Film Wedding Photography

Film Wedding Photography

If you’re one of those people who like film wedding photography because of rich colors and a timeless look, look though the following reasons to choose a film wedding photographer for your event.

5 Famous Wedding Film Photographers

More and more shooters are attracted by the charm of film wedding photography and experiment with it looking for new ideas and inspiration.

1. Jose Villa: Website | Instagram

Location: Santa Barbara, CA
film wedding photography Jose Villa Jose Villa is the founder of Fine Art style in wedding photography. In 2011, he published his book "Fine art weddings photography. How to capture images with style for the modern bride?". He is considered to be 1 of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world according to Photo District News (PDN). A lot of popular magazines around the world such as Pacific Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides and Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, published his fine art wedding photography.
Jose Villa’s film wedding photography style:
  • the light from the window
  • outside shadow
  • "skylight" sunset light when the sun just disappeared over the horizon
  • "backlight" – sunshine is always behind the model and he shoots against the sun
film wedding photography Jose Villa
film wedding photography Jose Villa
Photo by Jose Villa

Jose Villa exposes to the shadows and always checks that there is a beautiful even light around the subject. He doesn’t like strong contrast, therefore, always soften shadows with reflector (for example, when shooting near the window). The light should be constant to emphasize a beautiful natural skin color.

Jose Villa most often shoots with aperture 2.0 against the sun. If the light in the room or at the party is bad (green/yellow shades), he uses a video light. When shooting a banquet with insufficient light, he uses a flash. You can find backstage shots on his Instagram, where you can see that sometimes he uses a tripod when doing film wedding photography indoors.

It may seem that Jose Villa always shoots weddings with the perfect light, but in fact, he just makes sure that his clients know the features and nuances of shooting on film and there are all necessary conditions to get beautiful photos.

2. Elizabeth Messina: Website | Instagram

Location: New York, NY
film wedding photography Elizabeth Messina Elizabeth is one of the top 10 wedding photographers by Pop Photo and American PHOTO, and one of the 25 trendsetters by Modern Bride. Now her photos appear in such magazines as Us Weekly, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, and Professional Photographer, and she has been featured in Rangefinder and Professional Photographer.
Her blog was awarded Best Wedding Photography Blog by the Knot. Her works are delicate, exquisite, and, of course, they are filled with love, which Elizabeth considers to be her mission in the world.
film wedding photography Elizabeth Messina
film wedding photography Elizabeth Messina
Photo by Elizabeth Messina

Messina believes that understanding subjects, location, shooting with natural light, and exposing are the key elements of success. Other secrets of her wedding shooting technique are working on manual and exposing for the darkest part of the image. Despite many controversial thoughts related to this technique, it works excellent for Elizabeth Messina.

3. KT Merry: Website | Instagram

Location: destination photographer
film wedding photography KT Merry American photographer, who publishes her work under the nickname KT Merry, is well-known across the globe. She is on the list of the best wedding photographers according to Harper's Bazaar. The main principle of her work is setting a wedding day timeline and to make sure all pictures will be taken in good lighting.
KT Merry is paying huge attention to the preferences of her clients. She works with the wedding planner or designer to prepare a specific photo timeline for everyone. Such responsible work ensures future success.
film wedding photography KT Merry
film wedding photography KT Merry
Photo by KT Merry

KT Merry`s main rule of shooting a wedding is arriving a day in advance at the location. She carefully explores all the corners, lightning and looks for the best angles. She mainly uses medium format film for her photos, paying huge attention to shapes, textures, and colors. Her task is to make a piece of art during the celebration, capturing sincere emotions and unforgettable moments.

4. Erich McVey: Website | Instagram

Location: destination photographer
film wedding photography Erich McVey Erich is considered to be “one of the best wedding photographers in the world” by Harper’s Bazaar and Martha Stewart Weddings. He is also twice “film photographer of the year” by Belle Lumiere Magazine.
In his opinion, not a location or decor make the photo perfect, but the angle, the colors, where you shift the focus, exposure, light, mood, and content of the picture.
Erich`s works have become irrefutable classic wedding photography. He knows exactly how to film a wedding since his pictures are atmospheric, without unnecessary tinsel and busting in detail.
film wedding photography Erich McVey
film wedding photography Erich McVey
Photo by Erich McVey

Soft, light, airier frames are created as a result of the overexposure of the film. Then the colors look more pastel, and the light seems to illuminate the picture from the inside. This reduces the contrast.

5. Caroline Tran: Website | Instagram

Location: Los Angeles, CA
film wedding photography Caroline Tran Caroline Tran is very popular American wedding photographer. She is shooting film photography not only in different cities but in different states.
She is trying to render perfectly the wedding uniqueness, style, and design. Caroline has tried photography in college as an art minor but after earning her Master`s degree in Education and working as a high school physics teacher, she started shooting full time.
film wedding photography Caroline Tran
film wedding photography Caroline Tran
Photo by Caroline Tran

Her main principle of film wedding photography is to capture the creativity and uniqueness of your celebration. Another key point is keeping consistency. She always makes strong connections with her clients in order to create images that tell their stories in detail.

