the down + dirty cost of shooting film.
Whenever I whip out my beloved Contax 645 to shoot several frames in film, especially around photographers, the topic often turns to the 'hardships' of shooting film "it's just so much HARDER, right?" (nope!), the complicated nature of learning the medium (once you get the basics, it's actually EASIER!), and lastly, money. Dolla dolls bills ya'll. While hybrid (digital + film shooters) continue to launch film editing preset after preset, promising a more precise match to the sought after colors of film, many flock (including me!) with the hopes of emulating the look and feel of film without injuring their bottom dollar. Ironically, for myself, I have spent as much dinero on presets + who knows how much time (which we all know also equals monnnaaayyyyy) trying to get my digital to far exceed the likes of my shiny Contax + I though others can, no matter how hard I try, I just can't beat actually shooting film. I just can't. (I wish I was a lightening fast editing genius who could!) So instead of spending MORE moolah on presets + scratching my eyeballs out trying to find a cohesive workflow + color to mesh the two mediums, I simply decided to breakdown the costs (+ time!) of the two. So if you're debating, you can see the bottom line when it comes to shooting both mediums or just one and find a solution that makes the most sense for you.
Angela + Bryce on their beau-ti-ful wedding day. Left is film, right is digital (with a few editing tweaks). Close! But to my overly discerning eyeball + quest for perfection, not the same. ;)
//the B R E A K D O W N (medium format film)
--(1) 120 roll of fuji 400h (16 shots) = approximately $8
--Developing + digital scanning = approximately $19
--Shipping + Handling (to developer) = $6
estimated $2 per photo
Yes. It's not 'cheap' by any means. But for me, I also think about this:
//the B R E A K D O W N (digital)
--(1) memory card (approx 150 images) = ($80, but already paid for)
-- x 9 memory cards (1350 images) (DOUBLE that if you had a second shooter along for the day)
Time to upload cards to computer: approximately 1.5 hours (2.5 hours if you have a second shooter + shot in ginormous raw file sizes)
Time to pick keeper photos from duplicate poses, blurries + blinkers: approximately 3 hours (4 or 5 hours if you had a second shooter AND even then are using Photomechanic. Longer if you cull in Lightroom)
Time to edit final images (approximately 450 photos): This depends on YOUR editing, but me, it takes around 8 or 10 hours, give or take. And, as photographers, we all know that in between that wedding, uploading, + final edits there are other weddings you are shooting, other sessions you are attending, emails to be answered, contracts to be sent, packages to be mailed, consultations to attend, etc. So we are lucky if the time spent wrapping those images is within the confines of one day (that's like, the Holy Grail. It just doesn't happen--unless you have hired help). If you aren't one of these people, there is a good chance you are outsourcing your edits. Which is AWESOME! But think about this:
Cost to outsource edits: approximately .35 to .50 cents an image, depending = $225
Total time JUST for image uploading + edits: approximately 17.5 hours
(Film on left, digital on right. Can you see a difference?)
Yes, this still may look like a more cost efficient avenue, and to a lot of photographers it is! I could bombard you all day long with my personal + professional reasons why I have decided to shoot mainly film, but the reasons are just that: PERSONAL. There is no right or wrong, however, the 'perks' are entirely too enticing for me to pass up.
You see, all this breakdown into consideration, I find the medium more liberating, henceforth, more efficient for my business + not much more costly than shooting digital. Here's why:
--Instead of shooting a somewhat rapid fire succession of images at once then choosing the best of the same pose later in culling for hours in front of my computer, I am 'culling' as I shoot, only shooting the intended story. This saves me time not ONLY on the wedding day, but afterwards in editing, because I didn't take 10 photos of the same thing + have to choose the best. I already PICKED the best perspective...WHEN I SHOT IT. Whew! (You can do this with digital too of course, you are just a LOT more conscious of it in film)
--The color can't be matched. There are some people who are masters at Lightroom + Photoshop and can alllllmoosttttttt trick me into thinking it's film. Even when presets look amazing, 98.9% of the time I can still pick which one is digital and which is film. It's not just in the color, but the detail that the different medium's lenses produce. I may be picky + you may say that the average eye may not notice, which is SO true--but I can tell. And sadly, I am not one of these master photoshoppers, so the time I spend trying to get this preset to actually LOOK right is time I could be shooting more of the things I love. Or emailing. Or having coffee dates with creatives. Or snuggling my puppies.
--You shoot it, mail it, and then go shoot something else as you wait. NOTHING and I mean NOTHING feels better than dropping those rolls that are 'already culled' + because you chose your film stock + exposure pretty much already "edited" into a ziplock bag + mailing them off to a lab for developing. While the lab develops and scans your images, you get to again, spend that time not staring at your computer screen, but spending more time on business. Marketing. Or better yet, SHOOTING! Which is more time to do what you love + allows you more TIME to create a heavier profit margin. You gotta spend money to make money, right? ;) + Man oh man it's like CHRISTMAS opening your inbox when your lab emails you to say your scans are ready. You practically scream "I LOVEEEEEE FILMMMMMM!" in a Goldmember manner and "MAN, I am a freaking BOMB photographer" almost every time you open them. It will make you fall back in love with your own work.
--The gear. I do still shoot with my digital for receptions + dimly lit ceremonies (for now!) and my current canon lenses work great on my 35mm canon film camera that is great for quick reception shots, however, shooting film makes it less likely to get caught in the 'buy all the newest gear' rabbit hole that is digital. Yes, the cost of film cameras is rising, and there are some quirks to consider when purchasing, however some great $80 close-up filters work just as good as a $1200 macro lens on my digital. It strips you back to basics, putting your little buying fingers at ease, and in turn, saving you more money down the road. Unless you turn into a film camera whore. And, you probably will. Then, I can't help you there. Just remember you're trying to save money here.
--The value. A medium such as film is beautiful and incredible, yet not as easy to come by. I still admire digital, don't get me wrong, and there are all SORTS of great photographers out there. However, for a discerning clientele who appreciates the look, your specialized expertise and style is incomparable. Collection prices are increased to reflect + accommodate the worthwhile cost + expertise of fine art film.