Fixing The Shadows – Tutorial

So this is part 1 of a monthly feature called Fixing the shadows. As you may have noticed photography is a bit of a passion with us so we’re going to discuss all things photography right here! Obviously if you are a photographer or are into photography this is going to be the place for you but even if you are a client or if you just enjoy photographing your family, you should get some good ideas!

Today I want to talk about why we shoot on film – The many advantages, and the few disadvantages that make digital the better option.

First of all WHY?

There are a Ton of reasons why we shoot film. The main reason is the look of it – specifically colour! Film has an amazing colour palette that digital simply can’t replicate. There are a ton of Photoshop Actions and presets out there that are designed to replicate film, and whilst they have a certain ‘look’ they unfortunately can’t deliver colour like film can.
Take a look at some of theses images and see how rich the skin tones are and how the whole image glows.

Shooting film separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls!

Film has a very different discipline to shooting on digital. Shooting digital gives you an immediate image to look at and even though it’s on a small screen you are instantly able to get a good idea if you’ve captured everything correctly, right? Cue family fortunes Uh-Uh noise!

All photographers would have experienced times when you take a shot, have a quick look, and think AWESOME I have totally nailed that shot, only to get the image on the big screen and the focusing is not quite in the right place or the histogram told you everything was right and the pictures just look a bit flat!

Shooting on film makes you get it right in camera. By taking light readings using a meter, and taking more time to compose, focus and create the image, you know that everything is spot on when you click the shutter.

Time saving is a huge benefit when shooting film. Whilst I don’t mind playing with digital files in Lightroom and Photoshop our average wedding will result in about 320 images that all need to be checked for colour, tone, and contrast so you can imagine the amount of time it takes to make every picture sing. With film the work is done at the lab so it’s just a case of dropping the files into the right order – renaming them and that’s it, done!

Digital is of course free to click, so lets not ignore the cost difference against shooting film which can be VERY expensive. As small business owners our time is precious, so if you were to sit down and work out how much it physically costs you to sit at a computer for 1 to 2 days editing one wedding, you’ll find it’s probably about the same cost of outsourcing your editing, or the same as film processing costs. I intend to sit down and do this excercise soon and of course I’ll be sharing the results here.

The Cameras – with digital all the cameras tend to be the same. You have Nikon & Canon the market leaders and then others like Fuji, Sony & Olympus and they all kind of look the same. If you shoot fixed lenses or zooms that can make a difference, and of course there are many other factors that can affect the look of your pictures, but what I love about film is that the camera and lens that you use can have a massive effect on the overall look of a picture and more importantly, your style!

If you shoot with a Contax or a Hassleblad – 35mm or medium format – Voightlander, Leica or Zeiss glass, these are all factors that can make such a huge difference to the style and the way that you shoot.

Due to new camera advances in digital technology the price of digital keeps going up whilst the price of most film cameras can result in some absolute bargains. Cameras that were once in their thousands can now be picked up in their hundreds. Collecting cameras can also be exciting (and frustrating) but that is a conversation for another time!


I don’t want this to just be a soapbox rant about how great film is. We have been shooting digital for many years now and digital is fantastic for certain tasks – I’d like to talk about a few of those now.

Shooting in low light – With anything from a Nikon D3 or a Canon 5D onwards, the scope for shooting at high iso’s is unreal! Many times we have been working in dark churches with hardly any availble light. being able to shoot at 2500, 3200 or 6400 iso has been a life saver.

TTL Flash – this is probably my favourite advantage to working with digital. Using on camera bounced flash on our Nikon D700’s is simply effortless. We try as much as possible to shoot daylight wherever we can but there are times when you need to add a little flash. When these occasions arise I want the flash to look as natural as possible and this is were digital flash capabilities are outstanding. I am going to do a whole feature on shooting flash but for now check out some on-camera flash images.

Low key images – lighting is always going to be the most important factor for any image, film and digital have very different latitudes when it comes to recording light. There are many other elements that also effect the overall look and feel of an image – the film stock, the way the film is processed, but with digital the characteristic of an image can change massively with the way it processed. This can have many negative aspects like pictures being over-processed, or the latest digital gimmick that’s been over-used, but one factor that I love about digital is being able to control the blacks to add drama to a low key image.

The ease at which you can control shadows, midtones and highlights is out of this world! Of course you can still achieve stunning results using low key directional light with film, but there is something about the way digital records the shadows that I just love.

Finding the right style and the right look for you is a very personal thing, and it’s definitely a journey that we’re still on. When shooting weddings there are so many different roles you have to play to capture everything and it’s a case of choosing the right tools for the job.

If you have any thoughts or questions on this topic then feel free to leave a comment – thanks for reading!

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