Oftentimes when I tell people I shoot film, they don’t quite understand what I mean at first. Many people assume it means I shoot video. But what I’m actually talking about is old school film – yes negatives, lab scans, and all. Many people are surprised when they find out why I would choose such an archaic method to run my business. Surely modern technology is much more evolved than film was, and therefore creates better images. However, that’s simply not the case. It’s many peoples’ belief (including mine) that film photography was already perfect, and that digital cannot quite replicate the beauty of film – no matter how advanced the technology. For those of you who crave an explanation and the exact reasons why I say this, I hope this helps clarify…
1. FILM GIVES PHOTOS A ROMANTIC DREAMY QUALITY
Probably the number one reason people love film is the quality and the aesthetic it brings to the images. There is a soft, creamy, dreamy goodness about it that’s often hard to describe. Without getting too technical, the romantic quality is largely due to a touch of grain as well as a film camera’s ability to capture greater depth of field giving you those dreamy blurry backgrounds while keeping the subject clean and sharp. This soft, romantic aesthetic is something that digital cameras just haven’t quite been able to master, no matter how hard they try.
2. EACH PHOTO IS MUCH MORE INTENTIONAL
This is perhaps my biggest reason for loving film… When you shoot with a digital camera, you have the tendency to “click click click“, taking as many photos as possibly knowing that you can sort through them all later and select the very best ones. However each “click” of a film camera costs the photographer about $0.50. There’s also the fact that you can’t look at the back of your camera to see how an image turned out right away. So each time you press that shutter, you’re waiting for the perfect shot… You’re slowing down and being intentional about every single photo you take. You’re living in that moment with your subject and capturing the raw emotion. Before you know it, you find yourself immersed in the significance of the memories you’re capturing, rather than “click click clicking” away trying to capture a moment you’re not truly a present for. Film changes everything about how you shoot.
3. FILM IS A BOSS AT CAPTURING ALL THE DETAILS
One of the biggest advantages to film is its ability to handle bright light. In fact, it not only handles light well, it THRIVES with it. All of those details in the highlights often get lost in a digital photo. But not on film. Film captures bright sunny backgrounds or details in a white dress so well. Sunlight is welcome with open arms when shooting film, because it looks so soft and beautiful in the final product. However digital photographers are careful to avoid sunny conditions because the bright light looks harsh in photos, and the highlights are easily “blown-out” meaning they’ve lost all detail.
4. IT ALLOWS TIME TO SAVOR YOUR WEDDING DAY WHILE WAITING FOR THE FILM SCANS
Yes, it’s takes a little bit longer to get your film scans back than digital photos. There’s no “next day sneak peeks” with film images. However, I’ve found that this is yet another reason why I love film. Because it allows time for the anticipation to build. And it makes it that much more exciting when you finally receive those gorgeous film photos. I also believe that this time allows you as newlyweds to let the memories of your wedding day fully sink in. It allows you to savor the brand new feeling of being husband and wife before getting bombarded with 1,000 digital photos and obsessing over picking the best ones to post on social media. I believe in being present for all of life’s beautiful moments, and being newlyweds is definitely a moment you should be present for.
5. YOUR FILM PHOTOS ARE SAFER THAN DIGITAL IN TERMS OF IMAGE LOSS
Technology – as great as it is – can fail. Memory cards and hard drives can corrupt or get damaged and images can get deleted by accident. However film, if shot correctly, cannot “fail”. The negatives are something tangible that can be stored, preserved, and scanned again 100 years from now if need be. Technology is changing every day, and who knows where it will be in 100 years. Heck, I bet you don’t even know where some of your digital photos are from 10 years ago.
6. FILM CREATES THE MOST TRUE-TO-LIFE IMAGES
Film naturally blends color, light, and grain to create the most true-to-life representation of what your eye was seeing at that moments. A film photo is literally a snapshot of a scene burned into film. A digital photo is a grid of pixels trying to digitally render and recreate the image that we saw in real life. The result isn’t quite as natural, or true-to-life. This can best be seen in the way film captures the greens in the grass and trees, the blues in the sky, and the skin tones of the subject.
7. FILM TRANSCENDS EDITING TRENDS – IT’S CLASSIC, TIMELESS, AND BEAUTIFUL
Film oftentimes requires very little post-editing. It does such a wonderful job of creating beautiful, dreamy photos right from the start, that filters and presets and tweaks simply aren’t needed. This is quite unlike digital. Digital usually requires a good amount of post-editing depending on the shooting conditions. And there are actually editing trends that come and go just like fashion. But film is timeless and beautiful just the way it is. When you look at your photos in 50 years or more, wouldn’t you want to think “Wow that’s so beautiful” rather than “Wow that’s so 2020!”?
8. FILM PHOTOGRAPHY REQUIRES SKILL AND KNOWLEDGE
It’s not hard to pick up a digital camera, and take a decent photograph. Lots of people can do it. Cell phones take great photos these days which pretty much anyone can operate. And even DSLRs have an automatic mode that can take a decent photograph. Now, I’m not saying that digital photography doesn’t require talent to produce beautiful images – it absolutely does. (If you want quality digital photos, please don’t trust an armature with your life’s memories). But I am saying that film photography requires skill and knowledge of the art of photography. You have to know what you’re doing, know how light affects your images, know your camera in and out, and you have to practice for quite a while before becoming any sort of expert.
9. A HYBRID PHOTOGRAPHER ALSO USES DIGITAL WHEN IT MAKES MORE SENSE
As much as I LOVE film, this wouldn’t be a very informative piece if I didn’t mention the main downside of film. We talked about light earlier and how well it handles large amounts of light – capturing all those details so beautifully. However the downside is it also requires large amounts of light. Film unfortunately doesn’t behave well in low-light situations. The shadows turn out “muddy” and with very little detail. That is why a good film photographer also shoots digital when needed – therefore called a Hybrid Photographer. They recognize when digital makes more sense and will do a better job of capturing the moment – like in a dimly-lit ceremony or at a reception.
10. FILM IS A FORM OF ART AND A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
At the end of the day, what I love most about film is that it is a unique experience – both for the photographer and for the one being photographed. There’s nothing like hearing the shutter click on a film camera and knowing that moment was just imprinted on film forever… It is a lost art that’s beautiful and perfect in every way. Something special that you can be a part of, that others don’t even think to explore. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from film photographer Julie Paisley:
“A film photo is more like a painting than a perfectly aligned grid of pixels.”