I usually shot the entire wedding on Portra 160 NC (and before that on Vericolour).
If the light was low - tripod or flash.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I suspect that I might end up using flash for the uber uber dark times when there's absolutely no light and even 1600 iso film struggles For the most part, I'm trying to stay away from flash as I really like the look of natural light.
I'm beginning to understand that I can't really "change ISO" without changing film or push/pull processing. Since I'm not particular about either of those options, I'm thinking that a 2 camera setup would be ideal. or maybe a 3 camera setup - 2 x 35mm and 1 x medium format 645, each with a different lens and each with a different film. one color, one black and white or some strange concoction.
For those who use multiple cameras to overcome the ISO thing (without using flash), curious as to what's your setup like?
Multiple bodies and/or backs, with flash. I always have a flash on at weddings, just because it makes one at least somewhat adaptable to most situations. Though I usually do not use it, it comes in handy when the film happens to be too slow for a shot that is worth taking. You can shoot it into the ceiling to add some light, and it won't stick out as being all that different from the ones shot in ambient light. However, after shooting one or two weddings, you generally know when to have your camera loaded with what (which is why the flash is used so little).
If you have to, just rewind a roll and change films, or finish off the roll quickly.
With digital, I like to have three bodies for shooting candids at a wedding, though the third is just a convenience, to prevent changing lenses as often. I shoot plenty often and just fine with two. With film, I like to have at least two on me, and two or more bodies (or backs) loaded with a different film, just in case. However, the times when I shoot film at weddings are few and far between. When I do, it is usually medium format, and the shots are of the more formal variety. You are correct that digital has great advantages in this area.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
If the two speeds you need are ISO 400 & 640, I'd shoot an 800 film and shoot it anywhere between 800 and 400, process as normal.
The situation with 800Z in the UK is that 120 has been cut and I think 35mm is threatened as it's a slow seller. Superia 800 is still available, but only in 35mm. Check here:
When I was film based for weddings, that was a big plus using medium format with removable backs as I could change backs for different types of film. That's when I needed someone just to keep up with unloading and re-loading film, having backs ready to use. I brought a large cooler to each gig for the film. For 35mm I had a couple of cameras, one with color and another with B&W, but I used medium format most of the time.
Much simpler and easier now as I get everything in a backpack with back ups and a few other things in my Pelican case. My lighting is all off camera and all flashes are battery operated. Smiles!
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Why change iso's. Why not 1 good digital camera plus the film camera of your choice?
I used to use 1 35 plus a speed graphic 2X3 with 3 roll film backs, one loaded with tri-x, and two with different color films. Very versatile, the speeder. True ground glass focusing and composition control+range finder+parallax adjust viewfinder+sportsfinder.
Between ISO 400 and 640, there is not even one stop difference. (0.8) Unless we are talking about extreme low light conditions (which one stop difference isn't likely to solve), I wonder why there is a need to switch between the two.
How about simply loading ISO 400 film in one camera and higher ISO one in your second/backup body? Fuji has an ISO1600 and Kodak has an ISO800 listed as current offerings.
I am finding, NOT using flash will make it very difficult to get the right catch light in subject's eyes and eye socket part of the face tends to have deep shadows making the result unattractive. I am not sure if "getting this right" is possible in fast pace shooting condition like weddings where things need to proceed quickly and there isn't often much of a choice to play with subject placements.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
the Pentax 645 I use doesn't have interchangeable backs, unfortunately. Meaning I'll have to finish a roll before I start a new one.
The reason I don't shoot ISO 400 film at 640 is to get a bit more "deepness" on the film. I've shot Fuji 400H at 640 ISO and the pictures turn out almost "faded". Maybe I'm metering wrong? Anyways, I figure if I shot at 640, the picture would look even more faded and wouldn't have that 'look' I'm going for.
I may do something along the lines of shooting higher ISO film in one body and my main 400 ISO on a lower body, although using 800 speed film and shooting at 400 sounds interesting.
800 film will easily tolerate a one stop over-exposure and you may like the result. It's worth a try, I think. Recently I shot a wedding on Pro400H and I threw a roll of 800Z into the bag just in case. Well, during some hectic shooting the 800Z got shot as if it was 400H (I didn't notice) and there's very little difference between that film and the other 400H rolls - perhaps a little more 'punch' to the colours.
Flash- flash....oh yeah...flash. That will help immensely. Learn your distances and zone focus, or live on the edge and trust it all to D-TTL. 800z, portra 800, or faster films will be fine unless you expect prints larger than your album pages. Then you might want to consider a larger format than 135 if that becomes a regular occurrence.
M. David Farrell, Jr.
~Buying a Nikon doesn not make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner!
~Everybody has a photographic memory, but not everybody has film!