Wedding Photographers: What Sort Of Camera Should Yours Be Using?

When on the hunt for a wedding photographer chances are you may hear a number of different terms mentioned regarding the camera system they are shooting with. Many may not be familiar with the differences, the advantages and the disadvantages of the various systems and may be wondering which is right for you. There are generally three formats you will hear wedding photographers refer to, these are medium format, 35 mm and digital. Whilst each system offers a number of pros and cons it is important to remember that it is possible to take great photos on any system, just as it is possible to take poor photos on even the most expensive of equipment. So on to the different systems and which is right for you.

Medium Format

There was once a time when medium format was a benchmark for many reputable professional wedding photographers… and rightly so. With a film size of approximately 3 times that of 35mm systems medium format film offers beautiful image quality, the extra film area is essentially providing films equivalent of higher resolution and as such one is able to produce larger and more finely detailed enlargements out of medium format film as opposed to 35mm. This of course depends on a number of variables such as film stock however assuming all things are equal medium format blows 35mm film out of the water.

There are however disadvantages to the medium format camera systems. As film has slowly but steadily reduced in popularity its production has decreased and many manufacturers have started to concentrate on the digital market. As a result medium format film is very expensive, to both purchase and to process. One issue this can lead to is that wedding photographers shooting medium format will tend to limit the number of photographs they take, this may or may not be a bad thing however it may potentially mean some shots are missed due to the fact the photographer was trying to avoid using too much film. A further disadvantage of medium format systems is that they can be quite slow and somewhat cumbersome to shoot with, again this could potentially mean missed shots or may mean the photographer takes a little longer to capture what he/she needs.

35 mm Film

35mm is the common film format many of you will have used at least once in your lives. Whilst the image quality of 35mm film once left a lot to be desired advancements in film technology have done wonders for the image quality possible out of 35 mm system. Many professional photographers shoot with 35mm film, particularly those that require a faster working system such as sports photographers or more portable, lighter and less obtrusive system such as photojournalists. Enlargement from 35mm film will be sufficient for most applications, however, it is when one wishes to produce large prints over 16″ x 20″ that one will really start to see the limitations of 35mm in comparison to medium format.

Digital

When referring to digital cameras there are many sub systems available. For the purpose of comparison we will assume most wedding photographers will be shooting 35mm digital, or “full frame” digital as it may be referred to. These days digital camera technology has come along way, whilst it was once considered to be less than satisfactory in regards to image quality it has developed to the point where it surpasses 35mm film and rivals the results of a good medium format negative. One big advantage of digital is that once a system is purchased there are no ongoing film costs, as such many digital wedding photographers will tend to shoot more photos, which could potentially mean less missed shots. The ability to review images on the cameras LCD screen is also great to make sure exposures are indeed correct, that one has not made any stupid technical errors or that the camera itself is not experiencing technical issues.

Many wedding photographers will shoot a variety of systems during different periods of the wedding, many for example may shoot 35mm during the reception and ceremony and medium format for the portraits, these days it is common for many photographers to use digital exclusively, others may also carry a medium format system for select shots. It is important to remember that it is possible to take poor photos on any camera and any camera format, just as it is possible to take great photos. What is most important is to view a photographers work and ask to see a number of different sized photographs captured on the same camera they will be using at your wedding, this will allow you to judge for yourself the image quality and make sure their standards are on par with yours.