CHEERS! 4 Years as a Film Photographer | My Love Letter to Film

Four years ago, March 28th, 2015, I used film for the first time on a wedding day. Though I had been using film for most of the previous year in engagement sessions and personal projects, I hadn’t yet braved using this medium on a wedding day. On top of agonizing over everything that could go wrong - I was also nervous about my client’s response to this. I was still going for a clean, soft look with my images, but I was most concerned that my brides simply wouldn’t approve of this transition. Talk about fear taking over!

Lauren Josh-Post Ceremony Portraits-0090.jpg
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How did this wedding actually go? Incredible. It’s still one of my favorite weddings to date. It was a backyard-lakeside wedding, so there was an abundance of natural light. I didn’t use my digital camera until the ceremony. Then I switched back to film after the ceremony, resuming digital once the sun had set. That’s about 60% of a wedding day I only shot film! (And for fellow photographers, I shot this wedding day ALONE.) Compared to how I shoot today, this is child’s play. But this leap of faith was no small matter.

I created some of my favorite images ever from this day. I’m still proud to share this gallery. It was also my first time to be featured on Style Me Pretty. But above anything else, the response from this couple was just amazing. I had a great relationship with Lauren throughout her engagement, and I was transparent about my medium for her wedding day. But hearing her reaction and how happy she was with her images - that was the final affirmation I needed. I was going to become a film wedding photographer.

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Though I was always happy with my work, I don’t think I was ever proud of my work until I started shooting film. Film is what brings me joy, film is the extension of my craft so that I can offer my clients a luxury, beautiful, meaningful product. And for the record, I don’t think film is superior. I don’t think it’s replacing digital. I don’t claim to be a film expert. YOU DO YOU! But for what I want to deliver to my clients, for the experience and memories I want to offer them? Film is my medium of choice, and always will be.

Film is part of my service. It’s a part of my experience. It’s what I feel most confident shooting, and it has been such a gift to me and my clients. Here is a giant CHEERS to the last 4 years of being a film wedding photographer. If film were my muse, this would be my love letter…

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Dear film,

Has anyone ever told you how intimidating you are? In a world where we can see images on the back of a camera immediately, it seems silly to take a picture we won’t see for weeks. How will we know we got it in focus? How will we ever know if we exposed it correctly? To remind you, you are very intimidating.

But whenever I point my Contax at my subject, I’m immediately reminded of 3 things that made me fall in love with you.

The importance of being intentional.

I used to be the typical “spray and pray” photographer. I’d stock up on 128GB memory cards so I could fire away, and cross my fingers I got a good image. Now? I am patient before I click the shutter. If I go to set up a portrait, no detail is looked over. My eyes are sharp, counting to 16 before I load a new roll. Now, instead of taking 10 mediocre images, I’m focused on getting one amazing image. Then another amazing image. And so on. While some photographers complain about the price of film, I say GOOD. Good that it costs me $$ every time I click the shutter! If anything is going to put me in the mindset of taking the best image I possibly can, it’s cost. And I don’t just mean “a business expense” cost. If I miss a shot or take a lousy image, those are my client’s memories. If they’re trusting me with their time and money to deliver an excellent gallery, you’re damn right I’m going to approach each image with patience and intention.

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So thank you, film, for being such a breath of fresh air from our immediate and rushed society. Thank you for releasing us from the expectation of “sneak peeks” and “quick turnaround",” and instead focus on quality over quantity.

You are a master of light.

To all of the nay-sayers and doubters and anyone who thinks film is too big of an investment, I challenge you to look at the following images. Is digital capable? Of course. But does film blow my freaking mind? Absolutely. My love for photography comes from natural light, and film, you kill it every time. Sometimes I can actually FEEL the warmth and the sun on my skin just looking at an image. And on a completely technical note - it’s nearly impossible to blow out a film image. Your ability to retain highlights, deliver an even, clean skin tone, and maintain blacks in the same image? It’s unreal.

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You make me feel.

Oh film, you make me feel. I’m not sure if it’s your grain. I’m not sure if it’s the way you capture movement. I’m not sure if it’s the tones you produce. But whatever it is, you make me feel. Even when I’m looking at another photographer’s work, I can sense the emotion that was present in the captured image. It almost feels deeper. Which is ridiculous, because I know digital can capture some amazing moments. But film, you have that extra spark. I feel like you go that extra mile. And you don’t have to be perfect every time, either. I love the way you tell a story, and how you take my client’s galleries from good to GREAT.

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Film, thank you for the gift that you are to our industry. Thank you for the gift you are to my brides. Thank you for the gift you are to my craft. I don’t know why I was brave enough to bring you to Lauren and Josh’s wedding 4 years ago, but I’ve never regretted it for a day. (And I am somebody who is full of regrets.) You make me a better artist. CHEERS to you, and let the journey continue!

Sincerely,

Jess

Jessica WelshansComment