Why is Film Photography More Expensive?

Today, we’re going to tackle a question I often hear from couples during our initial consultations. Why is film photography more expensive than digital photography?

At Rebecca Ann Aesthetic, we have been shooting digital photography for over a decade, and film photography intermittently throughout that time. We are uniquely invested in the continued use of film- and believe it to be a gorgeous and timeless medium. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t expensive though. Many of our couples see the price tag associated with film photography and are absolutely stunned.

Understanding the unique process and costs associated with film can shed some light on its price tag. Let’s dive in.

The Cost of Film and Processing

First and foremost, one of the main reasons film photography is more expensive than digital relates to the tangible costs of film itself and its processing. Each roll of film not only has a purchase price but also requires professional development and scanning. This is required to transform those physical negatives into digital images to edit and print. The cost of this development generally runs proportional to the cost of the film.

Unlike digital photography, where you can capture thousands of images on reusable memory cards, every click of the shutter in film photography has a direct cost. Furthermore, the price of film has been rising rapidly due to declining demand and production, adding to the cost factor.

At the time of writing, a single roll of 35mm film with 36 exposures is $75. This means that every image taken has an associated cost of about $2. If we assume that you somehow manage to nail the shot every single time- a wedding with 500 pictures will cost over $1000 to just shoot. As mentioned previously, it will then cost a roughly equal amount to have developed- so now we are looking at $2000 in production cost before the editing even begins.

The Equipment and Maintenance

Another element that contributes to the cost of film photography is the equipment. Although film cameras can be less expensive than top-end digital cameras, they require more regular maintenance and care due to their mechanical nature. It’s also worth noting that your average film camera costs between $5000 and $10000.

Film cameras are also generally older, and finding parts for repairs can be challenging and costly. For many of the most sought after cameras, they are no longer in production. Meaning if your camera breaks, you have to buy an entirely ‘new’ one- if you’re even able to source it.

Additionally, many film photographers will often have multiple camera bodies on hand during a wedding to handle different film types or to have backup options, adding to the overall equipment cost.

The Skill and Experience Required

Shooting film is an art form requiring a deep understanding of light, composition, and manual camera settings. Because there’s less opportunity to correct mistakes in post-production, each shot must be meticulously set up and thoughtfully composed.

This level of skill and expertise is built over years of experience, and the price of film photography often reflects this. It’s an investment in a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Becca here at RAA actually went to college to develop this skill- and holds a degree in artistic medium. Although this isn’t required- we cannot understate how difficult it is to shoot with a film camera. The smallest shifts in light or composition can ruin an entire image.

Realistically, we account for a 10% margin of error. In our earlier example of a wedding that has 500 images delivered- we can assume that about 50 of them will be unusable. At $2 per image for just the film, we’ve already thrown away $100.

The Aesthetic Value

Finally, it’s important to remember that film photography offers a unique aesthetic value. The rich, vibrant colors, soft tones, and the organic feel of film images are difficult, if not impossible, to replicate with digital processes.

While digital photography has its strengths, including versatility and instant feedback, film photography has a distinct aesthetic that many couples find incredibly compelling. This unique visual quality is part of what you’re investing in when you choose film.

In conclusion, you’ll always find film photography more expensive compared to digital. This is a reflection of the tangible costs of film and processing, the maintenance of equipment, the skill and experience of the photographer, and the unique aesthetic film offers. While it might be more expensive, the beauty and depth of film might be just what you’re looking for to capture your special day.

Still trying to decide where to go from here? Check out these blogs to help you learn more about the wonderful world of wedding photography and videography with Rebecca Ann Aesthetic

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