Why Choose Film Wedding Photography Over Digital?

Every fan of analog photography will provide his/her reason why he/she uses a film. Many shooters say that it allows you to get pictures with high detailing and good color rendering.

Defocus, visible scratches in the photographs, grain — all these peculiarities are associated with film wedding photography. Such "imperfections" often look great, original and atmospheric. But that's still not all the benefits to consider.

Rich Colors

film wedding photography colors

The film was originally developed to reproduce the way the human eye perceives a particular color. That is why we are so pleased with these matte, pastel colors typical for a film.

The frame is more alive, the colors are bright and clean with a pleasant "grain". All post-processing begins during the shooting that considerably shortens the time of photo editing.

High-Quality of Printed Pictures

film wedding photography quality

The dynamic range of film color rendering is higher than that of the digital matrix, which provides a more even and beautiful balance of light and color. That's why the skin on film images is so smooth.

The film is also more tolerant of overexposure and different lighting conditions, so to get overexposure with a film is almost impossible. There is a problem when the wedding dress at noon turns into a white spot in the photo but the film will allow you to see even the folds of the dress.

Getting and Handling Over the Images Is Fast

communication for film wedding photography

Since we take fewer shoots on film, the image post-processing time considerably decreases. So, after a wedding film photographer receives thousands of raw images, he/she needs to choose the best ones and make a big Photoshop edit.

After processing film photos, you get unique frames, which need only light color correction. This is convenient and pleasant not only for a photographer but also for the newly wedded couple, as they get their album faster.

It Motivates You to Improve

film wedding photography peculiarities

Analog photography makes shooters improve little more than digital shooting. Strictly measured number of shoots on the film roll is the first and simplest motivator. You can't erase bad photo and reshoot again: you can only take one more picture.

But it`s possible that moment will be missed: light, shadow, shutter speed, aperture - all these features play a greater role in analog photography than in digital. You can`t also change the ISO in the film camera since the sensitivity is determined by the film itself that you place in the camera.

It Is Quite Challengeable to Choose a Film

film wedding photography challenges

Those who are not familiar with a film, but know peculiarities of a digital photo, need to note that even if a digital camera allows you to shoot a wedding in fully manual mode and you have mastered this mode perfectly, you still find a lot of new to learn while working with a film.

Different grain and sensitivity of a film to a different spectrum of light, different results depending on the developer and the method of development, stronger influence of the lens optics on the final frame, all these peculiarities open up a world with no fewer possibilities than Photoshop and any other graphic editors.

Invest Once

film wedding photography investments View Leica Camera

The modern consumption culture and constant replacement of things affect the technical characteristics of modern digital cameras. They are not designed for long service as new models are constantly changing each other.

Film photography is totally different. The best cameras were created before the digital era. They were designed to serve people for a very long time. The average film camera outlives its owner. For example, Leica M6 0.85 or Nikon FM shutter resource is 100,000 frames. You won`t be able to shoot that much, even if you want to.

Film Wedding Photography Tips

Mastering the art of film wedding photography is not easy, but with a couple of expert tips, you will have a good start.

1. Choose a Film Type

film wedding photography format options

Before you start choosing a camera, you need to decide which film format you will work with, as the choice of camera depends on it. It is the frame format that determines the quality of the image, and, importantly, the style of shooting. You should mind the point, which no one in digital photography thinks about – the prime cost of the frame.

Leaving aside large format film materials (9×12 and bigger), you will see that, in fact, there are three types of film: 135mm, 35mm and 120 mm. It is better to start practicing wedding shooting on film, using the first type, which is the most common film format and is used by both professionals and amateur photographers. It combines the desirable quality, compactness, efficiency, the minimum cost of the final frame and a large number of frames on one roll.

2. Get Your Film Roll

film wedding photography film option View Film Prices

Once you’ve decided on the format, you need to choose a suitable film type among the variety of available options. Companies like Fuji, Ilford, Kodak and Agfa offer a huge diversity of films that can be used for wedding shooting. Each has different capabilities depending on the sensitivity, purpose and contrast.

Before making a choice, check out the description on the web site of the film manufacturer in order to understand which one suits your needs best. Also, the best film photographers recommend not using the cheapest film.

If you have a good camera, and you want to take great shots, then you should use a professional-quality film. A fairly universal and popular option is Kodak Color Plus 200 135/36, characterized by pleasant unsaturated warm tones and low price.

3. Choose a Film Camera

If you got interested in wedding film photography, you inevitably need to choose a decent film camera. Just like in the world of digital photography, there are different types of cameras for different purposes. The most popular cameras are 35mm.

They range from automatic Point and Shoot cameras and simple (but professional) rangefinder devices to SLR cameras with fully manual (or fully automated) control.

With such a variety of options, it is important not to delve too deeply into studying specifications and reading reviews, postponing the purchasing for months and years ahead. I would advise you to choose one of the classic versions of budget cameras, such as Olympus Mju-II.

4. Consider a Test-Drive of the Camera

film wedding photography test-drive

This is a very important step, which practically every novice film photographer forgets about. Because of this, you may get disappointed in the film without even trying it. To avoid this, be sure to check how your camera works before you start capturing your creative ideas using it.

