I was always looking for a way to earn money on the side with something I love and escape the suffering of nursing. When Corona pushed things to the limit in 2020, I started taking selfies with my phone and playing around with photos. Instagram wasn’t new anymore, and people just posted whatever came to mind. So I started taking photos with my Sony Alpha 5000, which I used for vlogging back then. Here a traffic light, there a tree, and here an old car. But I couldn’t get away from the question of “how can I make money with it,” so I started calling for couples to photograph for my portfolio.
After 2-3 couples, I had my first portfolio wedding, 10 hours for €100. The main thing was that I could show the pictures. Being a wedding photographer seemed to bring me so much satisfaction that I reduced my main job and had 10 weddings under my belt by 2021.
My brother (@felixroediger) has been involved in photography for a long time and has been my inspiration for film photography. Since I always put 100% into things I like, I bought my first analogue camera, the first development kit, and the first Kodak Tri-x 400 at the beginning of 2021 and photographed my first model. As a safety net, I always had my digital camera with me to have a preview.
The great love which brings problems
In short, this was the beginning of a great love. One problem was that it led me to no longer be able to see my digital images. They were too sharp, too perfect, didn’t have the colors I wanted, and black and white was always somehow different than the previous photo. I took an unspeakably long time for a wedding because I didn’t like the editing at all. Apart from being a preset pusher who had no idea what a curve really does. I started to incorporate black and white film at weddings and occasionally shot a color film, and to my dismay, it made everything even worse; I wanted more. I wanted to photograph weddings on film.
Discovering the right Inspiration
So I looked for photographers who shoot weddings on film and came across Jen-huang or “the wedding photographers,” who had the typical American pastel look! At first, I thought this was great but couldn’t imagine exposing Fuji400H at 200 and in the shadows at weddings, where everything has to go quickly. This made me depressed! How should I deal with the fact that photography is important to me, my digital images don’t appeal to me, and analogue wedding photos simply seemed too complex and impossible?
Until I was able to speak with a photographer who shoots weddings on film in London and beyond and whose images are simply amazing and have already been featured on Vogue weddings. Naomi Goggin (Link). I asked her how she measures exposure in her assignments,
and she just said, “I either use the internal exposure meter of my camera or none at all.”
The First Wedding without a Safety net
In September 2022, I was able to shoot my first wedding only on film without any digital backup. I brought 7 cameras and 40 packs of film, and stayed for 3 days.What should I say? It was awesome! My motivation rose immeasurably, so I decided that starting from 2023, I will only shoot weddings on film. Klemens Wichmann should stand for THE film wedding photographer. Think big was the motto, so I deleted all my Instagram accounts and left one, revamped my website, and placed ads to be able to show off my portfolio weddings in 2023. Additionally, I will fly to Mallorca at the end of March and to Paris at the beginning of October to further position myself. I just love spreading the good news about analogue photography.
My reason for doing this is multifaceted. Primarily, I love the idea that each image is unique, as each photo costs money and should be used well. In a world full of filters and the
fast pace of things, analog wedding photography brought me back to the really important things. How important the right memories really are, how important it is to live mindfully, and how beautiful it can be to not let everything pass you by. We are not perfect! We are just right the way we are. And so are my pictures, perfectly imperfect and just right. Each image or Super8 video feels like a rediscovered memory that becomes timeless and can be relived over and over again. And that fits soooo well into the wedding industry. The day is so important that you shouldn’t let it pass you by, but rather enjoy it. I try to let calm and coziness flow into the day wherever possible. And let’s be honest, what doesn’t look awesome when shot on film? While others show up with their digital cameras, I show up with a €50 Holga 120 and play around with double exposures or experiment with flash and bulb release. I love it when each image holds a surprise. A light leak, a color shift, or a special light. And then turn the whole thing into a beautiful print in my darkroom, it’s like meditating. The process fills me with joy and trust in a beautiful image. And if I’m honest, my self-confidence grows much bigger and insecurity disappears!
My way of working
But how does all of this work at weddings? After the inquiry, there is a detailed pre-talk, because I think it’s super important that we fit together and understand each other and the couple is informed exactly how I work and what they will get in the end. I plan the whole day in my head so that I can pull out the right film at the right moments, but often I have two or three cameras with me, one with color film, one with black and white film, and if video is booked, a Super8 with KodakVision50D, 200T or 500T.
