Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wedding Photography - Film vs. Digital

Choosing between digital and film for your wedding photography is an important choice. Your wedding photos are the one aspect (aside from your marriage!) that you want to last forever and they should reflect your aesthetic and style. Even though this doesn’t exactly fit this event design and styling category here on Burnett’s Boards– it’s too significant not to talk about.

There are two points that should be made clear right off the bat and the first is that the quality of your wedding photos depends upon on the skill of your photographer, not the medium used. The second point is that a common misconception with film photography is that you don’t get digital versions – not true. You do!

Before we get started let’s see if you can tell the difference – look at each of these images from the lovely and talented Laura Gordon and see if you can tell which is shot on film and which was taken using a digital camera:


How did you do? The ones on the left are film, and the ones on the right are digital.

Let’s break them down a bit to help you decide which is better for your wedding.

Cost & Amount of Photos: Though this will vary from photographer to photographer, having your wedding shot on film is usually more expensive. Between buying the actual film and adding in lab processing it comes out to about $3 a picture. Because of this film photographers are often more deliberate with their shots and take fewer of them. However, this also means that while you may have fewer pictures from your wedding, more of them are going to be keepers because more time and thought was put into each one. Digital wedding photography is oftentimes cheaper and you will end up with more shots. However, since it’s so easy and inexpensive to snap multiple pictures of the same thing, you’ll have more ‘throw-aways’ than with film photography. This can also a good thing though because if your flower girl had her eyes closed in a shot with film you’re stuck with it, but with digital you can instantly check to see how the image looks and retake if needed.

Visual Differences: Film photography brings out a more natural skin tone, does better with black & white, and is more forgiving. Usually there is less editing involved with film photos once they have been processed, scanned, and sent back to the photographer, however some of the image quality is lost during scanning. Digital shots are more prone to overexposure and it can be difficult to capture whites (ahem – your wedding dress!) therefore once your photographer is done shooting your wedding, they’ll be at their computer editing those images for a lot longer than with film. However, in lowlight situations (like on the dance floor) digital outperforms film.

Action Shots: Let’s say you are getting your bridal portraits taken and the darling flower girl and ring bearer come running past holding hands and giggling. It’s the cutest thing ever – definitely photo worthy. If your photographer is shooting film this shot probably won’t happen because they would have to change the film roll they are using whereas a digital photographer can quickly change the settings on their camera and capture the cuteness.

Wait time: This will depend solely on your photographer so be sure to ask for an estimate! With film there is a definite couple of weeks-long wait period before the photographer can even see the images. After that some edits on the scans might be made. With a digital photographer they can get started with editing right after your wedding, but it all depends on how many adjustments are needed. If a lot of editing is necessary it will take longer.


In the end both digital and film photography is gorgeous. It all boils down to your personal preference and the skill level and style of your photographer. Can’t decide which you prefer? A lot of photographers will shoot both.
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*Sara Burnett is the owner and editor of Burnett’s Boards, a daily wedding inspiration blog. This original article was published here. Images courtesy of Laura Gordon.

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