Wedding Week | Michael Ash of Ash Imagery

As you may know by now, we are big fans of Michael Ash Smith here at Snap It See It. Weather he is shooting film, digital, or instant film, everything in his work is consistent. He has a clear eye for capturing intimate portraits with amazing results. His work with instant film, shows a mastery of the medium and how to manipulate it to fit his voice. When we were rounding up names for wedding week, it was clear to us we had to invite Mike . Not only is he one of Rangefinders 30 rising stars in wedding photography, but he has been published and featured in so many blogs. I mean the credentials add up to the awesomeness. Mike uses various cameras for weddings, and different instant films. So, we asked him to tell us a little bit about how he shoots on wedding days, along with tips for all of you!

“This post is coming at the perfect time.  I’ve been shooting a type of instant film at weddings for quite some time now, probably 3 years or so.  When first using it it wasn’t something I did often.  Usually it was just a few shots of Impossible Film in an SX70.  At that time the Impossible Project (known as IP for the rest of this post) film was launched it was fun to shoot however it was extremely unreliable as a film.  You could go through a full pack and not retain a single good image.  As time has gone by I’ve increased my instant film usage at weddings dramatically.  Recently, at a wedding I 2nd shot with a friend, I used the most instant film at one time to date and I couldn’t be happier with the results.  It was, however, extremely challenging and I don’t think it could have been done if I was the main photographer.  While I’d love to tell that story now, I will reserve it for a different blog post.
Currently, I own and utilize several different instant film cameras including 2 Polaroid SX70 Sonars, 2 Polaroid Land Camera 195s, a Polaroid Land Camera 360, and a Fuji Instax.  In the past, I have used a Polaroid 600SE, Instax Mini, Polaroid Land Camera 210 and 420, and a Mamiya RZ67 with a Polaroid back.  In the SX70 Sonars I use both the PX70 and PX680 Color Protection film from IP.  In the pack film cameras I use the Fuji 100c and 3000b peel apart films.

At this point in time I use the Polaroid 195 the most as, in my opinion, is the best instant film camera available.  I use the SX70’s sparingly as the cost of the film is incredibly high – especially in comparison to the Fuji film for the 195s.  The cost of Fuji pack film is roughly $9 and you get 10 shots.  The film is extremely reliable so in most cases, you get 10 completely solid images.  The cost of a pack of IP film is roughly $23 and you get 8 shots.  Also, more often than not, you don’t get 8 solid images.  In most cases for me, I get about 5-7 quality shots and 1-3 that just didn’t work out as I’m at the mercy of the camera, film, and lighting conditions.  The IP film takes more care and knowledge to shoot.  I’ve spent countless hours and money practicing and testing IP film.  That being said I have be rewarded with some killer images from my SX70s and they are fun to use as well.  And my clients truly enjoy receiving polaroid images – even if they aren’t the greatest pictures.

Now, I’ll launch into some pros and cons of each camera and explain when and where I use them.

Fuji Instax

This camera is such a great fun, party, chill camera.  I don’t use this camera much with any paying clients.  I love it for family and fun pics such as a backyard bbq, social get together, or day at the pool.  The film is developed by Fuji and is about $10 per pack.  You get 10 shots per pack.  The film is very reliable so in most cases, all 10 shots will turn out unless there is user error with the camera.  This is also a cool camera for wedding receptions as the flash does a very good job and clients love seeing immediate/instant results.

Aperture:  f/8 – f/11
Shutter speed depends on the internal reading of the camera

Polaroid Land Camera 360

Before purchasing a Polaroid 195, I used the 360.  The 360 is at the higher end of the land cameras for a couple reasons.  First, it comes standard with the Zeiss viewfinder.  This viewfinder is clearer and better than the standard plastic viewfinder you get on most land cameras.  Second, instead of just two speed settings, you have 3.  This gives you a bit more freedom with your exposures.  Having that extra speed helps.  Other than that, the camera is very similar to all others.  You will pay a little more for those features but its worth the extra cost, especially since we are talking about a camera that is only valued around $75-$100.  I don’t use this camera as often now because I use the 195 but I used it for engagement and boudoir sessions quite often.  I didn’t use it for wedding too often as I didn’t have a vast amount of control over the settings and didn’t want to mess with it too often and possibly miss important moments.

Aperture:  f/8.8
Shutter speed depends on the internal reading of the camera

Polaroid SX70 Sonar

There is the standard SX70 and then there is the Sonar version.  The only difference is the Sonar has an autofocus feature that is actually pretty reliable and works fairly well.  For this reason, I feel the small extra cost for the Sonar version is definitely worth it.  We are talking about a $25-$50 difference.  The SX70 is a desirable polaroid camera as it has the shallowest depth of field of any classic Polaroid style camera.  This is because the minimum focus distance is around 10 inches which allows you to get nice and close to the subject giving you desirable DOF.  I use this camera quite often.  I have it with me pretty much everywhere I go just in case.  I use it the most on boudoir and engagement sessions as I have full control over those and can take my time and retake an image if needed.

Aperture:  f/8
Shutter speed depends on the internal reading of the camera

Polaroid Land Camera 195

I personally feel the 195 is the jackpot of all pack film instant cameras.  While its the same size and look as nearly all of the land cameras, what sets it apart is the manual controls.  You have complete control over the shutter speed and aperture.  This means I can use my light meter to get the settings I need and then fire away.  This allows me to be nearly 100% accurate with the images.  No more “hoping” or “guessing.”  No more wondering how the internal light meter reacted to the scene.  I can control everything which makes this camera extremely valuable when shooting instant pack film.  The only downside to this camera is the current cost of it.  Unfortunately, due to high demand, the price has inflated and you can expect to pay around $600-$800 for one.  Yes, this is a steep price to pay but honestly, to me, its completely worth it.  If you are firing off just a few packs of pack film a month – then perhaps it not for you.  But I use pack film at nearly every session and wedding, so I was willing to pay more for a better product.  Having full control over the settings is too good to pass up.  If you can’t afford this camera I would suggest checking out the Polaroid 180 which is very similar but a cheaper alternative.

Aperture:  f/3.8 to f/22 (you control)
Shutter speed:  max 500 (you control)

Using instant film at weddings is incredibly fun, rewarding, and also challenging.  Its not something you can walk into and be extremely confident you are going to images that you will be happy with.  I have left many weddings and sessions bummed with my inability to get get an instant shot I was extremely happy with.  Many times, you are at the mercy of the conditions and camera but part of the appeal of using instant film is that you never know what you are going to get.  However, I have also walked out of situations pleasantly surprised.  While using instant film is something I love, its also something my clients love.  Many of my clients have never used any film as they grew up in a largely digital age.  10 years ago, they were just teenagers and didn’t use any cameras until their 20’s when digital started dominating the scene.  So when you pull out a land camera, press the shutter button, pull out the film, let it develop, and then peel it … their reaction is priceless.   While I don’t show every image I take on instant film to my clients immediately, I usually have a favorite I’ll show to get them pumped up to see the final images.  No matter if its IP film, of Fuji film, I can guarantee a smile from them.  There is just something special about holding a print in your hand that was taken just a few minutes prior.  That feeling, and that connection, is priceless.”



  1. Thanks for the kind words guys!! I’m always honored to help out in any way I can.


  1. […] of the main reasons, as Mike covered in today’s earlier post, why I shoot instant film at weddings is the reactions. […]

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