There is something enigmatic about vintage. People tend to enjoy retro looks in fashion, rallies of vintage cars and antique furniture. Photography too is not untouched by adding the mystery quotient to photographs through film photography. Of late there has been a resurgence to film, especially medium format film, in the wedding world. Many of the photographers who shoot on film (as opposed to digital) believe that shooting film makes them more disciplined photographers. An insight into work of some of the best known photographers work explains why they prefer film photography in the digital age.
Film photography is a more disciplined way of taking photographs
Jen Huang, an acclaimed US based photographer, has shot some of her best wedding photographs on film. Advocating film photography, she says, “One tends to stay in the moment and focus better as the option of relying on editing is closed. It does lack the convenience of digital photography though. Film is beautiful in the way it captures light, it is a chemical reaction rather than a digital one, so I find it to be a truly authentic representation of life.”
Resonating with this opinion, India based wedding photographer Kishor Krishnamoorthi mentions that film has a different vibe to it which certain clients tend to like. From the photographer’s perspective, shooting on film is a more disciplined way of shooting and one waits for a perfect shot before clicking.
Ravi Mistry, Ahmedabad based wedding photographer finds film photography easy, organic and does not interfere the way DSLR screen does at the back. He loves the way it slows him down and makes him thoughtful about each shot, unlike making 50 similar looking photos in one go using digital. According to him, for a portrait photographer, the connection with his subject is extremely important, and film cameras are perfect for it because there is no screen in the back for you to ‘chimp’.
There is a niche audience for film photography
In addition to the benefits that photographers count for using film, there seems to also be a niche audience which appreciates the work, even now in the digital age. The photographers confess that the connoisseur of film photography have artistic bent of mind, and an eclectic taste. Most of the brides and grooms who hire film photographers are interested in an editorial style of wedding photography. Many of them are artists and designers themselves, with a creative career, who appreciate the fine art aspect of shooting film. Kishor mentions that during one of his fashion show shoots, he took photos with both a medium format film camera and a digital SLR camera, the clients happened to like the photos shot with film camera better.
Anai and Kush, a young Mumbai based couple, say they would have loved having a photographer who uses film cover their wedding, and would gladly pay a higher price for it. It seems to them, that film has a higher value, and perceive it as being a more artistic format than digital. “The photographer really needs to think before he/she takes a photo. The images have more intent than just being random pictures” they say.
Infrastructure availability for developing films
With the advent of digital photography, the infrastructure availability to develop films has gone down considerably. The recurring cost of buying and processing the films is also high. In India, the number of studios for developing films has considerably come down in past decade. However many of these avid photographers, who shoot on films, are finding their way out. “Getting the chemical supply in India was the only difficult part but recently got some development in that area. I’ve got tools shipping in very soon. But there are plenty of labs still available who will develop and scan C-41(negatives). Dealing with E6 (slide/positives) is little difficult though, because very few labs are there in country and it is expensive than C-41. Recently Kodak announced they are bringing back Ektachrome so I guess E6 process will kick in again.” Says Ravi Mistry. The situation seems better internationally. Jen Huang sends all her films to Richard Photo Lab in California. They do the developing and scanning of film and return the files as large digital jpegs. She find the process relatively easier than her counterparts in the part of the world.
Even though film photography is a preference for some, there are those who find no attraction in shooting film. Delhi based wedding photographer Swati Chauhan learnt photography on film camera but no longer uses it. “In the era of instant gratification, clients often asks for pictures even on mediums like whatsapp. Waiting for development of films takes a long time and it may not be in the best interest for commercial photographers” Says Swati. However, she advocates the use of film photography for creative projects and learning the art. Sephi Bergerson, a well acclaimed wedding photographer based in Goa, studied film, and used it for years. In his opinion there is nothing that film delivers that cannot be produced using digital photography, and the advantages of using digital photography are way too much compared to films. “I do understand the attraction that film has for your photographers who have never experienced it, but having used film for so many years I find digital so much easier, and have no desire to go back to shooting film”.
If you want to decide for yourself, here are a few wedding photographers who shoot on film. Have a look, and let us what you think. Have you used film before? Would you like to try it, if you had the chance? Tell us what you think in the comments below.