View Full Version : Wedding photographers - do you ever use 35mm transparancy film?

01-18-2011, 10:28 AM
I might be wrong, but it seems the majority of wedding photographers use negative films of one sort or another instead of transparency films. Before I go on, I realise many film wedding shooters use medium format, but lets pretend you have only got a Nikon F5, for example ;-)

Firstly, is that statement correct? If so, why? Is it because negative film is generally more forgiving of extremes (and errors) thus allowing the photographer to be more versatile in a variety of lighting situations that are typically part and parcel of a wedding? Or is it due to some other reason - skin tones not looking right, or something like that?

When it comes to enlargements etc, I read that the chromes of Kodak (E100G, for example - http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/products/colorReversalIndex.jhtml?pq-path=13319/1229_ ) can be enlarged huge with no noticeable addition of grain.

I ask the question because I have not used transparency films for portrait work yet. I've used Fuji Velvia and Astia, all in 35mm format, for landscapes and macros and I ahve to say that they have been outstanding pictures (for me)! Arguably some of my best work.

So I am naturally curious as to why such films are generally not used for weddings, or am I totally off the mark?


01-18-2011, 11:21 AM
I would guess that "historically" negative film was shot because they would have been printing RA-4 prints in their studio; as Cibachrome isn't for the high-volume kind of operation, although theoretically internegatives could've been used.

I would also bet that medium format was used more than 35mm.

That being said, as much as I hate to admit it, I bet less than 2% of wedding photographers aren't shooting digital. MF however would give you a legitimate advantage over digital/35mm, so perhaps there are still some people out there wielding Portra 400 in their Hasselblad.

All speculation of course...

01-18-2011, 11:29 AM
Weddings are by nature uncontrolled. The ones where I live are shooting negative for the forgiveness offered. (They aren't printing optically). It isn't generally more forgiving, it's much more forgiving. There are photographers here that offer film as a choice, more than 2%, more like 20%, including two that shoot only film. The kicker is that they are young. Seems to be a good niche looking at their rates... Of course there are a ton of $300 bottom churn and burn feeder hacks, and it doesn't matter what they shoot, but you can guess. My suggestion for this thread is to keep it on topic, and not belabor what everybody already knows.

01-18-2011, 11:34 AM
Color transparency film has less latitude than color neg film. If you over expose transparency film you can blow out your highlights or even your whole exposure. When you over expose color neg film, you can salvage a shot. Also prints are more expensive from transparency film.

Ian Grant
01-18-2011, 11:35 AM
Have to agree with Jason, transparencies need very tight exposure control and aren't ideal for social photography and particularly weddings.

I've never heard of anyone using transparencies for weddings,, it's always been negatives.


01-18-2011, 11:44 AM
Only once, I shot K64 at one wedding decades ago in the UK. A special request from the father of the bride. No flash, dark church interior, exposures around 1 sec at f4 with a 200mm telephoto on a very solid wall bracket on the balcony at the back of the church. Dad was thrilled with the slides. Mom was much happier with the black and white album complete with studio portraits. :)

The hardest thing was convincing the father to accept K64, he wanted K II.

01-18-2011, 11:49 AM
I would think it's a combination the latitude offered by negative film, and the ease of commercial color negative printing. Printing transparencies well is not easy or cheap. For a wedding, you'd have needed a whole album of proof prints done good,fast, and cheap, which would be tough to do with slide film.

Slide/transparency was popular in other realms of pro photography for two reasons I know of. Because of the one-step processing (no printing), you got exactly what you shot and color/image quality wasn't compromised by the automated printing machines. Instead you looked at the images on a light table and saw it with your eyes when you have a good original. I wasn't involved in it, but apparently print shops were better at making good color reproduction for cmyk printing when using slides as their original.

If you are considering slide film just because it appears to have better grain, there are other options. The f5 is a nice camera and part of a nice system, but you could add a cheap used rolleiflex/hasselblad/pentax67/bronica/etc.. medium format camera for group photos and get the medium format quality for the group images. Having an unusual camera for the group photos might also help direct everyone's attention to the same place when posing. Unless you make group photos bigger than 8x10, I think the f5 will be more than adequate. I'd think only upscale clients would be ordering bigger than 8x10" group photos.

Christopher Walrath
01-18-2011, 12:43 PM
I agree with the above. Shooting on the fly, as some weddings are prone to make one do, calls for a little more leeway in the film. If it was portraiture only with even lighting, a little more controlled, reversal film might be of the order.

01-18-2011, 12:51 PM
I shot all transparency film when I did commercial work. Art directors loved it because it was sharp and they needed to see a positive to check on color balance. The lighting was highly controlled and proofed with tons of Polaroid. Weddings in general are totally a different game.

