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3775 Market Stree NE
Salem, Oregon 97301

We're a small-town, family owned and operated photo lab that never gave up on film. Today we provide top-notch film processing, scanning, and printing services from film and digital with the best customer service in the industry.

Blog

Nicole Colwell

PhotoVision Team

Everyone has to start somewhere! Ok, embarrassing story . . . being a photographer kind of just happened for me. I didn’t know that this is what I wanted when I was 12 like other amazing photographers. Truth be told, when I got married, I fell in love with the photography part of the day—I felt a spark. So I took our gift money, headed to our local BestBuy and purchased a $400 Nikon D3100 and my business began. I booked my first wedding a week later after I shot my friend’s kids at a park, with no second shooting experience—well, no experience at all. I shot this couple’s wedding on a cropped-frame sensor, in auto, with a kit lens and are you ready . . . I edited their entire gallery on PHOTOBUCKET! My couple LOVED their wedding images. They recommended me to everyone they knew and I booked 19 weddings off of that one wedding alone. I went on to buy a full-frame camera, learned how to shoot in manual from the best teacher in the world—YouTube—and kissed PicMonkey + Photobucket goodbye. That spark turned into a flame, and once I found film, it burst into a wildfire. So, here is this nobody who taught herself all she knows who wanted to shoot film! I had so much  fear, doubt and thought that because I had no background in photography, I wasn’t good enough. What a bunch of poop! I finally said, what the heck, and bought a #NikonF6, then upgraded to the #Pentax645 and eventually ended up with a #Contax645. 📷 If you want to shoot film, DO IT! The only obstacle keeping you from doing something you love is yourself. I found my brand, my style and myself as a photographer because of film. Take a chance, you will surprise yourself!!! I know I did!

Getting rid of the safety net. Show of hands—does the idea of shooting only film give you the heebie jeebies? Leaving my digital camera behind was a major struggle in my film journey. I was using it as a safety net. And you know what? It was actually doing me more harm than good. Having my digital camera on me was a huge distraction and didn’t allow me to be fully present at my shoots. Once I left my digital camera behind, it was like the chains broke free and I could really connect with my clients. I started out slow—shooting only film at my editorials and eventually adding it into portrait sessions. Once I was confident in my film photography, I began utilizing it at weddings, first just documenting the details on film, and gradually adding more and more film shots into my work flow.

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Virginia.

Would you hire yourself? When starting your own business, it is easy to be, well, a bit all over the place when trying to find your style. I remember shooting one session and editing every picture differently—one image was really vibrant, another desaturated. I was having fun and thought that I was being versatile, but in reality, I was not attracting my ideal clients or *any* clients for that matter. And I asked myself, “Would I hire myself?” My answer was a big fat NO. I was having a really hard time finding my style, until I saw an image that made me gasp. I loved its “light and airy” feel, and it had that awesome painterly effect. I knew right away that I wanted my work to look like that! Low and behold, I found out it was a film image, and in that moment, I found my style and brand. Staying consistent is key. Whether you are “light and airy” or more moody, you need to stick with that look. Don’t confuse your potential clients. Show them what look they will receive. Don’t leave them wondering.

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Virginia.

Will work for Love Stories! When you look at your work, what is the first word that comes to your mind? For me, it was “romantic.” I knew I wanted my images to scream romance—I adore those intimate, tender shots and tend to produce those types of images. I am not a traditional “look at me and smile” photographer. Though I still document traditional portraits for my couples, I want to make them feel the romance when they look at these images and not just see a pretty photo. Film has helped me achieve that romantic look I wanted. It has helped me be more intimate, to slow down and connect with my couples, so I can capture them in that perfect moment. ❤

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Virginia.

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More than just a photograph! I never had the pleasure of meeting my Grandmother—she passed away before I was born. I remember as a little girl looking at these black and white photographs adorned in beautiful antique silver frames. The image I was drawn to the most was of my beautiful dark-haired Grandmother on her wedding day. I would stare at her and wonder what she was like, if I favored her or if we had similar traits. I would let the stories I heard about her play in my mind like a movie—one where she was alive and I knew her. This image means so much to me, it is more than just a photograph. These photographs are my visual heirlooms—and they inspire me to create authentic, timeless images for my couples. I don’t want to be “just a photographer” to my clients, I want to preserve their memories, tell their stories and keep them alive—who knows who will be staring at these images in the years to come!  

