Choosing Between Digital or Film Photography for Your Wedding

wedding guest dancing on black and white film
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Good news: you don’t actually have to choose between digital or film photography for your wedding day!

Hybrid coverage allows you to benefit from the best of both worlds, and I’ve created this article to break down how each medium works. That way, you can decide what balance of both is best for you and your wedding photography vision.

The Pros and Cons of Film Photography for Your Wedding Day

Generally, film photography for weddings produces a vintage aesthetic and encourages a slower pace. Keep in mind that many professional film stocks are incredibly high quality, and in good lighting, you may not even be able to see a huge difference between high-resolution film scans and digital files. The appearance of grain, contrast, and classic filmy colors ranges from subtle to stark depending on gear, available light, and chosen film stocks. Overall, film photography for your wedding day adds a nostalgic touch while providing fun, true-to-life coverage and a unique final album.

Pros of film photography:

  • Selectiveness — requires a focus on quality over quantity.
  • Pace — film invites a slower, more relaxed pace to your wedding experience.
  • Style — in my opinion, film is more unique, artistic, and nostalgic in nature. It also has naturally softer tones and punchy, distinct colors.
  • Dynamic range — softer shadows and bright, creamy highlights create vibrant images in otherwise harsh lighting.
  • Variety — coverage involves a wide collection of vintage cameras, which adds variety and one-of-a-kind charm to your final gallery.

Cons of film photography:

  • Cost — film is more expensive per shot than digital, so coverage must be intentional.
  • Risk — film requires more time and skill, so even with hybrid coverage there will be certain moments only on film.
  • Low lighting — there are a few wedding situations where digital may be favorable to film, but with the right equipment and knowledge, film can be shot in almost any setting and still produce great results.

Want to see more film photography? Check out my portfolio!

The Pros and Cons of Digital Photography for Your Wedding Day

Digital photography has become so advanced it can handle virtually any lighting situation. It can switch between drastically different lighting with just a few adjustments, and you can even preview what an exposure will look like before hitting the shutter release. Most mistakes can also be fixed in post-production, which provides more room for error while shooting. This speed and flexible nature of digital is what has made it a standard for fast-paced weddings in the first place.

Pros of digital photography:

  • Speed and quantity — film photography is definitely a "quality over quantity" deal, so digital can be essential for moments requiring a high volume of shots.
  • Peace of mind — digital files are easily reviewed, replicated, and backed up, while film exists only on the negatives until developed and scanned.
  • Fast and adaptive — digital is fast-moving and great for portions of a wedding day with a similar tempo; such as ceremonies, family portraits, and jam-packed dance floors.
  • Post-processing — larger files and editing technology allow digital photography to be color-corrected and altered in ways film often cannot 

Cons of digital photography:

  • Pace and artistic style — overall, the cons of digital mostly have to do with a preference for the pros associated with film. Digital provides a much faster-moving pace for the flow of a wedding but lacks the unique style, grain, and dynamic tones that come with film.
  • Turnaround time — a gallery heavy with digital coverage may take longer to receive due to extended editing and retouching times. Film scans come back from the lab nearly perfect, so all it takes is a couple of tweaks and they're ready to go.

The Pros and Cons of Super 8 Film vs. Modern Digital Videography for Your Wedding Day

There is a huge difference between Super 8 wedding films and modern digital videography. The choice essentially comes down to this: 

Do you love the look and feel of a very nostalgic, home video-style wedding film?

Or do you want your wedding film to feel like a glossy, 4k Hollywood-style movie trailer? 

There are far more risks with shooting Super 8, and these are important to discuss on a consult call.

Pros of Super 8 film videography:

  • Style — Super 8 film is grainy, imperfect, and artistic. It has vibrant, retro colors, and looks great in a variety of settings.
  • Dynamic — similarly to film photography, Super 8 also performs well in harsh and funky lighting situations.
  • Unobtrusive — Super 8 requires more minimal equipment and is very documentary-style.
  • Distinctive — it’s 100% unique and almost impossible to truly replicate. Nothing comes close to the real thing. The imperfect, nostalgic aesthetic of a Super 8 film is what makes it so special. 

Cons of Super 8 film videography:

  • Cost — Super 8 film costs about $60 per minute of footage, so shots need to be more selective than digital.
  • No audio — modern Super 8 film cartridges cannot capture sound, but couples can be mic’d for their vows if requested.
  • Primarily handheld — this adds more imperfections and shaking, which is not ideal if you want a very polished wedding film.
  • Risk — just like with film stills, Super 8 video has a very “you get what you get” outcome. It’s harder to control, more imperfect, and cannot be heavily altered in post-production. The film negatives are also the only copy of your wedding video until they are developed and processed, which is an added layer of risk that doesn't come with digital video.

So, how can you choose between digital or film photography for your wedding day?

Ultimately, it’s all about balance. Digital phased out film for good reasons in the 90s. It’s faster, more adaptive, and can be manipulated almost endlessly in post-processing software like Photoshop and Lightroom. It's also very reliable and can be essential for certain portions of a wedding day.

However, there is just an endearing element to film that keeps us coming back. If you know, you know!

Ultimately, the best answer here is a hybrid combination of both.  You don’t have to choose between digital only, or film only. You can optimize for the best of both. By planning accordingly with your photographer, you can craft coverage that puts your priorities first.

Looking for a Santa Barbara wedding photographer who shoots Super 8, Film and video? I’m your gal!

I’m Morgan, a wedding photographer based in Santa Barbara, California. I shoot weddings on a hybrid mix of film and digital, and coordinate with you on how to balance both mediums specific to your wedding day. My style leans heavily on film artistically, but relies on digital for those moments where it's just not worth the risk, like a first kiss or formal family portrait.

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