HOW I GOT STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHYCharlotte, NC

The other day I was talking with someone and they asked how I got into photography. I then realized that I have never really shared how I got into photography and the journey of getting to where I am today. So, I thought I might as well share.

Let’s jump in – grab a cup of coffee, this is a little lengthy!

Getting Started –

I grabbed my mom’s Nikon N60 35mm film camera when I was thirteen. Yes, I’m another one of those cliché stories. I took interest in photography because my youth pastors wife, Martina, was (still is) a Photographer. From my first photoshoot in my backyard with my bestie, I was hooked.  The rolling of the film, slowing down and taking thought out images, dropping the roll off at CVS (cringe) and waiting for it to be processed. I photographed everything all the time. Just me and my film camera.

For the first year, I only shot film – this was 2006. Digital was just beginning to pick up so I begged my parents to buy me a digital dslr because I wanted a camera that “could take a lot of pictures super-fast”. Like any good parent, they didn’t buy it for me, rather I had to save up if I really wanted it.

I did just that. I had done so much research and calculated every single day the amount that I would need. Goals were posted in my bedroom and every time I made money babysitting I would deduct it from the amount that I needed. Three months later, I walked into the store to buy my first digital camera, lens, camera bag, and memory card, except I was $52 short. Pesky tax! So, my mom fronted me the money but I wasn’t allowed to use it until I paid her back.

By the next week, I had paid her and started shooting. My mind was blown that I could shoot 3 frames per second. AMAZING! So, I shot and shot and shot. I assisted at weddings and shot and shot and over shot. Where I had been so picky about what to shoot on film because it cost me, digital didn’t. What at first was so fun I quickly realized shooting 1,000 images at a wedding was no fun because I would have to sit there and cull them and then have to edit each one in Photoshop. After a few years, unless it was my own shoot, I stopped culling and editing my work where I assisted. Digital sucked the fun right out of photography for me.

Highschool –

I knew I wanted to be a photographer but culling and editing was dreadful. I went off to high school and shot my first wedding on my own as well as family sessions and senior sessions.

Next thing I knew I was getting ready to graduate from high school and I was on the hunt for a photography college. Whatever college I chose I wanted them to teach film and work in a dark room. I was desperate to get back to my roots. Why I fell in love with photography in the first place.  We flew to Boston and checked out a college that offered film – I was in love but the price was insane. The next place we went to was, Nashville. I asked if they offered film and their response was “film is dead and within the next year there won’t be any more labs to process film.” This was 2010 and my heart sank. Needless to say, I never ended up going there.

Next was Daytona College in Florida. After visiting and finding out they taught film – I was all in.

I moved into my own apartment and three days into classes we started going over the syllabus. I realized that film wasn’t listed so I raised my hand and asked when we were going to learn film. They said that just a few weeks prior they decided to drop the film program because film was dead. Yall, I cried many tears. Film was all I wanted.

I walked out.

I left and started working two jobs and worked on my business on the side. Succumbing to digital. I thought well this is it – digital it is. Forget film. So, I tried.

And then in 2014 film started making a tiny come back. People asked my opinion and at that point I said no way it was too expensive because let’s be honest it is SO expensive. I continued to shoot digital and then I hit a wall.

Over the last year or so I battled depression – do I really want to do this? I love taking pictures, I love the creative aspect but I hate culling, I hate editing, being chained to my desk. Not only that, everyone and their mother thought they were a photographer simply because they owned a digital camera. The true art was gone. Snap a million pictures and cross your fingers that enough turned out to deliver to a client. I didn’t want to be a part of that. So, I contemplated quitting.

I prayed hard for 6 months.

Finding Film Again –

It was January, there I was sitting at my computer, crying, begging God to show me a way. In that moment, I randomly came across Mastin Labs blog. I use their presets but I never realized they had a blog. I sat there for 12 hours reading every detail of every blog post involving film. My heart was set on fire. The idea that it is tangible. You must slow down. Shoot intentionally. It was there all along and I kept pushing it aside. So, in the middle of the night I ordered my first medium format film camera from Japan.

Up until that point I had only shot on a 35mm film cameras so stepping into Medium format was a whole new ball game. The next 2 weeks I spent studying every detail while I waited for my camera to arrive. I sent the top film photographers emails, I asked a billion questions, begged them to let me second shoot or not even shoot – let me just roll your film.

I shot my first roll of 120 film and cried a whole lot. This. This is what I had been searching for. I went back to my roots. Back to where I started. Full of passion and excitement, slowing down and shooting intentionally. My fingertips delicately rolled the film and it gave me life – it gives me life every time. For the first time in forever I feel alive. I look at the world totally different, I am so much more creative and aware. Living in the moment and capturing it. I document my life with film, whereas before I never picked up my digital because the thought of having to edit gave me nightmares.

I have my life back.

My joy back. Film gives you the freedom to slow down. Focus on the most important. Anticipate the shot and wait. I am no longer chained to my desk. The time that I would have spent editing now gets spent outside, wandering around, reading and writing. I can pursue other endeavors like painting and writing a book that the Lord has nudged me to write for the last two years.

All because of film.

There you have it. My story on how I got started in photography and where it has led me to today. It wasn’t easy and for a while I desperately wanted to throw in the towel but today I sit here and Thank the Lord that I didn’t and that I found film again. My heart is full, my life is fuller and although I wish I would have started film earlier or quite frankly never picked up digital, I think it made me appreciate film that much more. So all of it was worth it in the end.

Next week I will be starting a two-part series called “Why Film?” Taking an in-depth look at the personal and business benefits of shooting film!

Xo,
Kailey

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