The Ropes


The girls pictured here were part of a private photography lesson that a mom purchased for her daughter for Christmas.  How humbling it is to get paid to share something you're so passionate about.  This girl was the real deal too.  She has the potential to do something great with photography.  Only a freshman in high school, she already has 10 times the confidence that I have now.  Watching her pick up on the information so quickly made me miss the days when I was sponge for the camera.

Teaching photography has always been something I've wanted to do.  In my 15th year of professional portraiture, I finally realize that I haven't given back to my industry in any way, shape or form.  With a wife and 5 kids, I've always felt I had nothing left to give the rest of the world.

After attending WPPI this year in Vegas, I'm left with a deep sense of responsibility to share my love for the camera with my sphere of influence.  One thing that has held me back is not being able to put into technical, scientific lingo what it is I actually do.  Sorry, I'm still not sure how to tell you.  But I can show you.

For years I found that looking all around at what every other photographer had to offer only left me feeling small and inadequate.  I don't want to feel that way anymore.  Testimonials like this one below bring me back to the actual reality that there is power in the skills I've been blessed with.  I may not be changing the world over night, but I can promise you this; my personal world has been changed by the art of photography.

Testimonial:  "I believe that Brady Campbell’s photography changed my daughter’s life. My daughter is a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. Very athletic and casual, and doesn’t see herself as the type of girl who is “pretty”. I brought my daughter to Brady for her senior pictures. Brady was able to capture her essence so beautifully that she couldn’t stop looking at her photos. She could not believe that was her. Her self-image has been changed dramatically. She now knows that, though she is still a jeans and t-shirt girl, it’s only by her choice, and that she actually is a “pretty” girl. Brady Campbell was able to work so comfortably with her, and yet he is so meticulous in what he is capturing in each of his shots. He made my daughter look stunning. His work is true art and nothing less. Thank you Brady, for showing my daughter how beautiful she actually is."   Lisa Norris

In short, I'd like you to pick up a camera and come on a journey with me.  Let's let others be the judge of whether our photography is art, or whether it's meaningful.  I'm going to start letting people be inspired if they need inspiration, taught if they want to be taught, and just loved if they need to be loved.  Will you join me?  I may be living on an emotional roller coaster.  I may even sound like a girl (no sweat...I've heard it before).  However one thing is for sure;  as long as my images evoke something great and unexpected out of you, I'm going to keep on clicking, growing and spreading my love for the arts.



Photography by Weston Cederblom

Imperfect and Beautiful

When I pulled out this old photograph of my mom and grandpa, I realized something.  Even though I'm obsessed with proper color, contrast and composition, I didn't care about any of that.  I did, however, wonder who was behind the camera (I assume my grandma), what they were talking about on that cold night, and what the heck my mom was drinking.  The fact that this image is dark, blue, and underexposed didn't cross my mind.  Well obviously it did, but only to prove my point.  This image was taken with film, and I couldn't love the nostalgic feel of it more.  Plus, I really miss my grandpa.  It's funny how one image can take me back to so many memories of our family reunions on Whidbey Island, where this was taken.  In the future when we look back on our over-edited, over-saturated, over-enhanced digital images, will we feel the same?I absolutely love digital photography in my portrait career.  I can click the shutter as many times as I want without feeling guilty about the cost.  I experiment more with digital and I'm always confident that I got the shot.  We also live in an instant gratification age and I'm not sure my clients could handle the wait that film would bring.  However, I miss the simple life as a film photographer.  The anticipation of the developing and printing process was exciting.  Will my images turn out?  Did I have the right film ISO in the camera?  Are my images in focus?  Typically my film photography was quite a bit more imperfect.  But I would argue that the images were more realistic than what we capture with digital.  The post editing process leaves too much interpretation of reality in the mix.  Say, in Photoshop, you accidentally add too much contrast to your image, making the original RAW now look flat.  Then you start to question how far you should go with the contrast.  After all, the image is way more eye-grabbing with the added effects.  I think this way of thinking in photography is eventually going to dilute the beauty we actually live and breath in. My friend Kirk Mastin says that there is a place for both digital and film.  I agree.  Digital art can be just amazing and surreal in a good way.  However, I've started shooting film a lot more and it's been therapeutic.  And since I want my photography to always hold historical significance, I'm making the decision to keep my art simple and appreciate the way things actually are, imperfect and beautiful.

