A Photography Lesson from A Bryan Photo
January 20, 2009

I am super excited for today's post! Not only do we have some truly gorgeous photos for you to feast your eyes upon, but in the process, we're going to learn the difference between digital photography and film photography. Our friend Rob Culpepper, of A Bryan Photo in Birmingham Alabama, was kind enough to step in and write a lovely and super educational guide to photography style and how digital and classic film can play a part in that. So without any further ado, I will let Rob do the talking!

Film vs Digital

"When Theresa asked us to write a blog on Film vs. Digital photography, we couldn't have been more excited. Shooting film is one of our loves and it sets A Bryan Photo apart as a wedding photography studio.

First off, I should acknowledge that we're actually a hybrid company, meaning that we shoot film and digital on any given wedding day. Generally speaking, we use digital (because of the extensive control it gives us with adjusting color) when shooting with a flash or under artificial light. Take these preparation shots, for example:

Digital Photography Great In Artificial Light

We would have a hard time getting these looks with film. In fact, digital is an important part of the look we aim for with receptions because it allows us to create a juxtaposition between images without changing cameras.

Digital Photography Allows Great Flexibility

However, we love film for its romance, texture and feel. Check out this shot of one of our grooms, Geordie. There's no way we could get an image this classic from a digital camera:

Romance Texture Feelings From Film

And look at these shots of his bride, Darby. One is film, one is digital. See the difference? (film is on the top):

Film vs Digital Comparison Shots

Shooting film also affects how we approach a wedding day. When you can't see the image in the back of a camera, you're forced to visualize it before you take it, adjust the camera accordingly, and make the shot. Then you have to wait a couple of weeks to get the film back to see how it came out. While it may seem like this would be a weakness of film, we've found that not being able to see the image right after it's taken helps us engage with the subject rather than with the back of the camera. Film teaches us to see better and to be more intentional. And because every shot costs something (processing and scanning), it forces us to make better decisions about which shots we take. And better decisions lead to better photographs.

Film also gives us the benefit of using different cameras, which can totally change the mood of a shoot. The Rollei, which is probably our favorite camera, looks like an old camera (it is!) and it feels like it's taking classic pictures. It's an instant connection to the 1950s, to black and white movies, to Richard Avedon's work. The Mamiya RZ67, on the other hand, is a fashion and editorial camera (a lot of pictures you see in Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, Bazaar, etc, are shot with a camera like this one). It has this great "cuh-chunk" sound that it makes when the shutter snaps, and it elicits a completely different response from the Rollei. Then we have the T4, the Holga, and Bryan's favorite, the Lomo--all of which have their own idiosyncrasies.

Classic Film Cameras From A Bryan Photography

Also with film, the need to reload keeps us from constantly shooting, so we have more time for conversation and interaction. Again, it may seem counter-intuitive, but this approach actually leads to more natural pictures, less stress, and more fun. We never want our brides and grooms to feel rushed or pressured, and the pace created by shooting film helps achieve that.

Lastly, we like film better than digital because, well, it's just more fun. We get film in every Wednesday and it's like Christmas. Seriously. We spend around $500 per wedding for processing and scanning (that's for about 20 rolls), and it's worth it every time. Our friend Jose Villa, a wedding photographer in California and a film shooter, said that digital is the best thing that ever happened to his business because it allowed him to create a niche in the wedding market. We've found the same. For us as photographers and for brides and grooms who want the look of film, it's a great fit.

Ultimately, the film vs. digital debate is about comfort and style of shooting. While we see the value of both based on the situation, we love film!"

Film vs Digital Photography Is Ultimately A Personal Choice

Thank you so much, Rob!

To see more images from Darby & Geordie's wedding, click here.