But the most important thing is that I don’t follow the typical standard. I deliberately and subconsciously underexpose, take intentionally blurry pictures, or only photograph in black and white when necessary. I plan for about 20 films. 10 color and 10 black and white, but I would like to move more towards black and white due to the cost of film. We’ll see how I develop in that regard. With color film, I try to use all of them, as each film deserves attention, and with black and white, I stick to Fomapan 400. I also bring Polaroids so that I can give a small preview the next day. After the wedding, my color films go to my trusted lab, Urban Film Lab. Tobi is simply the best, he does everything to get “my” look, if I even have one. I develop all the black and white films myself. At this point, it would say that the couple gets 400 pictures, but I want to move away from this “How many pictures will we get?” Because whether it’s more or less, the most important and unnoticed moments are captured and the day can be relived with the help of the pictures.
In the end, film just makes everything better and we should do everything we can to preserve the possibility of shooting on film.
My FilmLab: urbanfilmlab.com
Naomi Goggin: naomigogginphoto.com
Youtube (German): @klemenswichmann
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12 thoughts on “My Story of the Imperfect Perfection of Film in Wedding Photography”
Great job and lovely article Klemens!
Keep going and best of luck from the stormy coast of Devon.
Hats off for photography weddings and being really creative and different with it.
I tried photographing a wedding once back in around 2008 – never again. Made me want to give up photography.
That’s some of the most interesting wedding photography I’ve seen. If you don’t mind me asking, do you ever have have couples who are shocked (pre-wedding) to find that you don’t have sharp ‘perfect’ digital copies of everything as well? Just curious how people react to the genuine analogue process you do.
No because there are digital copies and If the couple ask for a Big scan i ask my Lab for one and i get it. But Film photography ist Not Sharp Like Memories they are Not Sharp AS Well when WE think About it 🙂
Good point! Thanks. Was curious.
A really interesting and aesthetically controversial approach to a field that has a very distinct esthetic inherent.
Hopefully you will be charging more than that initial price!
Congratulations and best of luck to you making your clients (& yourself) happy!
I brought an old film camera I had never used before to my daughter’s wedding & did not even bring it out until the hired pros were done and left for the evening.
I was NOT the wedding photographer.
Not to burst the bubble here, but before digital, all weddings that were photographed, were photographed on film. I married in 1978 and my wedding was shot on film using a Hasselblad 6 x 6. At the time the workhorse for wedding photographers was a Zenza Bronica 4.5 x 6 or 6 x 6 model. Pictures were sharp, a benefit of shooting 6 x 6. Film emulsions were reaching their peak and shooting on transparency film was common to reduce the grain in the final print. Photographers using the above cameras had multiple film backs with different rated films in each so that if conditions changed they changed the film they were using to enable the photos to be taken in those changed conditions. Maybe 50 or 100 ISO for outdoor shots and 400 or even 800 ISO for interior shots. 35mm cameras were not used as the negative size was deemed to small to get reasonable 8 x 10 prints without grain being excessive, and it was not possible to change ISO mid roll, a second camera would be required.
I wish you every success with your endeavor, it is good to see film making a comeback.
Today, of course, good 35mm SLRs are so cheap that you could bring four or five of them to a wedding with different films (colour and B&W in different ISOs) and a different lens on each; the music photographer Jim Marshall used to show up at concerts with seven Leicas strapped around his neck. Film Leicas are still expensive but SLRs are cheap.
I think the point here is that the low resolution and high grain (relative to medium- or large-format film) of 35mm is exactly its appeal. We have become used to seeing perfect wedding photos, on film or on digital, that imperfection becomes a draw for some people simply because it’s different and perhaps more evocative. More suggestive of detail than revealing.
Wedding photographers like Paul Marbrook took a first step in this direction more than a decade ago by mounting old film lenses on digital bodies (I think Paul is shooting film now too for weddings), but many people today are drawn to film simply because it’s not digital; we are surrounded by so much digital technology that fatigue sets in and analogue can feel refreshingly different. I don’t think it’s really about nostalgia for most people.
Well done on your endeavours Klemens. It’s a brave move to shoot weddings exclusively on film and also a lot more work, but I do understand how it can be both rewarding and potentially more lucrative with those wishing for something a little different and willing to pay a little more for it. I’m shooting all of my personal projects on film for a whole year and I’m loving it. Once you get back into it, like digital it becomes second nature. I also took a look at Naomi Goggin’s website… yes amazing stuff and a real inspiration. I can see why she’s popular. I wish you success and will follow your story with interest.