A worthy mother

Yesterday, I asked that people send me a photograph and story of their mothers and I can't tell you how much it validated the importance of a photograph along side of an irreplaceable memory.  Thank you Emma for telling your story, which I'm sure will inspire and uplift anyone who reads it.

Read her story below:

Meet my mom, Karla Jo. She was a beautiful woman, who left behind an incredible legacy for her children to follow.

I was born to an already large family in 1995, to parents who weren't expecting anymore babies. My mom was 37 and my dad had just turned 40. Mama always called me their miracle baby because I wasn't supposed to survive the pregnancy. She was getting sick, with what we didn't know at the time, but they told her she didn't have much time left. My mom didn't care; she just wanted to raise her babies.

She lived an incredible life, like the ones of heroines that you read about in Nicholas Sparks novels or see in romantic movies. My mom came from a terrible, abusive life in a trailer park in Montana. She ran from a dangerous home and a frightening man. Somehow, she ended up living up on the South Hill of Spokane. My dad was a man of the military, and currently deployed when she purchased the plot of land next to his home. He returned from assignment to find "a crazy woman - she just bought the giant field next to me and started building this ridiculous house with a ridiculous sunk-in living room."

He fell in love with her at first sight. That's the kind of woman she was - enchanting, irresistible, charming, name it, she was wonderful. My dad was a lovesick fool after that. They were married just a couple years later. My oldest sister, Alyssa, was born in 1986 right after they were reassigned to an Air Force base in Arkansas. My mom raised her with little help, as my dad was always working. That didn't change a thing, though. Mom provided everything for Alyssa and their relationship is probably the closest bond I have ever witnessed between mother and daughter.

When our family was moved back to the Northwest, my mom gave birth to her first son, Nathan. He was very sick at birth, but mom refused to give up on him. She spent weeks in the hospital, caring for him, giving him the nurture that nurses could not. They told her that his chances were slim, but never did she lose faith that her boy would grow up to be an upstanding man. She was right, and she raised Nate to be the most incredible man I have ever met. His work ethic, respect for others, and remarkable compassionate nature are carbon copies of my mother's. She instilled a wondrous spirit in my brother, all through her hard work and love.

She built up the Subway empire of Coeur d'Alene in her spare time. At one time, she ran five stores in the Northwest, all while raising three of her own kids, as well as three stepchildren. Never once did any of us feel neglected because of her work. She always traveled with a baby on her hip and a briefcase (filled with toys) in her hand. I was born in 1995, just a few years after my brother. She had been becoming progressively ill over the last year, but chose to plow forward, because living for her family, and serving others in charity, is what she did.

I grew up behind the counter of Subway, learning how to count, work a cash register, and cook, all with her at my side. She never left me with a babysitter; not once. We were bonded in a way not even my dad could ever understand. Out of 3 children, I was the only one to end up with the dominant features of my mom; the only with her beautiful green eyes and excess of laugh lines and dimples on my cheeks. She was my hero, and still is.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was in fourth grade. It was a shocking blow to our family. She rose from the ashes of the fear with a newfound determination to survive. In the middle of my 5th grade year, she packed up a few belongings and moved to Seattle for a year to undergo vigorous treatment. I was lucky enough to spend a summer alone with her in a small apartment overlooking Lake Union while she was treated. During that time, our roles began to change. I was the one holding her while she threw up, the one tucking her in at night, and the one monitoring fevers and medication.

She sang to me every night when we went to bed, from the time I was born, until she didn't have a voice left to sing with anymore. "You Are My Sunshine" and "Go to Sleep" are two lullabies that still resonate in my mind when I go to sleep.

