A Yorkshire photographer’s guide to shooting weddings on film cameras
Wedding Photography on FILM Cameras (v.2022)
Hello, here we are again! This is my winter 2022 update to my original HOW TO SHOOT WEDDINGS ON FILM. Having had a full wedding season I’ve learnt a few more tricks and tips on how to get the most out of shooting film at weddings. And I’ve also started implementing 35mm film as well!
Doing these film blogs always feels a little bit like pulling back the curtain on a magic show. I don’t know why that is, I suppose it’s because of the time and effort that goes into finding a ‘look’ that works with each film. It’s certainly nothing like putting a film in a camera and clicking the shutter. None of the films shown below were rated at the intended box speed.
But the truth of it is, I had a lot of help along the way too.
So it would be wrong of me to hoard onto the tricks that work for me, when I’ve happily used the tips from others. As with most things photographic, these suggestions work for me and your milage may vary. I’m shooting in the North of England, which is mostly cloudy. Although with these shots below, you’ll see I primarily shoot when the sun is out at weddings. That in itself might be tip number 1.
I’m going to take you through the film I use and other useful tips. Like always though, if you have any questions please get in touch. You can find my on my Instagram.
I hope this helps in some small way. Happy shooting!
Portra 800 (35mm)
Let’s just say it, this film is so expensive it actually hurts! Because of that I only shot one roll at this wedding. But every time I see the results, I’m blown away by the colours! There is a really specific trick that I use for this film: shoot it at 200 asa. Yes, that’s right, you heard me. Rate an 800 asa speed film at 200 asa in camera! That’s an extra +2 stops of light right out of the blocks! And it absolutely bloody loves it!! The punch of colour that comes from over exposing this film is heavenly. As with most colour negative film, airing on the side of over-exposure is the way to go. The highlight retention is so beautiful that you really don’t need to worry about blowing them out. On the other side however, if you under expose colour negative film, you’ll end up with muddy negatives very quickly. So, I like to make sure I always have plenty of light on the negative by controlling the rating of the film in camera.
Also, as you’ve probably guessed, this is 35mm film. It was shot on the Contax G2 with the 40mm Zeiss lens. And just wow!! What a lens and film combination! As with most things photography, it’s the quality if the lens that really makes the difference.
Fuji Pro 400h
Sadly this film is no more. Sad face. Not the most versatile film, but over expose it and you get some beautiful colours. I generally rated it as 200 asa in camera and then metered for the shadows to give it an extra stop or so of light. Magical if you had anything green in your images.
One of the most trusted and versatile films there is! There’s good reason why it was the go to film for photojournalists. Rate it at whatever asa you like and shoot it!! It will look great regardless. Dark room? Rate it at 1200 asa and push it +2 stops in development for a gritty contrasty look. Outside in the sun? Rate it at 200 asa or less and develop normally for heavenly highlights!
Again, Kodak is pricing their films beyond anything particularly reasonably now, so if you live in the UK check out Ilford HP5. It’s a 400 speed film that’s just as versatile as Tri-X but a fraction of the cost. The only real difference is Tri-X has more contrast baked in from the start. But you can always push hp5 to 1200 to get that contrast or if you’re scanning to digital files you can add contrast in post or during the scanning process.
Kodak Tri-X (35mm)
Basically exactly the same as the 120 version. In conclusion, BnW film rules!!
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: this is hands down one of my favourite films ever!! It’s the grain in the 120 version that does it for me. Now, obviously, if you want ‘clean’ images free from grain this film is not for you! But if you want images with bags and bags of character, at a relatively cheap cost, this is it! I haven’t used the 35mm format, but I know the grain is seriously pronounced on that format! Tip: the more light you give it, the less grain you’ll see.
Now, even though it says 3200 on the box, it’s actually more like a 1600 speed. So given my love for over exposing, I typically rate this somewhere around 800-1000. Given the situation, I will give it as much light as possible. Obviously, if that is not possible, you can always push it in post, e.g. ask your lab to push it in development.
I use this film almost exclusively on the getting ready shots. Typically, we are in darker locations, so the higher asa helps. And I will be shooting close to medium portraits at this time, so the added grain lends an artistic softness to the face. This is something that has become a signature look for me.
A very versatile film. Rate it anywhere from 200 asa up to 800 or even 1200 asa. I typically shoot it at 200 asa and develop it normally.
Cinestill 800T (35mm)
Now, I struggled with this film for a long time. I just didn’t know how to shoot it. Other than night photography with city lights, of course. I’d tried it at weddings before and just not liked the colours. And then I read about rating this film at 200/250 asa in camera. Apparently, it would help counter the tungsten balance in daylight. Well, I’m absolutely hooked now!! Even before the sun set I was able to get usable results. I honestly never would have over exposed this film by +2 stops in camera if it hadn’t been recommended to me.
Again, the only down side is how expensive this film is. It’s really not viable to shoot a lot of it. With that in mind, I haven’t tried the 50d version. 50 asa is super low for Britain, even in the summer. But I have seen some amazing portraits shot on it. So I think this season might be the time to experiment a little bit with it.
Shoot this at 200 asa and get really good at holding a camera steady!! That’s probably why I’ll stick to 35mm, holding a heavy medium format in low light with 200 asa rated film is just not my idea of fun.
If you’re unsure about film or just scared you might ruin big moments of the day, start by trying film on the decorations first. Shoot 1 or 2 rolls just on things that don’t move during the quieter moments. If nothing else, you will have some absolutely killer table shots!!