As a hybrid wedding photographer who shoots on both digital and medium format film, I can say with absolute certainty that shooting film has made me a better photographer than when I was only shooting digital! Before film I felt artistically frustrated with the results I was getting from my digital work.
The colours and tones just didn’t look timeless and it seemed that no matter how hard I tried or how I edited my work, my photos were still missing a certain quality that I was searching for but couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly that was.
The search for that “something” led me to discover that all of the wedding photographers whose stunning work and impressive careers I admired, and whose level of mastery I truly aspire to had something in common: they were all film photographers.
It didn’t take me long to realise that their fine art film aesthetic is what I wanted for my own work, so I purchased my first Mamiya 645 and set to work learning the art of film photography.
Since day one I’ve not looked back and have discovered even more amazing benefits to shooting film. Read on to hear why I and so many other photographers still shoot film in this day and age.
1. The look
Film photos have a quality to them that is unlike digital. The grain, the texture, the softness, the colour. It’s almost an intangible quality, like soul, like magic. I can’t always articulate why but film photos have even more ability to make me stop and stare, evoking a mood and aesthetic that simply can’t be reproduced in the same way by digital.
There are hundreds of film emulation presets out there, some of them are incredible and come pretty close to making digital images look like film, but there is no substitute for the real thing! Simply put, if classic film stock wasn’t so freaking good they wouldn’t try so hard to emulate it.
2. True to life colour
Tones and colours have a profound impact on a photo. Film offers a higher dynamic range that creates more true to life colour. I had my moments when first starting out but I’m not a fan of trendy editing and see far too many digital images out there with unnatural tones and orange skin.
These trends will come and go. One of the best things about film is it’s timelessness. I shoot film and edit my digitals in a cohesive way to match them because I want your photos to look as classic and beautiful in 50 years time as they do today. They are your visual legacy, your family heirlooms after all.
3. Skin tones
Ok this one is short but huge! Film is incredibly flattering and kind to skin. It is almost magical in its ability to create creamy skin tones and smoother skin. It eliminates the need for retouching in most cases and can make real humans look amazing. Who doesn’t love that!
4. Shoot more intentionally
There’s no doubt about it, the process of capturing images on film is much slower than digital. And here is the best part…in the slowing down there comes something beautiful…the magical ingredient of intention. If using a manual focus medium format film camera like me, then framing the shot and manually focussing means there is no “spray and pray”or “panic shooting” that all too often happens with a digital camera.
With the costs involved in shooting film you better believe that I will not hold my finger down on the shutter and take 50 shots of the same thing, hoping that I’ll get at least 1 decent one. When I started shooting film I started shooting with real intention.
5. It made me a better photographer
With that intention underlying each frame, my photography improved quickly and I was able to transfer this skill over to my digital process. Personally, I found it impossible not to overshoot with a digital camera before I started with film. Now, I don’t need to take 5000 photos to deliver 800 for a wedding day. I can take far fewer photos and they are better photos.
6. Less time spent editing
The greatest resource we all have is time, but it is also limited to 24 hours each day. Not overshooting means less time spent culling and editing images after a shoot, and less burnout. Personally, I’d much rather be out shooting than glued to my computer culling and editing for days on end.
I still take the time to go through every film image and make minor adjustments here and there if necessary but the reduced editing time overall has given me so many valuable hours back, which can then be invested into my family or into other important aspects of growing my business and serving my clients in the highest way possible.
7. Present in the moment
Again, because of the slower nature of shooting film, it forces you to be 100% present in the moment with your clients and connected with them. The slower pace creates more calm during a shoot. I feel calmer, and therefore my clients feel calmer. Win win.
Without the instant satisfaction of seeing the back of your screen to check that you’ve got the shot, you learn to trust yourself fully and build confidence in your ability. While I’m a hybrid photographer who also shoots digital in low light situations and to have backups, my favourite images are almost always the ones captured on film.
9. Excitement factor
There is something rewarding about the wait to get my film developed and scanned. I always say it feels like Christmas when I get that email in my inbox from my film lab telling me that my scans are ready. Every single time! The anticipation and excitement levels are real.
Not only that but shooting film just feels good – there is no better sound than the sound of that shutter!
10. Stands out from the crowd
In this digital day and age choosing to shoot with film is rare and different. It demands skill and elevates the aesthetic of my work which is one way in which I differentiate myself from other photographers. In an industry saturated with photographers and editing styles it bears repeating…film is timeless and will never go out of style.
To view some of my latest work visit the galleries. Or, if you’re interested in hearing more about my process, my film and digital wedding photography or family portrait sessions please get in touch here. I’d love to create timeless heirlooms for you and your family! xx