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Let’s be real! Who out there loves photographing styled shoots? 🙋 I love styled shoots and I would shoot one almost everyday—if I wouldn’t go bankrupt. Styled shoots are amazing! They have led me to  meet so many amazing creatives that I would have never met otherwise. They allow me to be creative, to grow and to push myself to be a better photographer. When documenting a wedding, it can often feel like a styled shoot, but we have to remember, this is a real wedding, and the skills you use during a styled shoot can easily be applied. I love to use a photojournalistic style to document a wedding’s details and add that editorial touch—however, I must keep it real.😎 I am hired to capture couple’s stories, their unguarded moments and their real emotions.

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Virginia.

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Shoot To Tell A Story: We all know the saying “less is more.” Well, it rings true for me. When I first started out, I would add so many styling details—I would spend 30 minutes on ring shots alone, or make my couples walk miles and miles at their venue for all these different locations. By the end of the day I would end up losing what was important . . . their story. When you arrive on the wedding day, you should know your couple’s story. Before I hit the shutter, I always ask myself, “Does this tell their story? Does this make sense?” Film has truly helped me to slow down, to take more time to ask these questions, preventing me from becoming trigger happy and forcing me to be intentional with every frame. I may photograph less throughout the day, but I deliver quality over quantity and my couple’s images tell their story and flow beautifully.

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Maui, Hawaii.

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Being Frugal . . . I mean, a Hybrid Photographer. Roses are red, Violets are blue, Film is expensive, You know it’s true. I had to learn the hard way to be frugal with my film. When your friends from PV call you saying they couldn’t process your order because your card was declined, well, that's when you realize you're not getting paid to shoot film, you're paying your clients for your addiction. Film is my addiction, and a little piece of me dies inside if I can’t shoot it—however, I can’t afford to be a “film-only photographer.” I am so jelly of you who can, but for me, being a hybrid photographer works best for my business at this time, and that’s okay! On the wedding day, I photograph the details, getting ready and formals strictly on film. I photograph one roll during the ceremony for my social media outlets—plus it helps me match my digital images to my scans. And I will only shoot film at the reception if light allows it. Being a hybrid photographer is more cost-efficient, plus the challenges of the wedding day weather and light may rule out film all together.

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Savannah, Georgia.

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It Takes Two to Tango . . . “Whatever she wants.” I hear these 3 words way too much on a wedding day. Yes, I want to make my bride as happy as possible, I want to make her feel special and let her know it’s her day. However, she isn't marrying herself! Don’t forget about your groom. The Groom’s details and portraits are some of my all-time favorite shots. I love seeing what little details he may have, details that would not have been documented if I hadn't requested an extra 15 minutes on the timeline for these simple shots that are always a crowd pleaser. 🤵

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Virginia.

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The Green-Eyed Monster One of my biggest struggles was comparing myself to other film photographers. I know I am not the only one in this industry who has to fight that Green-Eyed Monster on a regular basis. Social media is a blessing and a curse. It’s so easy to get sucked in by another photographer's success and question your own self worth simply by viewing their feed. The “I wants” and the “I wishes” take over, and then sadness and defeat creep in, making you want to just give up, because you think there is no way you could ever be as good as them. Stop this negative way of thinking! Overcome your fear and doubt and focus on your victories instead of your failures! 👍

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Tenessee.

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Overcoming the Green-Eyed Monster Once I stopped comparing myself to other wedding photographers, and focused on why it was I wanted to be a wedding photographer in the first place, I overcame the Green-Eyed Monster and my business began to thrive. Once I did this, I realized that while my success may not be like others’, it is my own, and I am successful. I may be a small fish in a big pond, but I am able to do what I love full time—pay my bills, travel and be my own boss. Just remember, there is always going to be someone better than you! Allow others to inspire you, but don’t compare yourself to them. And remember to “just keep swimming!” 🐟

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in New York.

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Always Stay Humble + Kind Being a creative and your own boss can, at times, be very lonely. When I first started my business, I remember reaching out to other photographers for help or advice. But often times, I wouldn’t even get a response, and if I did, the photographer was cold to me. Because of this, I choose to stay out of most photography groups because I found other professionals making fun of new and seasoned photographers. I felt like I was back in high school, hoping to sit with the cool kids during lunch. So I kept searching until I found like-minded creatives who build me up, instead of tearing me down. These awesome relationships led me to start mentoring and hosting workshops, because I wanted to create safe spaces for photographers to grow together in this industry. I love helping others so they can learn from my past mistakes. If you're interested in attending one of my future workshops, PV is a regular sponsor—follow me @nicolecolwellphotography for upcoming dates.

I hope you all enjoyed following along this week! Remember, you are unique and your photography is unique. There is no one like you! 😘

📷 on Fuji400H through a Contax645 in Maui, Hawaii.