Is Film Photography The Right Choice For Your Elopement Day?
Posted On | February 2, 2024
As the world of elopement photography evolves, the debate between film and digital continues. Couples today are presented with an array of choices when it comes to preserving their wedding day. In this post, we’ll explore the distinctive characteristics of film photography (also called analog photography) and why it’s gaining popularity among those seeking a unique and authentic touch for their elopement photos. Then you can answer the question for yourself: is film photography really worth it for your wedding day?
Film vs. Digital Photography – What Is The Difference?
Many people have their reasons for film versus digital photography, but we want to speak specifically about the difference it makes in telling the story of your actual wedding day.
Film photography has a unique way of capturing light and highlights, providing a softer and more ethereal feel to your images compared to the crispness of digital photos. Because film is more forgiving when capturing highlights, it works well for wedding and elopement photography where it’s a full day of events, and there will very likely be mid-day and direct lighting with harsh shadows.
Film is celebrated for its characteristic grain, which adds depth and texture to images. It contributes to the distinct aesthetic of film photography, offering a timeless and nostalgic quality. Yes, digital photographs can also have grain, but the texture and pattern of grain with film is more beautiful and pleasing to the eye than digital photos. Your wedding photos are ones you’ll look back at for years and years to come (and hopefully share with your grandkids one day), film will transcend time with its hallmark grain.
Film renders colors in a distinctive and often more vibrant way than digital. When photographing with black and white film stocks, like Ilford 400, you get a true black and white photo. Whereas you lose the originality with digital because you must convert a digital color photo to black and white in post-processing. While digital photographers try to emulate the colors found in film stocks using Adobe Lightroom and presets such as Mastin Labs, nothing compares to real film colors. The subtle color shifts and tones create a rich and organic feel, perfect for capturing the emotions of your wedding day.
One of the distinguishing features of film photography is its varying formats, each offering a unique visual signature. When considering image size, the two primary film formats to explore are 35mm and medium format (120mm).
Comparatively, digital photography also has its own sensor sizes, affecting the overall image resolution. Medium format film, such as 120mm, offers a larger image size compared to 35mm, resulting in higher resolution and incredible detail. Most digital wedding photographers using professional-grade digital equipment, can produce images that can be printed larger than both 35mm and medium format. If you confirm that your film elopement photographer is scanning your film negatives at the highest resolution possible, then you will see minimal size differences for general use.
There’s no denying that the cost of film photography for your wedding day is higher than its digital counterpart. Factors such as the purchase of film rolls, the cost of developing, and the time-intensive nature of the process contribute to the higher investment. Additionally, the necessity for multiple film rolls to cover an entire wedding day can accumulate costs.
Digital photography, on the other hand, often presents a lower financial barrier for couples looking for wedding photography, but the trade-off lies in the potential for a different kind of longevity. Digital images may not carry the same tangible and timeless quality as their film counterparts.
While the initial investment of hiring a film elopement photographer may be higher, the timeless quality and the artistry involved often justify the investment. Each frame becomes a piece of fine art that’ll last long beyond your lives.
Direct Flash Photography
Direct flash photography on film can result in a unique and distinctive aesthetic. Film has a particular sensitivity to light that responds differently compared to digital sensors. When using direct flash on film, photographers often achieve a classic, timeless look characterized by soft highlights, subtle shadows, and a balanced tonal range. The film’s inherent grain can add texture and depth to the images, creating a vintage and authentic feel. While digital cameras offer immediate feedback and the ability to adjust settings on the fly in darker settings, the challenge lies in replicating the organic and timeless feel achieved with film.
Keylan & Kris
“We added film to our experience to capture our most important day and wanted a whimsical feeling to our photos. Bailey captured perfect moments in film that are perfect snapshots of our relationship. The film photos add a classic nostalgic feeling and a romantic tender depth.”
The Risks of Having Your Wedding Day Photographed on Film
Choosing film photography for your wedding day introduces a set of unique challenges that add to the medium’s nostalgia. While the allure of film lies in its distinctive aesthetic, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential hurdles associated with this artistic approach.
Limited Exposures per Roll
One of the inherent limitations of film is the finite number of exposures per roll. Unlike digital cameras with virtually unlimited storage, film photographers work with a specific number of frames per roll. This constraint necessitates a more deliberate and thoughtful approach to each shot, ensuring that every frame captures a meaningful moment. Although this is challenging, we love this aspect of photographing on film because it trains us to be better, more patient, photographers who intentionally look for the right moments to capture on film.
