Film vs. Digital Wedding Photography: What’s Best For You?

Film vs. Digital Wedding Photography: What’s Best For You?

If you’ve planned out the perfect wedding day, you’re going to want to get some visual mementos of the occasion to look back on in the years to come and share with loved ones. There are so many avenues that you can go down for recording your beautiful and joyous big day, from photo booths to videographers to disposable cameras and more.

This being said, you’re going to want to bring in some professionals to really get the most out of your big day, but not all photographers are created equal. Depending on the look and vibe you’re after it might be that you want to go with a photographer that specialises in film photography. Although it’s not as common as digital photography, mainly for cost and convenience reasons, it’s growing in popularity thanks to the unique quality of the shots.
There are so many things to consider when choosing the style of your shots and ultimately the equipment and photographer that’s going to give you the outcome you desire. So, let’s dive in and find out more about whether film or digital photography is going to be best for your wedding day.

Vintage inspired

One of the most popular reasons for opting for a film photographer for your gorgeous wedding is if you’re having a vintage or era-specific theme. This way the photography and shots align with the decor and give the overall look that you’re wanting to portray.

Especially if you’re looking to get more shots in black and white, film cameras are going to give you the contrast and depth that you’re looking for, truly giving you that old-world feel. It also has the added benefit of your photographer not looking anachronistic at the end with a big modern camera.

It’s worth noting that if you want a lot of action shots of you swirling around the floor for a 1950s or 1960s inspired wedding, a film camera might not be the best option for you as it takes longer to set up the shots and they’re not as adept at catching action. If this is the case, consider hiring a digital photographer who can offer you more options.

Outdoor vs indoors

When it comes to photography of any sort, the main concern is always the level of light available. Wedding photography is no different. If you’re having your wedding photo shoot outside in the bright, natural light then either a film or digital camera are great options. Any decent photographer should be able to capture the beauty and vision that you’re looking for in these kinds of conditions.

If you’re opting to have your shoot inside where the light levels are lower, or wish to have shots on the dance floor, this is where a film camera may struggle. Digital cameras have all the tools to deal with the darker shots and the photographer can always fix a lot of light issues in post production. There is limited editing that you can do with a film camera, so you want to make sure the set up is as optimal as possible.

Shot style

Another thing to consider when it comes to choosing between film and digital photography for your wedding is the shot style that you wish to have. As we’ve mentioned, action shots are super film-friendly so if this kind of fun and fast-paced look is what you’re after, you’re probably best sticking with digital.

You’ll also probably get fewer photos overall with a film photographer, but they’ll be more deliberately shot, giving you more quality. This is because film is pretty expensive, so they won’t point and shoot their way through the night as someone with a digital camera might.

If you’re looking for shots that are more focused, romantic and static, then a film camera is a great option for capturing the depth as well as the more natural colouring. Film photography often looks a lot more natural and candid, which offers a level of authenticity to your wedding photography.

Why not both

The big question is why do we have to choose at all? If you’re planning on having your main wedding photos outside but still want to get some cool, fun shots on the dance floor, why not use a photographer who can switch between the two camera styles. This way you can have the best of both worlds.

You can also put disposable cameras around your wedding reception tables and give your guests the opportunity to take their own fun photos of the night, giving you multiple different perspectives of the evening.

This of course all depends on your budget, but there are plenty of wedding photographers who can work with both film and digital cameras so have a look at their portfolios and see what kind of deal you can come to. It’s always best to get both sides so you have the most choice possible!

Final tips

Let’s round up this article with a final few tips to help you decide between film and digital wedding photography.

  • Think about your budget and value for money. The bottom line is that film photography is more expensive for fewer shots. The costs involved in buying film, printing and set up means that it’s always going to be more, so unless you really want this vibe for your wedding photography, consider if it’s worth it for your wedding.
  • A fundamental flaw in digital photography is that it’s really hard to capture the colour white in an authentic way, and for many, this is the main colour of weddings. Especially if you’re having a minimalist colour scheme or have a lot of bright white notes, you’re probably going to want to consider using a film camera.
  • Think about how quickly you want the shots back. On a film camera, you can’t see the photos after they’re taken and it may take a few weeks to process, edit and rescan compared to the immediate upload and editing process of digital.

Film vs. Digital Wedding Photography

Choosing between digital and film for your wedding photography is an important choice. Your wedding photos are the one aspect (aside from your marriage!) that you want to last forever and they should reflect your aesthetic and style. Even though this doesn’t exactly fit this event design and styling category here on Burnett’s Boards– it’s too significant not to talk about.

There are two points that should be made clear right off the bat and the first is that the quality of your wedding photos depends upon on the skill of your photographer, not the medium used. The second point is that a common misconception with film photography is that you don’t get digital versions – not true. You do!

Before we get started, let’s see if you can tell the difference – look at each of these images from the lovely and talented Laura Gordon and see if you can tell which is shot on film and which was taken using a digital camera:

film vs. digital wedding photography

How did you do? The ones on the left are filmed, and the ones on the right are digital.

Let’s break them down a bit to help you decide which is best for your wedding.

Cost & Amount of Photos: Though this will vary from photographer to photographer, having your wedding shot on film is usually more expensive. Between buying the actual film and adding in lab processing it comes out to about $3 a picture. Because of this film photographers are often more deliberate with their shots and take fewer of them. However, this also means that while you may have fewer pictures from your wedding, more of them are going to be keepers because more time and thought was put into each one. Digital wedding photography is often times cheaper and you will end up with more shots. However, since it’s so easy and inexpensive to snap multiple pictures of the same thing, you’ll have more ‘throw-aways’ than with film photography. This can also a good thing though because if your flower girl had her eyes closed in a shot with film you’re stuck with it, but with digital you can instantly check to see how the image looks and retake if needed.

Visual Differences: Film photography brings out a more natural skin tone, does better with black & white, and is more forgiving. Usually there is less editing involved with film photos once they have been processed, scanned, and sent back to the photographer, however some of the image quality is lost during scanning. Digital shots are more prone to overexposure and it can be difficult to capture whites (ahem – your wedding dress!) therefore once your photographer is shooting your wedding, they’ll be at their computer editing those images for a lot longer than with film. However, in low light situations (like on the dance floor) digital outperforms film.

Action Shots: Let’s say you are getting your bridal portraits taken and the darling flower girl and ring bearer come running past holding hands and giggling. It’s the cutest thing ever  – definitely photo worthy. If your photographer is shooting film this shot probably won’t happen because they would have to change the film roll they are using whereas a digital photographer can quickly change the settings on their camera and capture the cuteness.

Wait time: This will depend solely on your photographer so be sure to ask for an estimate! With film there is a definite couple of weeks-long wait period before the photographer can even see the images. After that, some edits on the scans might be made. With a digital photographer they can get started with editing right after your wedding, but it all depends on how many adjustments are needed. If a lot of editing is necessary, it will take longer.

film and digital photography comparison

In the end, both digital and film photography is gorgeous. It all boils down to your personal preference and the skill level and style of your photographer. Can’t decide which you prefer? A lot of photographers will shoot both.

I’d like to give a big Mahalo to Laura Gordon for not only allowing us to use her film and digital images, but also for helping me out with the pros and cons list!

Brides to be: which way are you thinking of going? And photographers – please add any thoughts on this – we’d love to hear from you!

Credits: Images Laura Gordon