In the Digital Age, Wedding Film Photography Has a Resurgence

In the Digital Age, Wedding Film Photography Has a Resurgence


Taylor Dafoe and Alex Schulte’s relationship has always included film photography. It was the catalyst for their relationship: after leaving his rangefinder film camera at Ms. Schulte’s house during a party in 2015, Mr. Dafoe went back a few days later to pick it up. They ended up going on a first date that weekend.

It was also part of how they got engaged. In June 2022, Mr. Dafoe, now 32, who works as a news and features writer at the art marketing website Artnet, decorated the back yard of their home outside Troy, N.Y., with film photos he had taken during their relationship. He proposed by handing Ms. Schulte, now 32, who works in marketing at Donut, a workplace software company, the same film camera he had left at her house when they first met. The engagement ring came months later.

So when it came time for them to choose a photographer for their September 2023 wedding at June Farms in West Sand Lake, N.Y., it was no surprise that they opted for Autumn Jordan, who is based in Athens, N.Y., and often shoots weddings on film. “That was part of the appeal, for sure,” Mr. Dafoe said.

In recent years, more and more couples are seeking out photographers who can shoot film photos for their weddings. The look of the photos, often a bit softer and grainier than digital ones, and the slower, more analog process are appealing to many couples who are craving a nostalgic medium. This means that photographers and couples can’t look at the photos until they’ve been developed days or weeks after the wedding.

Ms. Schulte and Mr. Dafoe welcome the limitations of shooting a wedding on film. They shared that the process has even begun to influence how they think about their wedding day in general.

“We were thinking about trying to do away with some of the preciousness that comes with weddings,” Mr. Dafoe said. Because of the restrictions of film, they would get fewer photographs in the end and have fewer opportunities to reshoot moments. “We want the event to kind of revel in its own ephemerality,” he said. “And choosing to shoot on film, that’s like a big part of that thinking — because of the material and financial limitations of film.”

Anna Urban, a wedding photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland, has noticed an increase in couples seeking out film photographers over the past year. Though she still primarily uses digital cameras, in September 2022 she started offering film photography to her clients because of the rise in demand. She charges about 100 pounds per film roll, or around $125. About 5 percent of her wedding clients are choosing to add film to their wedding packages, she said.

“People are looking for something different,” Ms. Urban said.“The whole process is different. You don’t see the effect until you have them scanned, developed. It’s like part of the magic, waiting for the photos.”

Kate Hampson, a photographer based in London, began shooting entire weddings on film in May 2022 because it aligned more closely with her personal interests. Although she would typically bring her film camera to weddings, she spent the first few years of her wedding photography career shooting primarily in digital.

However, she was never completely happy with the results.

“I wasn’t getting inspired by digital,” Ms. Hampson said. “So eventually I started saying, Would you mind if I shoot maybe half film, half digital?” Before long, she made the jump to shooting exclusively with film. She typically brings a digital camera to weddings as a backup, but rarely uses it. One of the last times she shot a wedding with a digital camera, in June 2022, it happened to be 118 degrees outside and the camera shut off because of the heat, she said.

“Thank God for film,” Ms. Hampson said with a laugh.

Jen Huang Bogan, a wedding photographer in Montecito, Calif., said that the more weddings she shot, the more she began to realize that film was the medium she wanted to work in.

“It wasn’t until shooting weddings where I was like, OK, there’s a striking difference between digital and film,” Ms. Bogan said.“The look of film just vastly outperformed digital.”

Couples are typically drawn to her work, Ms. Bogan said, because they are looking for classic, timeless photos, which she feels film is best suited for because it tends to not look tied to a specific time period. She compares shooting in film to painting with oil: It’s the medium that she believes produces the best artistic photographs and gives couples the opportunity to slow down.

“It really works for weddings and portraiture because it is so natural and also so flattering,” she said.

Jillian Mitchell, a wedding photographer in San Francisco, Mexico, who works mainly in New York and Los Angeles, shoots a majority of her weddings on film. She started working as a wedding photographer in 2009, shooting entirely on digital cameras. She had used film in her personal work, though, and quickly found herself gravitating back toward the medium as she became more involved in wedding photography.

Although she now shoots primarily film photos, she doesn’t restrict herself. “I do think that digital has a place,” Ms. Mitchell said. She tends to pull out her digital camera when shooting in low-lit areas, like when she’s capturing candid moments on the dance floor. Even so, she said, “it’s very rare for me to see a digital image that moves me in the way that film does.”

There are some photographers who want to recreate the look of film photos in a digital format. One of them is Jose Villa, a wedding photographer in Solvang, Calif., who has shot exclusively on film for most of his 20-year career.

“Weddings are a living, breathing thing,” he said. He aims to capture photographs without interrupting the cadence of a wedding, which often means that he is photographing moments where he has less control than if he were photographing in a studio.

“We adjust to those situations, and also still keep our cool, and use the equipment that makes it so that we can do that,” he said. “Film can be a lot more forgiving.”

Although he still loves shooting in film, over the past few years Mr. Villa has begun taking photos with digital cameras, especially as he works with celebrity clients who post pictures on social media just hours after a wedding.

“Film was really popular, you know, 20 years ago, and then it went away,” Mr. Villa said. “People were talking about it less when digital started becoming better.” Although he believes that some digital photos can be edited to recreate the look of film photos, he also welcomes the resurgence of film photography at weddings.

“I think that it is amazing for these photographers to continue to shoot with film,” he said, “and continue to keep it alive.”