Why photograph weddings on film?

A conversation that I had on a blog recently with a friend of mine who has a studio in Bowness-on-Windermere set me off thinking about why I still shoot on film as well as digital. I thought I might clarify this for anyone wanting to book me to photograph their wedding and also add my two cents to the wider debate on film vs digital etc….

Digital images are synthetic versions of their film counterparts, so a digital image is one that seeks to replicate and improve upon the older film process that we used to use to create our photographs. Film is an organic or largely chemical process which works on the same principal as digital of having something behind a focused glass lens to capture an image of whatever your camera is pointed at.

vintage lake district wedding photography
Film: fuji 400 pro vc: camera Nikon F4: 85mm lens.

I found that when post processing my digital images on the Mac that i was striving to achieve a filmic look from the effects that I was employing on the images, bearing in mind that this period was after I had already invested significantly into digital technology, learned how to use it and done my Adobe Photoshop accreditation.

The reality of the situation was that if I shot film, I would make my images look exactly how I wanted them to look in camera. This would mean that whatever came out of the dark room to be scanned would be the finished image, plus a little retouching for imperfections. However……….. There is no denying that digital has its advantages of which the chief advantage is cost. Memory cards can be used for an indefinite period as long as you format and keep them clean, to clean a sensor on a digital camera costs around £35 every two or three months of heavy usage.

Film costs around £7 for 36 images once chemicals to process the film and scanning time at the computer are taken into account.

award winning wedding photography in the lake district
Shot on a Nikon F4, Ilford HP5 400 film with a 50mm F1.4 lens.

I decided that I would work on a percentage at all of my weddings from 2010 up to the weddings that I will be shooting in 2012 and 2013. That split would be 80-20. 80% digital and 20% film, carrying two cameras at once with the digital backup in my bag so I can always shoot on either, freeing me up to shoot the images that I want to shoot on film and the bulk digitally.

There is no doubt that I am an oddity in this respect as far as how I work with the two mediums together and I can find no-one locally doing anything similar or even considering using film based alternatives to digital.

Digital rules the roost in wedding photography because the technology allows us to do things that with film were impossible, so film has been left behind with only Kodak pushing the technology and Ilford in financial trouble and Fuji struggling to justify opening its plant to produce the stuff.

The future for film looks grim……

Ilford xp2
shot on a olympus om40, kodak tri-x 400 film and a 50mm f1.8 lens

Does this then mean that images like these will become a thing of the past? Shoe boxes of photos in the cupboard will no longer exist because they are all online in our cloud storage and film cameras will become obsolete with expensive ones going to museums and collectors and the cheap ones going to the dump? For all intents and purposes, yes is the answer. Film will die eventually, no matter how many resurgences it goes through as its production cost will become astronomical. A cost that will be passed onto us as photographers which we can little afford.

wedding photography in penrith
shot on a canon eos 50e with a 70-200 f2.8 lens. Ilford fp4 100 film.

So we have resolved that film is expensive and because it is no longer a popular medium, the emulsions used to capture images on film are at least ten years old and it takes a lot of time to develop and get right……


But just look at it.

The range of tones that film can capture, the subtle way that with care you can make light fall off a subject, its muted but accurate colours  and the sharpness and clarity with which it delivers black and white make film completely unique.

Its not about delivering an image that your clients are happy with but rather an image that your clients are ecstatic with, being able to reproduce images from negatives that are real and have a permanence, with a tactile finish to each negative and print.

From my own point of view the smell of chemicals used to develop the film at home will be a memory that my little girl can revisit hopefully when she is old enough to pick up a camera. Seeing the negatives soaped and coming off the reel for the first time and knowing that what is on that strip of negatives is going to look exactly how I saw it in my mind when I pressed the shutter on the camera.

mia bridal Carlisle and Lake district
shot on a Nikon F80, 50mm f1.4 lens and Ilford HP5.

The reason that my images look so different to everyone else’s is because I use techniques and processes that nobody else has the time or patience to use. My background is in modelling, editorial, fashion and studio work, so my influences are different to everyone else’s too and I take ideas from all over the media from MTV to Vogue, Harpers, ID and a pile of American wedding magazines that I subscribe to and love.

Film is perfect for vintage styled or themed weddings of which I have a few this year and am really looking forward to. The future is without any doubt digital and what I continue to use for at least 90% of my photography and 80%-90% of weddings, but as long as my clients still demand the type of images that only film can produce, it will always accompany the digital.

Vintage weddings in the Lake District
Shot on a Nikon F4 with an 85mm f1.8 lens and fuji 400 pro film

Rik & Rachel at Smiths Hotel, Gretna

Rick & Rachel at Smiths hotel, Gretna Green.