01-18-2011, 01:06 PM
When my wife and I got married the second time in Vegas, one of the chapel staff shot a roll of 35mm, which was handed to us unprocessed as we left. But that whole wedding cost less than what any photographer would have charged. We did have an Elvis.

01-18-2011, 04:36 PM
Ted Given that most customers will want prints, then quite apart from the lack of exposure latitude with slides, I'd have thought that the price of Cibachrome prints and lack of printing sources in the U.K. might be the main reason that colour neg is used.

PE, I think, would go further and contend that nowadays colour neg and RA4 prints will give better prints than Cibachrome anyway.

It might be that if photographers can ensure that exposures are spot -on then slides can be printed onto RA4 in mini-labs but even then the slides printed onto RA4 would have to be better than colour negs for the risk to be worth it.

Unless the quality difference with slides printed onto Cibachrome or RA4 is appreciably better than colour neg on RA4 then the reason for wedding photogs not taking slides will be simply: Why take the extra risk with no measurable pay-off.

In the wedding business there's no second chance as in: Sorry all the pics weren't as they should be but never mind we can do it all again next weekend :D:


01-18-2011, 04:41 PM
That all makes sense gents - many thanks for the clarification.

I had assumed it was due to the lack of tollerence that transparency has to incorrect exposure issues and the versatility of the light in a day of shooting a wedding. Nice to hear the extra details though and to get confirmation that I wasn't missing a trick somewhere.

I am happy with my Fuji 400H and 160S selection, with use of 800Z on occasion (I am trying to buy and freeze stocks of 800Z as we speak)

01-18-2011, 04:41 PM
I think if the couple wanted slides to project, it would be among the only reasons to do so. Most (as in every couple I've ever known) want prints and/or digital files, though. There is such a huge variety of shooting situations within a single wedding, and almost all of them require moving quickly. Some slop is involved in the shooting of every wedding, at some point or another. Negative film's extreme versatility and ability to survive less-than-perfect handling makes it the far superior tool in this case, IMO.

But technical issues aside, I imagine that the couple in this day and age that wants slides is a very rare thing. It does you no good to shoot them unless that is what they want.

Rick A
01-18-2011, 05:57 PM
Another thought on negatives versus chromes is contrast. A close friend of mine and his wife shot weddings for many years and used color negative film exclusively because of the smooth tonal shift, as well as more accurate color rendition. He shot with a pair of 6x6 Kowas, and a 21/4x31/4 Speed Graphic(IIRC). He also offered hand colored B&W's.

01-18-2011, 08:35 PM
My wedding, many years ago (OK, many, many years ago), was shot with transparency film. But the photographer (a friend of my wife's family) was a National Geographic photographer and that's what he was comfortable with.

The results were fine, but the reality is that slides don't make the best medium for a wedding album. And prints are more difficult/expensive than from negative film. Only the "humility challenged" would want a print larger than 11x14 (and maybe 8x10) so very large prints are generally not a factor.

01-18-2011, 11:30 PM
In the years that I shot weddings, I shot exactly one on 35mm - the first one!

All the rest were shot on 120.

They were all shot on Kodak professional colour print film - initially on the various versions of Vericolour, and then the Portra films that replaced it.

I still have almost all the negatives. The work-flow involved in selling enlargements to my customers just wouldn't have worked with transparency materials - the labs that did good wedding work and the materials available were not set up for it.

Have you ever tried to photograph a bride in a white dress and a groom in a pale blue tuxedo? If you had, and had used transparency film, you wouldn't have tried that film again.

I realize that I might be dating myself a bit here. :)

The only thing I will say about the 135 vs. medium format part of your question is that all colour print film today is significantly improved when compared to, e.g. 1975, so the results from 135 might very well be closer to acceptable than they were back then.

01-19-2011, 06:03 AM
I only ever shot one wedding on 35mm slide film because that's what the clients requested all the other ones I did were shot on 120 Pro negative films.

Steve Smith
01-19-2011, 06:57 AM
In the years that I shot weddings, I shot exactly one on 35mm - the first one!

In the one month that I shot weddings, I only used 120 (for both of them).

My father spent many years photographing weddings with 35mm and Fuji Reala film with great results. Before that it was 120 with a couple of Rolleiflexes and before that, his first wedding used ten glass plates!

Most of my father's personal photography was with Kodachrome but I don't recall him using transparency film for weddings.


01-19-2011, 08:26 AM
Have you ever tried to photograph a bride in a white dress and a groom in a pale blue tuxedo? If you had, and had used transparency film, you wouldn't have tried that film again.

Add another wrinkle to that problem- the bride is a red-headed Celt and the groom is from Nigeria. Then you'll REALLY want a negative film.