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Film & Digital (Hybrid) Photography

Combining Film and Digital Photography for Unique Results

For the first five years of shooting weddings i shot all digital. And it wasn’t until several years ago that i started shooting film personally and just loved it so much that i wanted to add it into my professional work into shooting weddings. So i want to tell you a little bit about how i shoot weddings with film and digital and hopefully, if you’re interested in working film into your own wedding photography or into your own commercial photography, maybe this can give you some ideas on how to do that.

Film photographer

So first i’m gonna go through how i actually think about shooting film and digital throughout the day because i shoot hybrid, i shoot both throughout the day. How i make those decisions? Now is based a lot on how i actually started using film in shooting weddings.

When you’re just getting into bringing in film into your workflow and you’re still kind of getting used to how it works and like how it’s going to work in certain situations i’d really recommend to shoot something on film and then do a digital backup of the same photo. That way you don’t have that stress about like “oh, did i get the photo?”. You want to know exactly what you’re getting, because that’s what they’re relying on you for is to get the image. So one thing that i suggest when you’re starting out is to do a backup of your film shot with digital. This is also a great way to just like see the beauty of film and see the difference that it can create in your work when you do a digital backup because you can really compare those afterwards.

But also for people’s expectations of photography – people want quick turnarounds, people want a preview vendors, want a preview of the wedding a couple days later. So being able to shoot digital and film gives us the flexibility to give people a preview of something right away. And then we kind of upgrade those images later when we get our film shots back from the lab.

For the most part if i have some more time, if it’s really portrait heavy and if i’m not rushed, i’m gonna be shooting a lot of film. If it’s a rushed low light and there’s not many opportunities to take this photo more than once, i’m probably gonna be shooting more digital. I have not much of a desire to shoot all film on my weddings just because there’s times when i like digital better and there’s times when i like film better.

I have a film camera on me at all times and a digital camera on me at all times. Then based on the scenario i make a decision in the moment whether i want to shoot film or whether i want to shoot digital. And so that’s how i work with film and digital. 

I blend them into a wedding day and use them constantly throughout the day. I think of my digital camera as being just like the kind of constant recorder of everything going on during the day. Then i think about film as these like benchmarks throughout the day when i see something that’s really beautiful and i’m like “wow that is the photo!”. I bring on my film camera because i know there’s like this extra grandeur that happens when i shoot it on film.  

I think when there’s just this incredible moment i like shooting that on film. But also it helps me base all of my colors throughout the day on my digital. So as i’m going through and editing my digital work and i get that film back i have color references from the entire day to make sure those both types of images, both my digital and my film scans, look just perfect together. If you’re adding film into your photography workflow, I think you have to keep it simple. 

I love simplifying my gear down to just one lens if possible. So for the most part i have one film body with an equivalent of a 50 millimeter lens and i have one digital camera. And for 80-90 percent of the day i just shoot with those two lenses and that’s it. Giving yourself some  restrictions and being like “this is the only tools that i’m going to work with” really help you focus on making the photographs with the gear in front of you instead of thinking like “oh do i have the right lens?”. I think it really helps you make better photographs. 

Contax 645

I am obsessed with my Contax 645. One of the most special things about this camera is the 80 millimeter lens. This particular lens is so juicy and glorious. and is the main reason why i use it. 

Besides the Contax there are a few other bodies that i’ve used in the past, but like i said before i am really trying to focus down on using the least amount of gear as possible. And so i’ve used my Nikon f100 – the great thing about this is that this film camera uses all of nikon’s legacy glass. However we now have all new nikon mirrorless here which it is not compatible with. So that’s one reason why i actually have stopped using my f-100 but this is a really great 35 millimeter film camera that i still use every so often. 

I have my dad’s Canon ae1. It just having a 28 millimeter lens on it and that’s it. The reason why i’m thinking about adding that to my workflow is just because i don’t have a wide lens on me otherwise, i don’t really use a 28mm very much. The nice thing about it is that i actually kind of think about it as like a safety lens to the weather. That’s a small camera that i can whip out and shoot.

And of course the Nikon 28ti. I usually has this one for most of our wedding days. That would be a perfect camera to kind of just like have thrown on you if you need something that’s super wide. That’s the perfect type of thing to be able to just grab that landscape, to grab that wide shot that you need. And it’s light and it doesn’t take up much space. 

Hoya filters

The only other pieces of equipment that i use for kind of my film side of photography is my light meter and my close-up filters. This just gives you the ability to kind of have like a macro lens with your film camera. You can buy different sizes for the specific lens that you’re using and you just screw this on and you’re able to focus a lot closer. 

The other side of the equation is the digital gear and this is exciting for me because this is all brand spanking new gear. So how we complement our film gear with this digital gear is that we again keep it as simple as possible. I’m shooting with my Contax and then i’m shooting with a 50 1.2 lens and that’s it. My only thought process is shooting my film camera or my digital camera. I don’t really think about different lenses.

Nikon 50mm lens

I really like to think about my gear as just like fixed cameras with that lens. That really helps to cut down the amount of choice fatigue that you have throughout the day because i found if  you have so many choices and so many different lenses you get you kind of get bogged down with switching lenses, thinking about which lens to have, when do i need this or that. Is just like cut all those choices out and make it simple and focus on the moments that are happening in front of you. 

So that is how i  shoot weddings with both film and digital. 

Editing and matching film scans with digital is a topic for another article. This requires skills and experience, but you can save your time and leave this work to us. Just send your photos to us!

Luke Cleland