transfer images to the computer, scroll through to select the images that they want to use and edit them within a few hours. Typically within the digital wedding photographer that I undertake I am able to have my first edit of images finished and delivered on an online gallery on my website for the happy couple before they reach their honeymoon destination.
Furthermore the options for delivering the images are increased in terms of options and speed. For example with the mirrorless cameras that I use I am able to transfer straight from the camera as soon as the photograph is taken, edit on my phone in minutes and share directly to social media if required. The equivalent process for film photography would require a dark room / processing lab, producing the photograph in print, scanning in to the computer, conducting any required software edits before sharing to social media – a much lengthier process.
I showed my hand earlier in this article in the introduction where I stated that I feel film photography is an ancient process and wouldn’t be something I would employ for my wedding clients or for my own wedding for that matter. Digital photography is able to outperform film photography in challenging conditions and gives the photographer more time to concentrate on what is really important, capturing the precious moments on your wedding day.
I know there will be photographers out there who just like preferring vinyl over digital music will disagree with me and it really is the user’s choice. But for those who are not technically minded with photography this article is for you, don’t be lured in to the hipster trend of the film revival for your wedding day, digital still is the best option.