Don’t get me wrong, I dont avoid weddings at Gretna Green, far from it, I find them quite good fun. Only a small percentage of my work centres around Scotland, but I always seem to have a great days photography whenever I go up there more often to Friars Carse and Hetland Hall.

Rik and Rachel booked me for their wedding…. actually no, thats not right. Rick suprised Rachel with a renewal of their vows and a blessing at the Blacksmiths in Gretna Green, so Rachel knew nothing about it. Rik booked me to pop up and get some shots of their renewal and do something at the Smiths hotel where they were having a small reception with close  family and friends.

It was great fun doing a few hours photography at Gretna and having the luxury of 30 mins to spend with the couple in Smiths hotel was great too. Rachels dress was a Jenny Packham as was her hairpiece. To see more Jenny Packham dresses, visit our local stockist, Sarah at Mia Bridal.

So here are your images folks, it was a privelage for Emma and I to meet you both and if you do decide to do Vegas next year can I come along too??……Worth a try I suppose.

Gretna bride
Rachel and her dad on the way into the Blacksmiths
blessing photo, Gretna Green.
Rachel and Rick at the Anvil.
Signing the Register in the Old Smithy
Rachel signing on the Anvil at the Blacksmiths.
Bridal images Gretna
The boys were drinking Red Bull, but we left before it kicked in.
photographers dumfrieshire
The colours in Smiths are amazing.
Cool wedding image
That dress is fantastic.
Rachel in Smiths Hotel
The slick interior of Smiths.
Cars Gretna
This was a lovely moment.
Alternative photographer in Gretna
In the bridal suite was amazing
Wedding dress Gretna
The detail on Rachels Jenny Packham dress

The best of 2011…. more to follow.

I have compiled a set of images from 2011 that I consider to be my personal favourites. This may give people who are looking at my site and blog a little more insight into what I am looking for as a photographer. In here there are a mix of set-up images and also some photojournalistic style images and I have put in only one from each wedding that I have attended and there are still more to come from weddings that haven’t even been blogged yet!

lake district photographers international
David and Abigail at the Merewood Hotel, Windermere

I chose this for the amazing setting, the fact that we fought to get to the location in the first place as it is actually at the Cragwood Hotel. After all that, this image really was worth the effort.

greystoke castle
Rachel & Shaun at greystoke, Penrith.

I chose this image of Shaun and Rachel from a mountain of images shot on the day because it really does sum them up. The colouring reflects the vintage feel of the wedding too. Rarely am I happier with a posed image than with this one.


wedding photography at the punchbowl
Nicola and Tom at the Punchbowl Inn

Tom & Nicola had two photographers on the day and this was one of my favourites. We jumped back from the church in Grassmere to take this at St Johns in the Vale and is just off the road. We fought a bit of rain to get this shot but it was well worth it.

wedding photography at Armathwaite Hall
Andrew & Jill at Armathwaite Hall Hotel, Bassenthwaite.

This is by far my favourite of Andrew and Jill and I think it is theirs too. The depth and height of the trees adds a real perspective to it and by muting the colours is is far less green than the original. Armathwaite hall has so many locations for all types of weather conditions and it is a real treat to photograph weddings there.

wedding photographers at rheged
Andrew and Kelly at Rheged, Penrith.

Some brides and grooms are up for anything.. Andrew and Kelly were no exception as they jumped at the chance to have images in the IMAX at Rheged. The screen wasn’t actually on and the light is coming from a flash positioned on a boom in front of the screen. Certainly one of the most unique shots from their wedding and a personal favourite. The rest of their images will follow in a blog post shortly.

wedding photography at inn on the lake, lakeland
The wedding of Dawn and Mike at Inn on the Lake, Glenridding

I know that this is quite an odd choice for a favourite, but in a fraction of a second this moment was gone and this was the only time I could get a clean shot as everybody piled onto the dance floor. All of the elements that were required to take it came together for a 60th of a second. A firm firm favourite from this year.

wedding photographers in Carlisle
Lucie & Hamish at the Heather Glen Hotel, Ainstable, Carlisle.

This is again, just another moment. I will even admit that this image was not part of Hamish and Lucies’ final selection for their album, but it is one that really makes me smile. Maybe you had to be there to feel the nerves and excitement to appreciate this quiet moment, shot from the hallway. The room was bathed in beautiful sunlight and apart from a little colour correction, this image is largely untouched in photoshop.


wedding photographers in wigton, cumbria, the greenhills
Joanne & Paul at the Greenhill Hotel, near wigton.

Joanne said that she wanted something different as a portrait of herself to run alongside the more posed images of her from her wedding day. I love it because this window has been used a thousand times by nearly every photographer covering weddings in Cumbria and after a moment to think, I decided on a partial silhouette. Its a first from me and maybe a first for the Greenhill?

The roundthorn wedding photographers.
Victoria & Kevin at the Roundthorn Hotel, Beacon Edge, Penrith.