Careful Handling Requirements
Film is a delicate medium that demands careful handling from the moment it is loaded into the camera until the developed negatives are ready for printing. Environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, can affect film quality. Additionally, proper storage and transport are critical to prevent damage or light leaks that could compromise the integrity of the images. Film photographers must exercise diligence and expertise to safeguard your precious moments captured on each roll.
Time-Consuming Development Process
Unlike the instant gratification of digital photography, film requires a patient approach to the development process. After your wedding day is over, the film must be carefully developed, a process that takes time to ensure the best results. This delay introduces a temporal gap between capturing the images and receiving the final images, which only adds to the anticipation of seeing your elopement day on film.
Adaptability to Changing Lighting Conditions
Film’s sensitivity to light varies across different types of film stocks. While this sensitivity contributes to the unique look of film images, it can pose challenges in rapidly changing lighting conditions. Photographers need to be adept at adjusting camera settings or choosing the right film stock for various situations to ensure consistent and high-quality results throughout the wedding day.
Digital Backups and Redundancy
Unlike digital photography, where images are instantly stored on memory cards (and often backed up to a second memory card), film photographers lack the immediate backup that digital provides. Digital backups of your precious moments become an essential part of the workflow to ensure that, in the rare event a memory card is lost or damaged, there is a secondary source to rely on.
In navigating these challenges, skilled wedding and elopement photographers bring a blend of film and digital photography to capture your wedding day. The tangible and nostalgic qualities of film come at the cost of embracing a slower, more intentional process, creating a symbiotic relationship between the photographer’s skill and the medium’s idiosyncrasies. We choose to still capture your day digitally as well, to guarantee you have a complete story of your wedding day. Couples opting for film should understand and appreciate film’s challenging aspects, recognizing that the potential risks contribute to the uniqueness and authenticity of the final images.
Example Photos of Elopement Film Photography
Here are some examples of film elopement photography and how they can tell an authentic story of your wedding day.
Questions to Ask When Looking For A Film Photographer For Your Wedding
These questions cover a range of important aspects, helping you make an informed decision when choosing a film photographer for your wedding.
What type of film do you photograph with?
Determine if the photographer uses 35mm, 120mm, Polaroid, or a mix to achieve diverse and unique aesthetics.
We photograph our elopement days with 35mm film. We’ve found that 35mm allows us the most flexibility to keep up with the pace and capture the fleeting moments of a wedding day.
How many rolls of film do you go through on a wedding day?
Understand the photographer’s approach and workflow, ensuring they capture all the essential moments.
We include one to two rolls of film to capture your elopement, depending on the length of your wedding day. This includes up to 72 exposures. Our couples always have the option to add more rolls on as well.
How much of my day do you photograph with film vs. digital?
Clarify the balance between film and digital to align with your preferences.
For a typical eight-hour elopement, we deliver around 350-400 digital images and 72 film images. Roughly 15% of your wedding day is captured on film. If you are a die-hard film fan, you have the options to add additional rolls and have a greater percentage of your day captured on film. We are very intentional about telling the full story of your wedding day on film though. So even if only 15% of your total photos are film, they capture the full story from getting ready to when we say goodbye.
What is your experience with shooting weddings on film?
Assess the photographer’s familiarity with the challenges of capturing weddings specifically on film. Wedding photography demands a unique set of skills, and experience in this context is valuable.
We began photographing on film in our personal lives to become very familiar with settings and changing light situations. Our experience in photographing 250+ weddings over the past 7 years, has given us the know-how and skill to seamlessly integrate film into our couples’ elopement days over the past year.
Do you have a preferred film stock, and why?
Understanding the photographer’s preference for a particular film stock provides insight into the visual style they aim to achieve. Different films produce distinct color profiles, contrasts, and grain patterns. Some of the most common film stocks include Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Gold 400, Kodak Portra 800, Fuji Pro 400H, and Kodan Tri-X 400.
Our color film stock of choice is Fujifilm 200 or 400, depending on the weather conditions and lighting for the day. Our editing style has always been based on Fujifilm, so it was an easy choice when choosing which film stock to photograph wedding days with. The colors (especially greens) that Fujifilm produces compliment the Colorado landscape so well. If couples want black and white, we love the Ilford 400 film stock. It has a great contrast, is flexible in many lighting situations, and has a beautiful grain.
