Shooting Weddings on Film: Tips to Get You Started by Samantha Stortecky

Film image of a wedding - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film
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Written by Samantha Stortecky

Hello everyone! So, for those of you who don’t know, I used to be a wedding photographer!

I photographed weddings for over 7 years, and while I don’t photograph them anymore, they were where I photographed some of my absolute favorite film images.

Towards the end of my wedding photography journey, I solely shot on film during a wedding day. If you’re a photographer, you know this can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re starting out shooting film and are nervous about accidentally messing up or missing vital moments during a wedding day.

And I get it, it took me a while before I decided to go full film on a wedding day!

Weddings move fast and you have to be aware of your cameras, how they work, and be prepared for every possible outcome.

But the good news is, it’s not as scary as you think! All you need is a good game plan on how to approach a wedding. Here is an overview of how I shoot weddings on film, including the cameras I use, everything in my camera bag, and how I capture each part of the wedding day.

Film image of a wedding portrait - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film

What’s In My Camera Bag

Alright, now let’s get into the fun part!

When it comes to working during a wedding, my motto was always “less is more,” especially when you are a wedding photographer.

Running around and photographing on your feet for 8+ hours can be taxing, and trying to fumble through various cameras and equipment can make shooting weddings frustrating and stressful.

This is why I chose two cameras to keep on me at all times.

I keep one 35mm camera on me, the Canon 1V, and one medium format camera, the Pentax 645N (find on eBay).

The medium format camera produces beautiful images but is a bit slower to use. Medium format film also only has 15 shots per roll, so the film needs to be changed more often.

The 35mm camera allows for faster shooting, and with 36 shots per roll, I do not have to change the film rolls as often. A little bit further down in the article, I’ll go over when I use each camera.

Film image of a wedding - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film
Film image of a wedding portrait - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film
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I don’t carry my camera bag on me while I’m shooting. I find trying to pull my equipment in and out of a bag is a no-go for me during a fast-paced wedding. I need my cameras and equipment always at the ready. Because of this, I prefer to use a camera holster. 

I love the classic MoneyMaker by HoldFast Gear. It doesn’t stress out your back, you can safely have your cameras hang by your side so your hands and wrists don’t get tired, and overall it makes you look like a badass in a western film!

For the rest of my equipment, I would rely on a good old-fashioned fabric apron. I just bought an inexpensive and simple white one on Amazon, and it has served me perfectly.

It stays in place, and everything from my film rolls to my light meter is all situated in their pocket for easy grabbing throughout the day.

There were times when I had an assistant who would wear an extra bag with my digital camera and other various extras in case I needed it, but these can always be left in your car as a backup while you just carry the most important equipment on you.

Prepare for every possible outcome!

Film image of a wedding portrait - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film

Here is a rundown of everything that is in my camera bag and what I keep on me during a wedding day:

On my leather camera holster:

In my fabric waist apron:

Film image of a wedding portrait - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film
Film image of a wedding - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film

How I Shoot Film During the Wedding Day

Now that you know exactly what I keep with me during a typical wedding day, let’s get into how I use my equipment throughout the day.

Wedding Party Preparations:

This is typically a slower-paced section of the day, so I will rely 100% on my Pentax 645N and take a documentary-style approach to my images as the wedding party gets ready.

First Look:

Because this moment is SUPER important and I only get one shot at it, I make sure that I am using my Canon 1V and that it has a fresh roll of film. This is so I can freely photograph this moment without having to worry about changing out my film and potentially missing a special moment.

Once the initial first look moment is done, I will switch to my Pentax 645N to get a few detailed and portrait-style images of the couple.

Film image of a wedding portrait - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film
Film image of a wedding portrait - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film

Family Pictures:

This is always my least favorite part of the wedding day and tends to drag on, so I use my Canon 1V since most weddings require a ton of family portraits.

I will use around 3-5 35mm rolls of film depending on how big the family is and how many images are requested. 

Venue Details:

This is one of my favorite parts of the day and is usually slower-paced.

Because I can take time to situate myself around the venue, this is a section of the day where I will use my Pentax 645N solely.

Film image of a wedding - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film
Film image of a wedding - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film

Ceremony:

Most ceremonies are a bit long, and because it’s a pivotal moment of the wedding day, I need to make sure that I have my camera ready to go with a fresh roll of film.

I will use my Canon 1V so I can easily snap photos fast and reload them quickly. The Canon 1V rolls the film fast and all you have to do is pop in your fresh roll, pull your film into the sprocket, and shut the back before you’re ready to continue taking images. 

TIP: Because the Canon 1V has a pretty crappy internal light meter, before the ceremony begins, I will quickly use my external light meter to gauge what settings my camera should be in the places where I know I will stand during the ceremony.

I do this BEFORE the ceremony starts so I am not fumbling with it during the vows and potentially losing important images.

Film image of a wedding - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film

Reception:

By this time, I am usually starting to lose daylight, so I will solely switch over to black & white film that can be pushed to a higher ISO.

My go-to will always be Ilford Delta 3200, because I can push that ISO high and capture some fun grainy action images of people getting crazy on the dance floor!

Portraits:

During the reception, I will typically take the newlyweds aside before the sun sets and get some intimate portraits of them.

These usually are some of my absolute favorite images of the day, and because it’s a slow and quiet moment between the couple, I will stick solely to my Pentax 645N.

Film image of a wedding - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film
Film image of a wedding portrait - Shooting Weddings on Film by Samantha Stortecky on Shoot It With Film

Final Thoughts

Well, friends, that’s it for me. I hope this was insightful and gave you the courage to dive into shooting film during your client’s wedding day!

Thank you so much, Samantha! Samantha is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here, including a Fujifilm Instax SP-2 printer review and the Pentax 645N camera review.

You can also check out more of Samantha’s work on her website and Instagram.

Let us know your questions about shooting weddings on film below in the comments!

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Samantha Stortecky

Samantha Stortecky is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as How to Shoot Kodak Portra 400 and 5 Unique & Experimental Film Stocks You Need to Try.

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Blog Comments

Like Samantha, I used to shoot weddings. One important aspect Samantha didn’t mention in the article is the preparation well before the wedding day. I developed a ‘Shooting List’ in discussions with the couple when my services were booked, where all the ‘must-get’ photos were listed. My list included the standard ones (tick box) with additional lines for those not normal for all weddings. This might be ‘Bride & Groom with bride’s great-auntie Bonny’ and so on. I then referred to my list and ticked off each ‘must-get’ shot as I took them. This saved the embarrassment of committing ‘must-get’ shots to memory (not good!), missing them, and having an unhappy client even when everything else went well.

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