Your Guide to Film Wedding Photography

April 10, 2023

Film wedding photography is an incredible way to get one-of-a-kind, moving images of your celebration. But what exactly does choosing film mean for your wedding day? And what should you look for in a photographer? I put together this guide to answer all your questions.

A groom carries a bridal bouquet as he crosses a street with a bride in film wedding photography.

Tangible Memories with Film Wedding Photography

Film is an unbeatable medium for documenting your wedding day. As a photographer, I feel like there’s something so special about an actual photo being taken as the light passes through the lens and the shutter onto the film. It all feels very tangible and real. 

A groom's father pats his arm as he puts on his tie.
A bride and bridesmaids get makeup done in a large room.
A makeup artist applies makeup to a bride while two children sit on a couch.

Since film wedding photography doesn’t only live on the cloud, it adds an extra layer of protection. If all of our computers crashed tomorrow, we’d lose our digital photos. We’d still have the negatives from film, though. You can’t go to the lab and get another digital image the way you can a printout from a negative.

A bride and groom pose for wedding portraits outside a warehouse.
A bride taps a groom's shoulder for their first look on film wedding photography.
A groom and bride embrace on a Philadelphia street in film wedding photography.

With prints, film gives us something to hold in our hands. It makes the memory even more meaningful. When I get to photograph eight to ten hours of a couple’s life, I end up with a whole box of tangible memories that they can hold and enjoy years from now. 

A blurred image shows a bride and groom outside a Philadelphia wedding venue.
A bride and groom walk down steps of a historic Philadelphia building.
A bride and groom walk down a Philadelphia street to take wedding party portraits.

It’s true that point and shoot film cameras have become more popular. Regardless, film wedding photography isn’t a fad. I think the real reason people are falling back in love with it is that it’s never perfect. It has a nostalgic, intentional quality. That aspect sets it in direct opposition to the instant gratification of our digital age. Film won’t disappear after five years on trend. It has been here for over a century, and it isn’t going anywhere.

A bride and bridesmaids pose for bridal party portraits against a brick wall.
A bride stands in front of flowering vines before her Philadelphia wedding.

Some photographers have already shown that they’ll invest in film wedding photography while it interests their clients then let it go. I, on the other hand, use film in my everyday life instead of my iPhone. I’m learning and photographing even when I’m not at a wedding. This helps me be more present and aware when I’m photographing the moments that matter most to my clients.

Children sit on a sidewalk as adults walk past.
A bride and groom in a red wedding suit pose in a Philadelphia wedding venue.

More Creative Images

There are some differences in your experience when you choose film over (or in addition to) digital photography. When I’m only photographing film, we have a limited number of frames. I get to know my clients a little better because we take time moving between locations and chatting along the way. Since I have to be more intentional about my photos too, I try to get as creative as possible and move beyond stock poses that I could do with a digital camera and unlimited frames.

A blurred photo of a bride and groom posing on a staircase
A groom holds his hands out to a bride on the dance floor.

Getting Your Film Photos

The post-wedding process is a little different with film wedding photography too. After your wedding, your photographer packs up the film and sends it to a lab to be developed and scanned. I use a lab in New York City, but I also started scanning my own film recently. I now just use the lab to develop negatives. It’s an extra step that few film photographers take. I’ve seen a big difference in how much control it gives me over the colors and tones of the photos. 

A bride embraces her father after a father daughter dance at her Philadelphia wedding reception
An older family member holds up a sword for a dance.

Scanning my own film also allows me to capture the border of the film. Sometimes labs will crop images more than necessary. I can see the difference when a photo comes back different than it should based on how I took it. Scanning my own film allows me to deliver the full image that I intended to create while delivering it in colors to match any digital files I send too.

A wedding guest smiles at a film wedding photographer while she dances.
Guests gather on the dance floor for the sword dance.

The Right Film Photographer for Your Wedding Day

Finding the perfect wedding photographer requires you to ask a few additional questions when you’re interested in film. Here are a few things to consider when inquiring about film wedding photography. 

A bride and groom laugh and lean forward during wedding toasts.
Wedding guests sit at a long table eating dinner by candle light.

Learning Film Photography

In generations prior, everyone learned to photograph on film. Now most people learn on digital, meaning not all photographers are equally comfortable with film cameras. My fiancée introduced me to film photography when she loaned me her grandfather’s camera. He’d used it to photograph for his local newspaper. On our first trip to upstate New York, we brought it and used one roll of black and white film to document the weekend. I was hooked! The minute I got home, I bought the same camera and lens. There’s been plenty of trial and error with over 20 film cameras that I’ve purchased since then. With each of those, I had to run a roll of film through it to test whether it works, see how it renders color, and check the focus and light. Needless to say, I know my way around a film camera now!

A bride and groom dance with a small child at their Philadelphia wedding reception.
A wedding guest kicks his feet on the dance floor.

Showing Up prepared

Film wedding photography requires specialized equipment and some quick decision making. I always have 3-5 cameras on me to do different things. Usually, it’s some combination of 35mm, medium format, and digital cameras. 

Guests eat dinner at long reception tables.
Film wedding photography shows a bride and groom cutting a wedding cake in a Philadelphia wedding venue.

When it comes to choosing between film and digital cameras for a particular image, I tend to lead with film. I know I’m always going to love film the most. My digital camera is usually there for backups of film images or if I run out of a roll of film in an important moment. Film also does much better in direct light and digital does better in backlighting. I also prefer film with flash photography over digital.

A bride and groom lift a piece of wedding cake.
A Philadelphia bride dances with her friends.

Film wedding photography really is an amazing way to document your wedding. Would you like me to photograph your wedding on film? Reach out to me here!