How do you handle unexpected situations or challenging lighting conditions with film?
Weddings can be unpredictable, and the ability to adapt to various scenarios is crucial. Inquire about the photographer’s strategies for managing unexpected challenges, such as sudden changes in lighting or weather.
We choose a film speed that is flexible, typically 200 or 400. This allows us to photograph in varying and changing lighting situations instead of going with a 100 or 800 film speed that has a lot less flexibility. We also choose film stocks that handle light changes well to avoid over/underexposure. When the situation calls, we ofter will shoot in aperture priority mode so the camera can quickly adjust settings according to the lighting, while we don’t have to stress about missing a moment of your wedding day.
What is your process for handling and storing exposed film during the wedding?
Proper care of exposed film is essential to maintaining image quality. Ensure that the photographer has a secure and reliable process for handling and storing film throughout the day.
Before elopement days, all film is stored in a refrigerator for preservation. We keep all of our film (exposed or not) on us at all times and avoid leaving it in hot cars or places where it could be lost. We don’t have to worry as much about humidity in Colorado but do make sure to keep rolls of film in a safe, air-tight canister. When we get home from your elopement day, we immediately put all rolls of film back in the refrigerator to keep it safe until it’s sent off for development.
Can you provide examples of complete wedding galleries shot on film?
Reviewing complete galleries allows you to assess the photographer’s consistency and storytelling ability. It also provides a comprehensive view of how film complements different moments and lighting conditions throughout an entire wedding day.
How do you approach posing and directing couples during film photography?
Film photography often requires a more intentional and thoughtful approach to posing. Inquire about the photographer’s techniques for capturing authentic moments while maintaining the aesthetic qualities of film.
Taking photos can be awkward – we get it! That’s why we keep your focus on each other, giving you direction so you know what to do, but leaving plenty of space to soak up the moment. We give you things to do together that create genuine smiles, laughs, and intimacy. We don’t change our approach for film. We love film’s ability to capture movement and true emotions genuinely, so we take advantage of that and let the timelessness of film tell your story.
What is your timeline for delivering the final images after the wedding?
Film development and scanning takes time, so it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the photographer’s timeline for delivering the final images. This information helps manage expectations and plan for any post-wedding activities involving the photos.
We deliver your film photos alongside your digital photos in a hybrid gallery that tells the story of your day. When we added film into our elopement packages, it didn’t change delivery time one bit – only the excitement from the nostalgia film brings. All elopement galleries are delivered within eight weeks.
What is included in your wedding photography package, and are there additional costs associated with film processing?
Clarify the details of the photographer’s packages, ensuring transparency about any additional costs related to film processing, prints, or other film-specific services.
All of our film elopement photography packages include hybrid documentation of your day and one to two rolls of film depending on the length. This includes all processing, scanning and delivery of high-resolution film files. We also have a full planning service included to help our couples find the perfect place to elope in Colorado, a team of vendors to support their vision, and we even play your tour guide and confidant on your wedding day.
Kayla & Lauren
“We chose film because we loved the aesthetic and feel it gave some of the pictures we had seen on social media. Once we saw our own film pictures, we were even more OBSESSED!! The film photos captured our day so beautifully and with an unmatched authenticity. They gave a different mood and nostalgia that we couldn’t beat!”
Real Couples Who Had Their Elopement Captured on Film
Check out a few of our favorite film and digital hybrid galleries
Eva & Juliano
Kylee & Eric
Keylan & Kris
So, Is Film Really Worth The Hype?
The allure of film photography lies in its ability to evoke nostalgia and capture moments in a way that digital can’t replicate. Your elopement day is a unique and intimate experience, and film photography provides a tangible, emotional connection to those cherished memories. In the ever-advancing world of technology, film photography stands out as an art form that captures the realness of your wedding day, grain and all. The tangible, nostalgic, and timeless qualities of film make it a worthwhile investment for couples seeking truly unique and meaningful visual narratives.
We Are Film Elopement Photographers Based in Colorado
As film elopement photographers based in Colorado, we understand the allure of capturing your wedding day on film. The medium format, fine art prints, and the nostalgic charm of film contribute to a visual story that you can’t get anywhere else. Choosing film photography for your elopement is not just about capturing moments; it’s about preserving the emotions, the atmosphere, and the uncommon way that you choose to get married. We’re here for you if you’re ready to get started.