You can check the positive result of the test survey either by looking at the scans, or by laying out the negative on the luminous viewing table (available in each specialized shop-laboratory) and examining it carefully through a magnifying glass. An iPhone or another smartphone with color inversion can be a very useful tool - just turn it on and view the negatives through the phone in macro mode.

5. Get Patient

film wedding photography education

One of the main differences between digital shooting and film photography is that in the second case you cannot evaluate your shots while working. You can no longer use a trial and error approach.

When you shoot on film, you need to spend a little more time to make sure that you adjust the exposure correctly, depending on the available light. You will need to check whether you have built the composition exactly the way you want it, and that you will be happy with the picture you are going to make.

That’s why, you need to learn everything about your camera before shooting film photography. Study the instructions and the settings attentively.

6. Store the Shots Right

You must be very mindful about the way you store your film and shots. Because of its structure, a film can’t last forever. Actually, pro-level films usually expire faster. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you should completely stop using film. But get ready that colors will be changed.

The higher the ISO, the more prominent the changes. After a long time, the film won’t be sensitive to light. Slide-films lose their look in slightly a different way than regular color films. B&W doesn’t undergo so dramatic shifts as color films. Storing films in a cold place postpones their end date.

7. Develop the Images or Team Up with Experts

film wedding photography development

Once you’ve done shooting wedding in film, you need to be patient until you can see the result. For me, this is part of the fun. When you decide to develop a film, make sure you do it right. If you are not familiar with the development process, or you do not have the resources for this, take it to the laboratory so that it can be developed for you.

Remember that if you trust someone to develop your films, it must be a checked place, where your film will be processed carefully, instead of a local shop that charges a couple of dollars for this procedure. If possible, try to learn how to develop films yourself. This is a very important part of film photography, and as a photographer, you will have a better level of control over the result.

8. Start with Low- or Middle-Budget Gear

If you have just started your career of a film wedding photographer, you can be overwhelmed with the abundance of film types. Most often shooters use several types of film: Kodak Portra for color photos and Ilford HP5 or Kodak Tri-X for black and white. They are wide-spread, but rather expensive. Still, sometimes the result has nothing to do with expectations and the problem is not in the film, but in lack of experience.

To realize all the capabilities of an expensive, good film, you need to develop a base, find out how various external factors influence the result - lens type, light quality, even film development. Therefore, if you have recently started working with the film, it makes no sense to immediately buy expensive type. With more budget-friendly options, for example, Afga 200 color film, the result will be no worse, perhaps even more interesting, due to artistic “flaws”.

9. Use Light Meter

film photography light meter Check Light Meter Prices

Lack of a light meter reading is, probably, the biggest problem for film photographers. Actually, some cameras have them integrated, while the majority of devices won’t “tell” you if there is enough light or the shot will be too dark. In such cases, you need to take care of purchasing an external light meter, such as handheld Leaton Digital Luxmeter.

Light meters perform two primary functions. They can measure the amount of light reflected from an object or show how much light hits it. In other words, a light meter evaluates the light between the object and the camera. It works in the same way with flash lighting in film.

10. Pick the Right Scanner

film photography scanner View Scanner Prices

Film wedding photography is cool until you think of sharing the photos online. Is it possible to do it? How? Well, you need to scan the negatives. Choosing a proper film scanner primarily depends on what you are going to do with the negatives. If you want to post pictures on social networks, a flatbed scanner, for example, Epson V800 will suit perfectly.

Such models are very user-friendly and come with the scanning software. Together with a scanner, you will also get special holders for film negatives. In fact, these scanners will also turn out effective even if you want to scan prints. This makes them a universal option both for film and digital wedding photography specialists.

Freebies for Film Wedding Photo Editing

If you shoot digital but want to get that film effect, download these free photo editing filters to make your wedding photos pop in several clicks.

Cream Film Photoshop Action

best cream film action best cream film action

The most typical color for wedding images is white, but it may look too bright or acquire bluish shadows in pictures.

If you want to fix this defect in a quick way, use this Creamy Wedding PS action. It will also make the photo softer, and colors warmer.

Pale Film Photoshop Action

best pale film action best pale film action

To beautifully accentuate the interplay of the bride’s white dress and groom’s black costume, you may take advantage of this Photoshop action. In combination with Matte action, you will get even a softer result without color flaws.

Tonning Warm Lightroom Preset

best free warm film preset best free warm film preset

If you practice film photography and want to make the lines in your pictures softer, while keeping the frame light, don’t hesitate and use this action. It also boosts contrast, regulates temperature and hues to give images a warmer look.

1960 Lightroom Preset

best free film preset best free film preset

Play a bit with this Lightroom preset if you want to get a split-toning effect in your photos. The shadows and highlights will acquire a beautiful shade.

Bright Film Photoshop Action

best free bright photoshop action best free bright photoshop action

If the white balance in your picture is distorted, you can use this preset to get it right. It primarily affects black areas of the shot, so if there are many white elements in the photo, you’d better choose another filter.

Tata Rossi

Hi there, I'm Tata Rossi - a professional blogger, read more

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