After a year, she returned home, but the treatment had done little. She was very sick, and struggled to balance children, work, church, and charity all in one....but somehow, she did. I never felt like I didn't have a mother looking out for me, even in the worst of times. You could find her baking bread in the middle of the night, or making cookies for her Sunday School class at 6 in the morning, just because she didn't want to waste time feeling sorry for herself. All she wanted was to serve others.

My freshman year of high school, things turned for the worse. She began to lose her memory and her basic motor functions. She was in and out of the hospital and underwent extensive treatment, but the doctors knew her time was coming to a close. The family banded together for what we knew would be last year of her life.

It was a Sunday morning, we were leaving for church. Mom taught a class of 30+ (often unruly) teenagers; she loved them like her own babies. She took a terrible fall off of the garage stairs when she lost a hold of her cane and misstepped. My father and I raced to catch her, but it was too late. Her injuries were severe. While my dad got the car, I helped stabilize her broken hip and carry her to the driveway. The entire drive into Spokane, I held a towel to the wound on her head, gripped her hand, and sang our lullabies back to her. She demanded that we take her to church, instead. She told us that her purpose in life was to serve the kids in her class, and that she would die doing it.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were seated in a room in the ER. My dad went to call my siblings, and I was left with mom. It was the first time in months that she truly recognized me. She looked me in the eye and smiled.

"Emma," she murmured, "it's going to be okay. Never forget how much I love you."

Just a few minutes later, they wheeled her into the big double doors. Those would be the last words she spoke to me.

They ran every test in the book and discovered that the fall had caused a brain bleed. Immediately, she was transferred to Deaconess for brain surgery. They knew she was weak, but expected her to survive with at least some cognitive function.

A week passed; my brother and I returned to school. That Friday, we received the call that she wasn't waking up. We were rushed to the hospital for our last few hours with her. Her beautiful green eyes were open, but blank. She was hooked up to countless machines. For the next twelve hours, I held her hand and sang our lullabies. At 1 AM, she passed from this world. My siblings clung to each other and told stories about her all through the night, and the next week.

At her funeral, more than 400 people showed up. All of whom she had touched at some point in their lives.

It's been two years since she passed, and her legacy shines all around us. Alyssa now has a daughter of her own, and my brother is soon to be married. I am at the end of my junior year, and looking ahead to a bright future. A future that would have never been made possible without the influence and the teachings of my mama.

So on this Mother's Day, it is not a day of sadness. Instead, this year, we are celebrating the legacy Karla left behind. A legacy of a life lived in service to others.


Emma England

Just another pretty face

Remember that 4x5 format vertical headshot that we used to sell the crap out of to easily excitable parents?  All that a mother wanted to see from the portrait session was a close up of her smiling son or daughter.  After-all, they did just dump 4 grand into braces that were recently removed.  I can't argue that capturing a person's face is very important and will be cherished forever.  My challenge to the photographic world is:  First, don't be afraid to include some environment in your portraits, even if that particular location has been used a thousand times.  If it's a part of where that person grew up or spent a lot of time, I guarantee it will be important to them at some point.  The value of the images we create now can't compete with the future worth of those same images years down the road.  Second, I think it's easier to create a story telling image without them looking at the camera.  I love the shoots where I never have to say "smile".  Lastly, don't let your image be just another pretty face.  Add meaning to your images with great intention.


Get Serious

For years, I've been trying to think of who I really am as an artist and what I really like to photograph. There was a good 3 year stretch where all I wanted to capture was happiness and laughter. Clients would come to me with a consistent request for "fun" and "natural" images. I soon realized that you sell what you show, which I had also learned from other artists that I admire. I'll get to the point. All of the sudden, I can't wait to shoot the next quietly powerful image, practically expressionless. I think there is so much to be enjoyed in a quiet, stoic photograph that is well lit and composed. As I spend countless hours on the web, mainly Pinterest, finding other photography that inspires, I realize that my tastes are changing, maybe only for a season. Maybe not. My question to you is this: Am I crippling my successful business, built on giddy imagery? This business has giving me so much and I hope that I'm not taking for the granted the talents I've been given to evoke happiness by taking the more dramatic approach for a while.