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Film Wedding Photographer – Why I Began Shooting Film | Magdalena Studios

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What motivates me as a film wedding photographer isn’t just the act of capturing images. There’s more to it than that. I feel attached to the moments that I’m capturing, from the unique nature of everyone’s personalities to the real-life stories behind them. Genuine and authentic moments that express the real love and closeness of the couples I meet are what I look for in my work. With a little aesthetic intuition of my own, I strive to capture the images that express your story and which can be enjoyed for years to come. To that end, working with real film has helped me and my creative process like nothing else ever could. 

In today’s modern world of digital media, there are many people who regard film as an antiquated or dead art form. While it’s true that digital photography has drastically improved, there are still many photographers in the industry who prefer to use film. In fact, most of the top wedding photographers in the world shoot film and it’s their preferred medium. There’s just something timeless and beautiful about a film image that transcends the sophistication of digital trends and technology. Even after 10 or 20 years, there are film prints that look just as gorgeous as the various digital images they stand next to. Not only do they stand out for their uniqueness, but they actually provide a texture that’s unreplicable.

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Shooting on film all starts with choosing the film stock. Many film wedding photographers love Fuji400, but I personally love the look of Portra400 and Portra800 because of it’s color and contrast. I stock up on film every couple of months, which is an added cost for our studio. Film costs around $7 a roll, and on each roll of film you can take 12 photos. After we shoot each roll of film, we have to stop, take out the film, wrap it up carefully and sometimes mark notes on it, and then roll a new film in and pop it into the back of the camera. With shooting film, we also carry a light meter so we can read how much light there is — something that is so different from shooting digital and being able to meter for light on the camera and check the back of the display! After we shoot film, we send it out to a lab to get processed. There are all different kinds of labs around the country that are all different and wonderful. We chose a lab that’s based in Utah! At the lab, we have a designated technician who we work with for each order. We’re able to choose between two scanners, the Noritsu and Frontier, which affect the color and contrast of the final image. My lab tech, Chloe, develops and scans the film based on my preferences and then sends it back to me via email as a high resolution jpeg. The entire process takes about two weeks between shipping and getting back to our inbox. We then touch the scans up, but we rarely have to make many adjustments! It’s incredible how beautiful and nostalgic film is.

While I still shoot digital at weddings and sessions, I love to shoot on my medium format Contaxt645 camera with a Zeiss 85mm lens. (See the photo below of my Contax 645).

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I am completely and utterly entranced and attracted to film. It’s worth the added expenses (the costs have increased our studio expenses dramatically), the time investment, and the hassle of additional steps in our work flow.

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And here’s why.

The benefit of film photography is mostly in the aesthetic. It has a romantic, softer, somewhat airier feel, than digital photography. It has a much more dynamic range of colors with rich and beautiful textures, and lots of depth and color. Some say they like film because it has more of an organic and nostalgic look. Highlights and bright whites from things like the lace in wedding dresses won’t go unnoticed on film, thanks to its superior latitude with exposure. Film is more flattering on skin tones — it’s sounds crazy, but you don’t need all those high resolution pixels. There’s also this depth to film photos that simply can’t be recreated digitally. It has an almost organic quality to it, perfect for capturing real human moments with an intimacy to match the most cherishable occasions. 

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What’s also really important to us is that the look of film transcends the editing trends that come and go every 3-5 years in the digital wedding photography world. It’s classic. Timeless. Beautiful. We look at film images from 10 years ago (or more!) and still think they are gorgeous. Film has always stood the test of time. I shoot film because I truly believe it is a superior, heirloom-quality product. I feel so confident, more so now than ever, that our couples will look back on their wedding images 5-10 years from now and still find them timeless and beautiful.

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I could go on about all the reasons I love working with film, but one of the most important things about film photography is that it’s a time-intensive process. It requires an amount of planning around timelines, from loading film, manually focusing, and choosing which moments to capture. Rather than snapping a multitude of quick shots, we’re forced to take it slow and take the shots that matter. This is even truer when you consider the expense each photo entails. Purchasing film and getting it developed costs significantly more than using digital photography, therefore it’s important to make every shot count. There’s no picking through the best photos out of an assortment after it’s over. We’re looking for the best photos in the moment, while it’s happening, within the context of your celebration. 

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If it wasn’t obvious by now, I absolutely adore everything about photographing with real film. The expense and time it takes to make it work are part of what makes the medium so wonderful to work with. There aren’t many things I find more fulfilling than capturing the vibe and essence of someone’s love story on camera. Finding the slightest tender moments and interactions between couples that highlight the emotional impact of the event is something I can’t help but feel a part of. Anything from a glance to a gesture has the potential to express a magnitude of feelings for the camera to see. I want those moments to be remembered and cherished for years to come once my work is finished, which is why I don’t take a second of my work for granted.

Even when I’m not shooting film, all of our post-processing and editing is designed to emulate film colors and styles, so that our photos stay timeless and never go out of style — just like film. There are many ways to tell a story but no two stories are ever the same. The look of film is how I like to tell mine and if you’re someone who values genuinely impactful moments, I’d love to help tell yours!

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“How we define art has, and will always, vastly and rapidly change. However, the act of creating art has always been the same – it’s just the artist who differs.”

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