ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

Questions with a Pro: Chelle Caldwell

© Chelle Caldwell

This week’s Questions with a Pro features Chelle Caldwell.

Chelle is a Woodinville, Washington based portrait and lifestyle photographer that continues to utilize and be captivated by film photography. Her business offers both digital and film photography to each client, which results in a unique, luxury product. She works to build a comfortable environment on set to ensure that her photography captures authenticity. Here, Chelle describes how she creates that rapport with her clients on set, as well as some information about her photo essay production and personal marketing tactics.

We asked: How do you create rapport with your clients on set? How important is this to the final product?

Chelle said: Whether I photograph in digital or film, it can be a somewhat intimidating place in front of the lens, so I put myself in my clients’ position. It’s important to just stop, take in a big breath and exhale. I sit and chat with my clients and find out who they are and do my very best to give them the space to feel comfortable. I want to make it a fun and relaxing session. I then artfully document people in situations that show their genuine self rather than a forced smile. I give my client time to get past the camera jitters and then make an effort to give the illusion that the camera isn’t there, so the moment is real. The end result is priceless!

We asked: How did you get into photo essay production? For what types of projects are photo essays the most applicable?

Chelle said: Photo essays began as a requirement in my formal studies in photo-journalism at The Art Institute of Seattle, but I then found interest in whatever it was I was documenting. Going in with no agenda or high expectation allows me to discover more of the little things that make big differences. For me, it’s not just a single portrait. Mentors have expressed to me that I should only have one portfolio image for each subject, and I agree for the most part as too much can be overwhelming and cluttered. Depending on the subject though, I think photo essays can be applicable in studio and on location.

We asked: Please describe your fascination with film photography. Can you explain what analogue film adds to your projects?

Chelle said: Julia Margaret Cameron has been an inspiration to me, and I’ve been so enamored by her portrait works. When I studied her and how she got into photography, I felt this kindred relation and I felt drawn to explore more on the medium. I set out to learn the alternative processes, like wet plate collodion and photographing with film on a large format camera. Not only is it a unique alternative to the modern day digital image, to me it’s an homage to a time gone by that I have so much gratitude and appreciation for. Adding film to what I offer gives a dynamic contrast to the art of photographing.

We asked: Do you think the future of the photography industry includes film photography? If not, where do you think it is headed?

Chelle said: That is a very good question! I don’t know what the answer is, as this side by side I offer is something that is just a little more special. Working in large format film is not perfect as there are unique flaws and artifacts, but for me, that’s what I love about the process. Film and developing is expensive, and I have been criticized for that. For example, “Why film? It’s not reliable”. But I’m not doing it for the money as I truly love film and see a beautiful art in the end result. It’s almost a spiritual experience making that not-so-perfect perfect portrait. What I love to provide to my clients is more of an artful experience that I hope stays with them for a long time as they look fondly at their heirloom treasure in print rather than just a disc that may sit in a drawer or a file on their computer.

We asked: How do you market yourself? What are your best marketing tips for new photographers?

Chelle said: I consider myself under the radar, as everyone is a photographer! Even our cell phones take amazing portraits. It appears and feels like a saturated market today. It’s challenging to maintain competitive pricing at times too. Many people don’t value the importance of a good portrait which also affects the market. Additionally, it can be hard to have a sustainable business as it is constantly evolving, especially with social media. However, what sets me apart from others is that, I’m me. As far as marketing tips for new photographers, keep practicing, be a good person, know your worth and don’t give up.

Find more of Chelle’s work on her website.

If this article was of interest to you, take a look at some of the other articles in the Questions with a Pro and Questions with an Educator series.

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