Film photography is expensive, it takes a lot to learn how to shoot it well, and you are constantly loading new rolls as you shoot. Then why do we use it at all? Because you deserve the best, and that is exactly what we aim to give you. And the best is film. It’s a medium like no other and despite these ‘negatives’ it is worth it. Our desire is to craft beautiful, intimate, and timeless imagery. Film photography gives you the best skin tones, the softest romantic aesthetic, and it instills a tangibility to your memories.
Part 1: How we got started in film photography
Three years ago we went out on a limb and bought a film camera, on a whim, to try shooting it at our weddings. We wanted to create better work and had a hunch that film would lead us there.
Don’t get us wrong, it wasn’t simply chance. We started shooting film with intention and purpose. We loved the look and feel our favorite film photographers, José Villa, Erich McVey, and Tec Petaja were achieving. At the time we were shooting full digital and editing all our images to look “like film”. We figured why not cut out the middle man and shoot film instead of digital edited to look like film.
We knew it would take an incredible amount of work and money to perfect shooting film. But we demanded better than what digital could offer.
Part 2: Perseverance
It wasn’t overnight. The first film camera we bought was a Canon 1V, which was a relatively cheap buy. This camera was great to shoot on because it used the same lenses as our digital. However after getting back a few rolls from the lab we were underwhelmed by the results. The skin tones were muddy and we knew it wasn’t the look we were going for. It was obvious we weren’t giving film a real chance, and we knew it. We had a vision for what our work could and should be, we simply lacked the proper tools.
We decided to go all in and bought a Contax 645 medium format film camera. This was a significantly larger investment, but we were hopeful as we took it to our next wedding. It was Ashton & Justin’s special day and we decided we would shoot a few rolls, 16 images each, and see how it goes. Expectations were set to VERY low. We shot 3 rolls alongside the digital images and sent them off to Richard Photo Lab. A week later they came back and we instantly knew it was the direction we needed to be heading. The image above of Ashton was off of the third roll we shot and is still one of our all time favorites.
Of the 48 images we took, only 2 images were “unusable” because of someone blinking. The rest were the best photos of the entire wedding collection. For a direct comparison we shot ~2500 digital images and edited up ~600. That means digital had a 25% accuracy rate and film had a 96% accuracy rate. This was our first sign that we knew we could shoot full film weddings, but we didn’t want to get too hasty. We wanted to confirm that this wasn’t just a one time beginner’s luck scenario.
Over the next year we shot film at every wedding. And our couples were choosing those images as their favorites without knowing why. Before long we were offering hybrid packages and 9/10 couples were opting for film.
Now when we ask “what drew you to our work?” Every couple that we meet with will say something like “we just love the bright airy feel, it’s romantic.” Our response is always “so you love film.” We owe that timeless romantic feel in our images to film. It has become the cornerstone to all of our work, our style, and brand.
Part 3: What makes film photography better though?
That was the question to answer. There are very many technical reasons to choosing film such as the wider dynamic range. This means that film can capture brighter lights and darker darks within the same image. Such as a bride in white, next to a groom in blue or black on a beach or in the desert at midday. But film handles this with ease.
But more so film photography is timeless. We say this often, but is it just a catch phrase or is it a real thing? Something is timeless if it is consistent over a long period of time, and is not wavering with trends. This is how we want your most precious of memories to be documented. Not being dependent on digital editing trends. Film does this by having it’s own “preference” to certain tones in skins and environment greens. By being consistent over so many years it creates a benchmark for how your skin should look and feel. This is why it will prove the test of time.
At client meetings we always describe it this way. “Do you remember those Instagram filters from 6 years ago? Well we don’t want you to look back on your wedding images and think, well those look trendy… and meh.”
The Contax film camera also captures less blemishes with it’s soft skin tones. This saves us insane amounts of time in retouching and allows us to produce truer images. In that way film creates honest memories. Unaltered and pure; authentic.
The third reason why we love film is because of the experience while we are shooting. And we know this is wildly selfish but we want to love our job too. The optics of the 80mm f/2 Zeiss lens are far superior to even the best lenses on our Canon digital cameras. An easy way to say this is: when looking through a Contax, what you see is very close to what you will get. This includes the current depth of field(soft bokeh effect), and color of the light. Rather than when shooting digital you are shooting it for what it is going to be; not what it is when you shoot it. This allows us be more accurate in what we are capturing rather than predicting how it will look after post.
But all other benefits aside our favorite is how it made us slow down. Instead of rattling off shots knowing we have an infinite supply we are far more selective in film. We will wait patiently for the perfect moment. That smile or candid glance of affection at your betrothed. And then we take the photo. This results in a better body of work, with every photo being intentional, emotional, and perfectly unique.
Part 4: Planning for your future – The Heirloom
At the beginning of 2017 we sat down and decided we wanted to give you the best. We completely redesigned all of our film photography collections to include Heirloom boxes. That way whenever you get your wedding collections you have a way to store them forever.
We want your wedding images to be: beautiful, honest, and timeless. And that is why we shoot in film.