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When I Shoot Film at a Wedding

When should you shoot film at a wedding? When should you shoot digital? Let’s break it down. For photographers looking to incorporate film, this post will help.

Knowing what to capture when is important for you and your team. It impacts your preparation, post production and of course your confidence in your work.

The video above breaks down a finished wedding gallery by what is captured : film / digital / second photographer. The wedding you see here had 10 hours of photography. It was a longer day than most but there were so many amazing moments to capture.

Hybrid wedding photographers get the best of both worlds: The quickness & ease of shooting digital and the beauty and high-quality outcome of shooting film. Choosing to shoot film and digital both have their own aesthetic and technical advantages on a wedding day. Here is a breakdown of when and why I and my second photographer use a particular camera.

When to shoot film at a wedding | a video break down for photographers by Mary Dougherty

When to Shoot Film at a Wedding

Film loves light and thrives when it is well exposed. I shoot film on my Contax 645 and Canon Eos-3 outside or in a room with lots of available natural light and capture :

  • portraits
  • details
  • landscapes
  • scene setting images
  • candid moments
  • family

My best work is shot on film. Once I saw what was possible in camera and without hours of editing I knew I had to incorporate film. I choose the best camera and medium for whatever situation I am in. This means that I also bring a Holga toy camera, a disposable camera and polaroid camera to weddings.

Film has the most amazing dynamic range and can give you a finished product that needs little to no editing. Film allows you to take your time, slow down, and invite people to be a part of an experience. Your shots are more intentional and end up being even more treasured.

Film Cameras

I use both 35mm and 120mm (medium format) film cameras. Medium format film captures the portraits and most important work of a wedding day. 35mm film captures the candid, quick moments like a bridal party walking outside or cocktail hour.

A Canon eos-3 is my 35mm camera which uses canon lenses. Contax 645 is my medium format camera with a Zeiss 80mm lens on that I never change. I bring a Holga toy camera as well as a polaroid that uses Instax film. My digital set up is currently two Canon 5d mark iii.

Favorite Film + Film Labs

I started my journey as a film wedding photographer trying every film. I tested out a roll or two at each shoot, and it took a lot longer to figure out what worked. Stick to one or two stocks, build a relationship with a lab and spend a few months together before changing things.

My favorite films to shoot are Fuji 400h + Illford HP5. At the end of a wedding, I send in my film to be developed and scanned on Frontier by The Find Lab. They also edit my digital files! I highly recommend reaching out and deciding if you should outsource editing.

When I Shoot Digital

I love to quickness of digital, and typically use it indoors with less light. Shooting a ceremony in a dark church, a reception when the sun has gone down, or a sparkler exit – is all done on digital. Not only can I sync my off camera flash easily, but I can make adjustments as necessary.

Digital photography has less fixed costs. I am always weighing when to shoot on film and when to shoot on digital. Here are the situations I like to have my digital camera ready :

  • getting ready inside
  • ceremony
  • candid moments
  • entrances / walking / movement I don’t want blurred
  • reception
  • dancing

Digital files would prefer to be underexposed (you can brighten in editing) film would prefer overexposure. Film has more latitude to retain information in an artistic and painterly way. Digital can look overly sharp and processed when edited too much. However, I have just started exploring mirrorless cameras and am probably switching over my digital system soon. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Digital Images from Maggie + Ian’s Skaneateles Luxury Tent Wedding – click above

What My Second Photographer Captures

Having a second photographer is such an advantage. Not only can I be in two places at once on a wedding day, we can put people at ease. With a big guest list it is essential to have two photographers. Twice the angles, twice the productivity, twice the creative perspective. My second is tasked with capturing moments that I can’t see. This includes :

  • Second person getting ready
  • Walk down the aisle from behind
  • Cocktail hour candids (while I capture portraits or details)
  • Entrances from behind / different angle
  • Reaction to speeches
  1. […] Interested to know when I shoot film at a wedding? I break it down in this post. […]

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