Wedding Photographers Face The Digital Dilemma
Is Now The Time To Go Filmless
About two years ago I stated in a previous article that I thought most of photography would be "filmless" in 2005. Can I revise that statement? I think that there are not many who accurately predicted just how quickly digital photography went from being a novelty for technophiles to becoming a mainstream way of imaging for both amateurs and professionals alike. Photographers, hobbyists, film companies, and processing labs have to deal with the film vs. digital question on a daily basis.
But how does the current state of digital and film choices affect the wedding photographer? Being a very active wedding photographer, I hope my insights and my discussions with others in the field can help you make the choices that work for you.
My Wedding Workflow
The black and white film is a little more trouble. I either shoot real black and white film or Kodak's C-41 processed version. The real stuff is expensive to print. The C-41 film is very inconsistent in quality, even if I use the same lab all the time. Sometimes it looks great, sometimes it looks horrid. I know it can be fixed, but I want it right the first time. Then I must ID it separately, and ordering from 35mm is more of a pain with the negative strips. Not a great system. There must be a better way.
The Third Camera
We all know that because of the intense competition between the big film companies, the consumer is the winner. Any of the film choices from the major companies will produce fabulous results. I have found, especially after a visit to Fuji in New Jersey this past winter, that the brand of paper that your lab uses will produce a drastic difference in the appearance of your prints. I'm not saying any one brand of paper is better than another, but manufacturers work hard to make sure their papers match their film. You may like the look of Fuji film on Kodak paper, or vice versa. If you like what you're getting from your lab, stick with them--it's probably because you like the look of your favorite film on their paper of choice. In any case, we know film can produce exceptional results.
As far as the black and white is concerned, I think if you're going to do something, then do it right. Shoot the real stuff and find a lab who'll do a good job printing it for you. It'll probably cost you considerably more than color, but odds are if your clients request it, they are more sophisticated and will pay a premium for it. I'm one of the more expensive photographers in my area and virtually all my clients request it.
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