Digital technology is moving at an astonishing rate. Prices for both consumer and professional cameras are plummeting just as fast as performance and quality are increasing. Due to the tremendous advancement, many wedding photographers have made the move to digital. Less than five years ago, few photographers offered digital wedding photography, now industry experts estimate that 50-70% of all weddings are either partially or completely shot with professional digital cameras.

You probably own a digital camera yourself, one you can stick in your shirt pocket or inside your purse. You’ve marveled at the quality of your images, but is digital good enough to capture one of the most important events of your life? Your wedding day? Decide for yourself as I explain the pros and cons of digital vs. film.

Digital
Instant feedback. That is what everybody loves about digital. Believe me, professional photographers love it just as much as you do. How often have you gotten a photo back, only to discover that several people blinked at the crucial moment? Shooting digital helps ensure that every shot turns out the way the photographer intended.

Resolution. Most professional digital cameras are capable of capturing images with a resolution of 6 MP or more. That is 6 million mega pixels per image. Enough pixels to print beautiful photographs up to 16×20 inches. You cannot tell the difference between a print from film or a print from digital!

Never change film rolls. Of course with digital there is no film. Digital cameras use tiny little re-usable cards that store high resolution digital files. The newest cards hold 8GB of data, that’s over 2000 images! Or in film terms, 55 rolls. You’ll never need to worry that I’ll run out of film at a crucial moment. Another amazing aspect of digital photography is the ability to move from bright sunlight to a candle-lit church and still get perfect pictures. The camera’s sensitivity to light, also referred to as ISO, can be changed with each image. It’s done with the flick of a thumb. That’s just not possible with film.

Black & white and special effects. Just about everybody has heard of Photoshop, an amazing, but complex image editing software. Certain effects that were previously created by using certain films, filters and processing techniques can now be done on the computer in a fraction of the time. Color is converted to black & white, black & white is sepia-toned, black & white images are spot-colored. But Photoshop allows for even more creativity in telling the story of your wedding day. I create photo collages, mix color and black & white images on a single print, use images as transparent backdrops for other images, even “swap heads” in group shots to get the best picture possible. I have invested substantial time in learning Photoshop’s complexity. If you “go digital” you should ask each photographer you interview about his or her Photoshop skills. If they are not doing it, they are paying another professional to do it. That cost gets passed back to you.

Cost. Speaking of costs, digital photography is a two-sided issue for many professional photographers. Without considering the substantial start-up costs of digital cameras, computer equipment, software and printers, actual material costs are definitely lower. There are no film and photo lab processing costs and if you choose a digital album on CD or DVD, there are no print costs. Therefore many digital photographers no longer limit the amount of images they shoot.

However, the labor cost is considerably higher. Work previously done by photo labs is now done by the photographer on the computer: editing images, producing special effects with Photoshop, and creating the digital wedding album (CD or DVD set to music) can take 5 to 7 days. For this reason, digital photographers generally charge the same as they did when shooting film, but you, the wedding couple win substantially: you get a lot more bang for your buck!

Film
Print size. Presently, one of the only advantages film still has over digital, is in producing large prints with more detail and clarity. When I say large, I mean 20×24 and larger! However, only if shot with a medium format camera, as the film used is three times larger than a 35mm film. However with any print 16×20 or smaller you cannot tell the difference. The more popular sizes, such as 11×14 and 8×10 do not print any better with film, whether shot with medium format or 35mm.

Fine Art black & white prints. You can certainly make beautiful black & white prints from digital files, but if you want the traditional fine art silver-based fiber paper, your wedding photographer must shoot with black & white film. I also create fine art photography, and will, upon request, complement your wedding pictures with traditional black & white film.

Why not have a friend shoot with their digital camera?
I’m sure you have already asked yourself this question. Here is an honest answer, as I’ve been asked by friends before. Firstly there is the issue of asking your photographer friend to work at your wedding. And don’t kid yourself, if your friend is photographing your wedding and you want decent photos, he or she will be working the entire time. They will not be attending as your wedding guest, nor will they be able to relax and celebrate the day with you. Secondly, even if your friend is a gifted photographer, it takes special people skills, organizational talent and experience with problem-solving to create consistently good images of a wedding – and to keep everyone happy. You should also consider what you want for keeps. If you want a great looking album, maybe even one that is customized exactly to your liking, your photographer friend will not be able to get one for you. These albums are only sold to professional wedding photographers. Most photographers have a range of packages and prices. Inquire about a payment plan that fits your budget.

Are all digital cameras the same?
Professional vs. Consumer 
Resolution and Zoom. Resolution is not everything. Even though several cameras targeted for consumers boast some impressive numbers, there are other factors to consider. All professional cameras use interchangeable lenses instead of a fixed lens. The optics on these lenses is far superior to those of built-in lenses. The zoom factor is generated optically rather than digitally, guaranteeing a higher quality image.

Delay factor. Have you noticed that several seconds pass from the moment you press the shutter until the image comes up on the screen? And then it’s not quite what you thought you were photographing? The electronics and technology in professional cameras are much more sophisticated (ergo more expensive) than those in consumer digital cameras. And one such obvious difference is the response time after you press the shutter on your camera. It is much longer. This delay is to blame for all those missed candid moments. With professional digital cameras, the image is taken the instant the shutter is pressed. This was a crucial decision factor in my move to digital. My talent lies in anticipating and capturing those precious moments.

I hope this article has shed some light on aspects of digital photography you may have been wondering about. I also hope it has layed to rest any fears you may have held about “Going Digital” for your wedding. If you still have questions I welcome your email and your comments.
This article is copyrighted by Christine Krieg. However, permission to duplicate is granted as long as copyright and contact information remains visible.