Victoria was luminous on her wedding day and photographed with ease from start to finish. This image stood out mainly because of how it flows from top to bottom and really shows off the vibrancy of her dress, even in mono.

Barrow in Furness wedding photographers
David and Michelle at Abbey House Hotel, Barrow

As far as classic wedding imagery goes, this is it for me and I really could create images like this one all day long. This wedding was shot as part of our two photographer team at Icon Wedding Photography, where you get the option to have two full time professional photographers covering your wedding day. Abbey house is a beautiful venue and one of my favourites in south Lakeland too. There is so much to see there and its potential for great wedding images is huge. We were even shooting once it got dark which I will show you all in a later post.

wedding photography at armathwaite hall, bassenthwaite
Matt & Adele at Armathwaite Hall

Matt was getting a real roasting here from his best man, who’s wedding I also covered. Its not a traditional wedding picture and Adel isn’t even in it, but  for me this image sums up these two to a tee. For more of Matt and Adels’ images search the blog as there are heaps on the blog. Armathwaite hall delivered us a lovely low sunset in their fantastic grounds.

wedding photography at inn on the lake
Mike and Katie at Inn on the lake, cumbria.

Talk about smiling from start to finish and there was no telling them both to be natural either… They just did it. Inn on the lake is rapidly becoming my home venue as year on year my weddings there increase. Its no bad thing as it is without doubt one of the best hotels for photography in the lakes. This image is an alternative to the normal stand at the end of the jetty and have a snog or look longingly at each-other pictures… I tend to have an alternative for every stayed or overdone picture. Jonathan and Gary are some of the best planners around too and make every wedding run like a well oiled machine.

racecourse wedding photography, carlisle
Melissa & Lee at Carlisle Racecourse

This shot of Melissa getting ready opens up Melissa and Lees’ album and spreads 24 inches across the page. Its a real knockout image taken on my Yashicamat 66 and is as smooth close up as it is from afar. I could have chose from hundreds of images of this wedding but I just love the expression on Mels face and the fact that she is in her dress and no-one else is ready. Carlisle racecourse is a fantastic place for a wedding and as an alternative venue to big country piles it makes for a very different setting and a very different style of photography.

graysonside wedding photographers
Nick & Maggie at St Begas and Graysonside, Cockermouth

Nick and Maggie seem to pop up on this blog a lot after having their wedding and pre wedding photoshoot done by Lake District. This image is timeless and has one of the most picturesque churches in the Lake District as the backdrop. Without doubt one of my favourites this year. Graysonside, Nicks family home is also now a wedding venue, so if you are looking at this and don’t have a venue yet, have a look at their site by clicking here.

hundith hill wedding photography
Stacey and Stephen at Hundith Hill, Cockermouth

Just over the road from the above venue at Graysonside is Hundith Hill, the chosen location of Stacey and Stephen. The rain really didn’t stop on the day, so I shot some bits inside while we waited for the weather to subside. The wall frames Stacey in this shot and makes the image really pop out. Staceys’ looks are flawless and make for a perfect bride who thankfully quite enjoyed being photographed.

weddings at the greenhill hotel
Rachel & Ian at the Greenhill Hotel, Red Dial.

Just remembering that I have to choose one image from each wedding for this exercise, this is Rachels’ favourite image and its mine too. The light is quite flat as we were in the shade but the dying embers of the evening summer sun can be seen lighting the staircase inside. The Greenhill Hotel, is where I shot my first big wedding after moving back from the North East, so is kind of a special place for me and I like to think that this is a nice portrait of the hotel too.

wedding photographers at smiths
Rachel & Rick at smiths hotel Gretna.

Caught this as we were setting up for a shot on the balcony outside Rachel and Ricks suite at Smiths. Its safe to say that this one had preference over the setup image by quite a long way.

crighton rugby club wedding photography
Sarah and Peter at the Crighton

Another wedding that is yet unblogged but expect to see it in the future. Sarah and peter had the worst mother nature could throw at us and still smiled all the way through. I stepped in a puddle but still managed to deliver over 400 images of a fantastic day for them both.

inn on the lake glenridding
Scott & Donna at Inn on the Lake

This has to be a wedding photograph that will live in infamy for me and one that I have clients ask about all of the time. This version is untreated with the union Jack left in. See the blog for more images from their beautiful wedding at Inn on the Lake.

weddings at the grange, grange-over-sands
Victor and Jennifer at the Grange Hotel

So 2011 ends where it all started, at the Grange with Victor and Jennifer. This was a wedding that I felt really at home with. Vintage styling and a really lovely couple who have left me some very nice comments on their blog post. This shot was captured as they walked away from their wedding breakfast and really was a lucky shot. I love it.. Adam from Lake District Wedding Photography.

Lake District Wedding Photography Cumbria

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