Wedding film photography FAQ: Everything you need to know

Jun 28, 2024 | Planning
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Photo: Autumn Cutaia

Welcome! If you've found yourself here, you probably share our love for film photography, or perhaps you're just curious about what this art medium exactly is. Either way, you're in the right place. Back in 2011, Wedding Sparrow started as an obsession for the timeless beauty of wedding photography shot on film, and a desire to share it with the world. Our beloved late founder, Sara Russell, led the wedding industry towards the natural light-filled charm of film photography, and we continue to champion her legacy and connect like-minded couples with the wedding vendors who specialise in this authentic, refined aesthetic.

If you've just started on your wedding planning journey, your photographer is likely to be one of the first vendors you hire. After all, you'll want to look back on those precious memories for many years to come. So, what exactly is film photography and why should you consider it for capturing your wedding day? Today we're answering this and much more, with the expertise of our Fine Art Curation members. Read on to swot up on the world of wedding photography shot on film and why we love it so much.

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Photo: Mary Dougherty
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Photo: Pattie Fellowes

1. What is film photography?

Before digital photography entered the scene, all photos were recorded on light-sensitive rolls of film. When the shutter of the camera is open, the film is exposed to light and an impression is captured. Traditionally, film photographers develop the rolls of film and print their photos in a darkroom; a physical process that allows artists to get up close and personal with photography as a medium.

"Film photography is a timeless art form that captures moments in a way that digital photography simply cannot replicate," explains Australian wedding photographer," Tracey Mountford, from Love Your Story Photography in Perth. "The process of shooting on film requires a level of skill and patience that is not always present with digital photography. From loading the film into the camera, to carefully composing each shot, to waiting for the film to be developed, film photography is a true labor of love."

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Photo: Christophe Serrano
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Photo: Lisa Blume

2. Why choose film over digital photography for your wedding?

This decision is a very personal one and ultimately comes down to not just how you want your wedding photos to look, but also how they feel. "Visually, skin tones appear more natural, colors appear more vibrant, and the texture of the grain adds so much to the beauty of a film photograph," explains Chicago-based wedding photographer, Lisa Blume. "I choose film because it has so much heart to it. I rarely find a digital photo that I love more than the similar image on film."

Film photography is a slower, more intentional process, explains Mountford. "Unlike digital photography, where images can be instantly viewed and edited, film photographers have to take time to carefully frame each shot and consider the lighting before pressing the shutter. This slower process can result in beautifully composed and thoughtfully crafted images that truly capture the essence of the moment."

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Photo: Taylor Jordon
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Photo: Taylor Jordon

3. What is hybrid photography?

While artistically we always favor film photography, there are practical benefits to shooting on digital. Combining the two formats is known as hybrid photography and is a service many wedding photographers offer, fusing the beauty of film with the pragmatic approach of digital. So how does this work? Charleston-based wedding photographer Taylor Jordan explains: "When you're capturing one of the biggest days in someone's life, you have to be in a flow and being a hybrid shooter allows just that," explains Taylor. "It gives beauty, consistency, and reliability."

"On a typical wedding day, I will shoot the majority of portraiture with medium format film. It gives gorgeous, creamy skin tones, true and accurate colors, and retains beautiful highlights. I love the look of natural light and film, but with that being said, I'll usually switch to digital when it becomes dark or if I’m getting certain action shots."

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Photo: Olya Kobruseva
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Photo: Zephyr Photography

4. How much should I expect to pay for my wedding to be shot on film?

Shooting film is not cheap. It's a luxury. The film itself is very expensive, while the art of skillful film photography takes many years to master to a high level. "Investing in film photography is more than just an experience – it is an investment in memories that will not only last a lifetime but when people see your photos, they will say 'wow, they look so much in love'," adds Mountford. It's impossible to give an average cost as it depends on many variables (we're talking $5,000 - $60,000+), but you should expect to pay more for a film photographer than one who is only shooting digital.

However, before you book a film photographer and pay your deposit, it's important to be prepared with some insightful questions during your consultation, says Blume. "Ask how skilled are you at shooting film? How many years have you been shooting film at weddings? Can I see some of your film images? What film cameras do you use? About how many rolls of film do you shoot per wedding? How do you approach black-and-white versus color?"

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Photo: Zephyr Photography
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Photo: Le Vie Photography

5. What should I expect from working with a film photographer?

"When working with a film photographer, you can expect a personalized and artistic approach to capturing your special moments. Film photographers have a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of light and composition that sets their work apart from digital photography," explains Mountford. "It is important to remember that film is a slower medium than digital photography. Embrace this slower pace and allow yourself to move slowly and deliberately in front of the camera. Focus on small, natural movements that convey the love and emotion you want to capture in the final images.

Blume agrees: "I've been working with film at weddings for almost 17 years now and one key message is to add a little buffer time into your schedule to slow down. It will allow you to feel less rushed and allow your photographer to capture film images more skillfully."

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Photo: Ditto Dianto
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Photo: Zephyr Photography

6. How can we make the most of working with a film photographer for our wedding?

With any wedding vendor, it is important to choose someone you bond with and this is particularly crucial with your photographer so that you feel relaxed in their presence. "Communication is everything," adds Blume. "Communicate your likes and dislikes. Communicate about your shot list early, so the photographer can make sure to fit it all in.

"A key point of discussion with your photographer is how you feel about black-and-white versus color. How many black and whites do you think you'll want? What are you most drawn to? I often have clients who tell me they love my black and white film images the most, which is important information for a photographer to know before the wedding day."

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Photo: Tracey Mountford
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Photo: Lisa Blume

Is there anything else you would like to know about film photography? Or booking any of your other wedding vendors? Drop us your questions in a DM on Instagram.

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Photo: 2Brides


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