Film or Digital?

<< Article was first written in 2018 >>

I first wrote this article back in 2018 and I thought an update would be quite timely now that we’re seeing a mini revival of this time tested photographic medium. Analogue film photography is perhaps a very uncommon choice in a world where almost everything is going have gone digital. There may be a surge in interest for film photography in the past one year but I fear this is just a momentary phase (I have seen this rise and dip several times in my lifetime as a film photographer). Just take a look at the number of films that are disappearing from the shelves. Neopan, FujiFilm Pro series just to name a few.

In this digital day and age, the question that most wedding couples would ask is “WHY FILM?”. Before I attempt to answer this question, perhaps it’s worth exploring a few other questions first.

Steven & Charissa's Paris Pre-Wedding Photography by Film Wedding Photographer Brian Ho from thegaleria
This is perhaps one of my most iconic image taken back in 2007 on the Kodak TRI-X 400 / Charissa, Rue Malher, Paris

Is there a difference?

There is really no easy nor quick way of answering this question. I’ll answer this without going too much into technical details. In a nutshell, folks who love film photography (we shall call it just Film from now on) love it for the old-school and timeless feel to it. Some people have described it as being more natural, organic and realistic than Digital. One of the most common comment I get from wedding couples from viewing my works is “it’s as if you hit the pause button while watching a movie”.

There is a certain transient mood that comes with Film that is very hard to put into plain words. It’s an experience unlike Digital. Going with the “gut feel” is a phrase that probably comes close and yet that’s just scratching the surface.

Deon & Sheila / Singapore Pre Wedding / Tiong Bahru / Film Wedding Photographer
Deon & Sheila, Tiong Bahru, 2017 / FujiFilm Natura 1600

Can I tell them apart?

Again, no easy way of answering this question but in most cases, you can (tell them apart). Some instances are of course more obvious than others. The most common misconception of Film is that it’s always old fashioned, grainy, low fidelity and lomo-like. That is exactly how people recognise Film these days, something called the “film look”. That is so far from the truth. Take a look at Steve McCurry’s Kodak Ektachrome works. Films taken with a good quality camera and when processed properly can rival those taken in digital in every aspect.

Rachel, 2008 / Fuji Reala, Holga 120GN
Suresh & Luanne, 2020 / FujiFilm Superia 1600
Jeremy & Elizabeth's Pre Wedding at Wessex & Tiong Bahru / Wedding Photography by thegaleria
Jeremy & Elizabeth, 2018 / Kodak TRI-X 400 on Diana F+

Is Film better?

Ian & Alicia's Wedding at Karuizawa, Nagono, Japan / Wedding Photography by Brian Ho / thegaleria
Ian & Alicia, Fullerton Boathouse, 2010 / Kodak TRI-X 400

I like to answer this question by using an analogy. Let’s compare Digital vs Film with that of that of the music world – Digital Music (think Apple Music & Spotify) vs Analogue Music (think vinyl).

Could you say Vinyl is better? Well, it depends who you’re asking. Vinyl lovers will swear by the natural, life-like analogue sound while Digital folks prefer digital music for entirely different reasons. The question you should be asking is which medium appeals to you more? And it’s entirely possible to love both.

Should I go with Film?

Hong Kong Pre Wedding by Film Wedding Photographer Brian Ho / thegaleria // Kodak TRI-X 400
Felix & Joyce, Hong Kong, 2017 / Kodak TRI-X 400
Yik Shiong & Lin Li's London Pre-Wedding Photography by Film Wedding Photographer Brian Ho from thegaleria
Yik Shiong & Lin Li, Baker Street Station, London, 2010 / Kodak TRI-X 400

Only if you like how it looks. In general, if you like the ethereal, old-school, timeless feel in your wedding photos, then Film might be something that works for you.

Just remember there isn’t a right or wrong choice. Whichever medium you pick, you’ll still be enjoying good photography pretty much the same way how Digital & Vinyl lovers have enjoyed the music listening experience, albeit in different ways.

So, Why Film?

Now, as to why I’m still sticking my guns with Film Photography? Well, it’s a personal choice, one that I have grown very fond of and one that have become synonymous with me as a wedding photographer. Folks who have known me long enough have often described me as the “one who stubbornly refused to give up Film”.  Which is your medium of choice? Would it be Film or Digital? Which do you think works better for you?

If you do pick Film, you’ll be one of the few wedding couples who’ll be embracing this timeless medium which has withstood the test of time.

Try it. Film may just be the thing for you.