Delving into the world of film photography was a terrifying decision for me. It was a medium I had longed to be working in. Even years before picking it up, I felt a draw towards it. And yet, for too long, I allowed the fear of diving into something new, ripe with the crippling possibility of failure, to stand in the way of my own personal and creative growth. 

My first experience shooting and scanning film took place nearly two years ago, in February of 2019 during a studio lighting course I was enrolled in at Oregon State University as a part of my photography minor. Working on a short-term project, I was equipped with only 10 sheets of black and white Ilford HP5 large format film to expose. This made the process both terrifying and electric. Truth be told, I think I fell in love with the thrill. The darkroom, pitch black, full of anticipation as I loaded the sheets of film – trying my best not to scratch it with my fingernails. Taking extra care with each exposure – carefully composing the upside-down image. Breathing slowly. Practicing patience. Trusting my light meter, eye, and gut. Jumping into the film world with 4×5, large format film was a risk.

The Process of Shooting Large Format Film Photography:

You see, the process of shooting 4×5 large format film is complex and more labor-intensive than shooting a roll of 120 or 35mm film. For starters, each frame must be loaded into the camera individually. This means one must load and remove their film after each exposure, in complete darkness. And because large format cameras are historic (which is not to say less powerful) the lens mechanism inverts things from top to bottom. Meaning that the live image one sees through the viewfinder is upside down and backward. As a result, in order to frame an image properly, the photographer must tilt left to move the framing right, down to move up, and so on. Finally, because the sensor size is massive, every scrape and dust mite living on the filmstock is visible on the image. Even so, the final result is so raw and wholesome that it remains irreplicable.

Why shoot film photography in the 21st century?

I began incorporating film into my business plan in July of 2019 and I was initially questioned for it. “Why film?” or “Haven’t we moved on from that?” I recognize that it may be difficult for some to understand why a person who didn’t learn photography on this medium, like the generations before them, would choose to implement this expensive and “less efficient” option.

The truth of the matter, is there are many reasons to shoot film – but ultimately, I believe that the timeless medium, no matter the sensor size or filmstock, captures moments in a physical, chemical way that digital photography never quite will. In addition to this, the intention and permanence of film also force me to become a more thoughtful photographer and artist as a whole, every single time I step behind my camera. Plus, the skin tones of Kodak Portra 800 and minty greens of Fuji 400h film in the Pacific Northwest are absolutely unbeatable.

Making it as a Film Photographer with Imposters Syndrome:

When it was announced that I have been nominated by industry peers for Emerging Film Photographer of the Year in the 2020 End of the Year Awards by Belle Lumiere Magazine, and I was simply floored. As somebody who has lived with imposters syndrome for what feels like my whole life – it feels incredibly cathartic to be recognized for my work. I have now been nominated for this accolade two years in a row and I am simply humbled. World-class photographers from all over the globe have been in the pages of Belle Lumiere Magazine and have won the Lumie awards themselves. This is an honor I do not take lightly, and your support would mean so much to me.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me as a young photographer and business owner. To those of you in the wedding industry who kindly nominated me in 2019 and/or 2020 – and to every one of you who have sent words of sent congratulations, or have chosen to vote, I am forever grateful. 

Are you wondering how to vote for me as Emerging Film Photographer of the Year for 2020?

Lucky for you, voting is simple! If you are a creative professional of any kind, from craftsman to stylist, musician, florist, planner, chef, fellow photographer – the list is endless – with a valid website then YOU are eligible to vote! And, you can vote once every single day from December 21 to January 8th. If you’d like to support me, just click here and fill out the form with your name and website credentials. Then kindly select ‘Kallie Dawn’ as ‘Emerging Film Photographer of the Year.’ XO

Hoping to book a wedding or portrait session with a film photographer? Enquire today for a complimentary phone consultation.

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