Shooting a Wedding on Film

“Wait, whaaaaaattt?” That doesn’t sound like what you would expect nowadays with all the technology available, the Sony, the Canon, the Nikon. Have you seen the mirrorless?

“Next you’ll say you’re not going to put them online.” Yes, that would be my preference, to deliver you actual photographs printed and framed and in leather photo albums.

“Don’t tell me, black and white only?” Yup!

I am a documentary photographer, a longtime photojournalist, (perhaps a dinosaur), and I am all about photographing emotional moments. Not shooting thousands of frames and delivering them all on a flash drive: There ya go, that’s everything, I’m done, outta here! Print ’em at Wal-mart–see if I care.

So, to offer film-only weddings, black and white hand-printed darkroom prints, with 25-50 total photographs, that sounds like a dream. I mean that in a good way. A good dream.

To me, it would absolutely be, if it were my wedding. I wouldn’t want thousands of images on a flash drive. I’d want a curator, a professional photographer with an eye for finding the special unique moments of the day and to make me a highlight album of some of the best-ofs, not the whole show in a minute-by-minute account. Show me some beautiful photographs that take me back to the day, but the goal is not to see every last detail.

That’s what my memories are for. Make me a “gallery exhibit” to walk through to revisit some of those special moments.

I recently met a young couple, newlyweds, who said they had opted to get all their wedding photos, and they have them all on hard drives, but now they wonder why they did that–they never look at them and one of these days they’ll have to go through them and make some prints for an album, but the whole task is kinda daunting. The kind of album their parents have sitting on the coffee table, that’s what they wish they had.

I’d much prefer a handful of high-quality prints like those below which were made with a Rolleiflex on Ilford black and white FP4 film.

Real photographs hand-printed on fiber-based museum-quality photographic paper by a master printer in a silver halide darkroom and then assembled into a fine-quality leather album. Plus some large gallery-framed prints, too. What about that doesn’t sound like a wonderful way to honor the day, to have some keepsakes without trying to capture the whole event in photos?

Too much is too much.

There is a trend in wedding photography that I think makes all weddings look alike, kinda commercial, like they’re being shot for the art director or venue decorator more than for the bride and groom. I don’t want every wedding photograph to look like a catalog shoot. I don’t want every image to be oozing style, showing off you the photographer, and not the bride and groom.

Where are the moments, the bits of serendipity, the unexpected shots, like the flower girl fighting with the ring bearer under the church pew? I believe in the value of the leather album memory-book of photographs. Something real–the heartbreaking emotional moments.

We’re living in a world that is using computational photography to change the images, utilizing AI to make what something looked like into something much “better”. We now have sky replacement software. We can make the day something it wasn’t, the grey sky into the perfect blue. We can turn backgrounds out of focus with algorithms, but they’re not real. Perhaps we’ll be able to make the bride and groom look fit and trim even if they’re a bit overweight. And maybe change that indoor wedding to the outdoor venue like they wanted, but was just out of their budget.

I’m talking about authenticity. Does that not matter at all? I believe that’s the one thing you can count on with a wedding photographer who delivers a handful of film photographs in a photo album. You can be sure the light of the day that was falling on the bride and groom’s shoulders is the same light that fell onto that piece of film, that exposed the negative and created a lasting memory in rich black and white tones.

What is that worth? Does it even matter? Who wants it? Does anyone care about authenticity when the “Hollywood wedding” is what everyone else gets, where every photo can be run through presets and filters and made perfect? “Punch up the teal and orange and we have an award-winner!”

Maybe the perfect becomes real after enough viewings?

Me, I’m sticking with film in an old twin lens reflex camera and making black and white wedding photographs to put in a very special book for the people who would choose an actual album of photographic memories.

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Find me with a new Video every Wednesday and Saturday on YouTube at HeresToGoodLight.com and my Daily Photography Podcast at Podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/daily-photography-blog-kenneth-wajdas-photography-talks/id1384332744 – Plus my RoyStryker documentary photo project that YOU can contribute to. Here’s to good light!

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2 thoughts on “Shooting a Wedding on Film

Add yours

  1. Good thoughts. When I married a few years ago our photographer handed us an SD card with our images on it — and we’ve not made time four years later to do anything with it. I wish we’d paid for more. She shot digital obviously but it’s eminently possible to have prints made from that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bet there are a lot of couples who thought they’d get to it, but didn’t realize the work to get it done that awaited. Thanks for your comment.

      Like

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