Film Photography – A wedding on film

wedding film photography, wedding on film, new zealand film photography, auckland film photography

Suzannah McFall

Apr 24, 2024

Capturing a Wedding with Film Photography

After several years of capturing weddings for a living, my creative self was searching for another challenge. Wedding photography is a ever-improving craft and I will always be learning and growing with the simple task of taking a photo. However, I have lately been inspired to return to the golden days of film and have begun incorporating it in my wedding work.

Jarrod and Joanna were kind enough to let me tag along with my friend and fellow wedding photographer Ioana of Selea Photography to document their wedding day with 35mm film. I had previously been capturing the odd film photo during my own client’s weddings but knowing that I wasn’t being paid to experiment on film, it was only a few images here and there. I wanted to have the experience of shooting an entire wedding on film without the pressure of capturing digital at the same time. So this opportunity was perfect. I left all my digital cameras at home and was armed with 2 film cameras, ones that came from the previous era because they don’t make many of them anymore.

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Joanna getting ready and then doing a first look with her girlfriends

About the Wedding

Joanna & Jarrod were having an intimate wedding in the home of a family member. It was about 30 of their closest friends and family attending while the rest of their network were kept in the dark about their marriage. They later headed to a party to surprise the rest of their guests that they had just got married, having told them it was their engagement party. This is a trend I am seeing more often nowadays as a wedding photographer, engagement parties that turn into surprise weddings. I am here for this! I always say, do your wedding your way and you will love everything about it.

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Waiting for the bride, Jarrod spent the time mingling with his guests.

The Difference of Film Photography

One thing I found with capturing this wedding with film photography was how much slower I was. With digital it is all about rushing around and getting as many photos as you can. With memory cards that hold thousands of photos, there is no limit to how many photos you can take. But film photography takes on a much slower pace due to the maximum amount of photos you are able to take. Each shot requires intention and thought. Sometimes I would focus on my subject, then sit and wait a few minutes for the perfect expression shared between the couple, or for the light to change to my liking. Every single photo in film photography is precious and once taken, it’s place on the film strip cannot be deleted and shot again. I enjoyed the slower pace, the mindfulness required to capture the day in a way that would best fit into the amount of shots I still had left.

A wedding ceremony held in Auckland, New Zealand, captured with 35mm film photography
The wedding ceremony captured in film

Film Photography Stock

As with digital images where photographers choose and manipulate their images with post production programmes like Lightroom and Photoshop, photographers can manipulate the look of their images by choosing different stocks of film. Each with their own tweaks to colour, contrast, clarity, grain and more. The film stocks that I used for this wedding were Kodak Portra 400 and Kodak Gold 200. Of the 2, my favourite is definitely Portra 400. I am still trialling different film photography stock to see what I love and what best fits my brand. Whilst I like the Kodak Gold stock, I felt like it was lacking somewhat in contrast and the skin tones felt more yellow/orange. I slightly tweaked the colours in Lightroom to be more my style, and to match the vibe of the 2 different film stocks for this gallery.

The second half of an Auckland wedding ceremony captured with film photography in New Zealand

Editing Film Photography

While some people may assume that film photography requires no editing, I am a perfectionist. It is super important to me that my work looks cohesive as well as of high quality. So as I mentioned above, I imported my images into Lightroom and gave them all a tidy up. This included cropping and removing any distractions, warming up the green tones and reducing the yellow/orange in the skin tones. I converted some to black and white because I love the vibe of black and white images scattered amongst the coloured ones. And that was about all. It did take some time to figure out what I needed to adjust to get the look I wanted, and I don’t think they are perfect. But perfection is not what film photography is about, if anything it is more about the imperfections.

Guests and formal photos taken on film photography at a wedding in Auckland, New Zealand
Married and celebrating

The Moments After the Ceremony

Some of my favourite photos are the little moments that happen just after the ceremony. The hugs and congratulations when everybody is happy and celebrating. There are always such big smiles and so much joy. Taking these moments on film was a challenge because everyone is constantly moving and with digital, that is fine. Digital tracking technology is really great and can follow subjects well. But film cameras lack this and each photo must be framed and focused before being captured, and at this time of the wedding day, no-one stands still for long. But I did say earlier that I was seeking a challenge, and so I embraced it and was very happy with these images.

Bridal portraits and photos with the bridal party, taken with 35mm film

Wedding Portraits on Film

I have several favourite parts of capturing a wedding day, but this would be the winner of everything! The Bride and Groom photography are definitely the best! Once again, capturing these with film photography was different than digital. Instead of taking multiple photos of each pose, I took only one image of each pose the couple were positioned in. I admit there were some fails that haven’t made this gallery, but for the most part, they came out well. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to choose the best of 10 photos that all look the same as I do in the digital photo world. Instead, all the photos were already unique and chosen if they were well focused and the couple looked good.

And that is it. That is my first wedding shot entirely on film. Overall, I am super stoked with the images. The couple have received the original unedited copies of the photos and the are in love with them. That is ultimately my aim, to deliver photos that the clients love. And that makes me happy. I am going to continue on this film photography journey, improving my images, trialing new film stocks and camera bodies and lenses. I want to try medium format film photography too as this is something very new to me. And I’d love to also bring in some polaroid photography, just to add a bit of variation to the final gallery. So keep watching this space and see where this new leg of my photography journey leads me.

If you would like to see more of my wedding film photography, head to my film website. You can also see my digital and standard wedding photography on my website.

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