Laura Palladino on Using the Nikon DF to Clear Her Mind

All images and text by Laura Palladino. Used with permission

I’m Laura Palladino, a freelance photographer currently residing in a small beach town near Los Angeles. I was born and raised in New Jersey by parents who got me involved in everything from sports, to dance to art. Luckily, art stuck and eventually the drawing and painting transformed into photography. Ever since, I have been shooting film and digital imagery at school, for personal projects, for corporate clients, and for small businesses. I use a Nikon DF with a Sigma Art 24-105 lens when I shoot digitally. When I shoot film, my go-to is my old Minolta or Polaroid Land Camera. Digitally, I shoot in RAW, then edit in Lightroom and/or Photoshop. With film, I develop in a traditional black and white darkroom using Fiber paper.

This year, I followed my dream and moved out to the west coast in search of new adventure and inspiration. This move has opened up my mind to the fact that life’s experiences are more important than working a 9-5 job and I feel that this emotion is showing through in my work. I like to photograph little moments and details that make the viewer pause and feel emotion. I love when I see other photographers’ work and it takes my mind through a small story and I hope my images do that for others.


Why did you get into photography?

I’ve always been an artist, from a very young age. I was painting and drawing ever since I could hold a crayon. In high school, I applied to be in the film photography program and loved it immediately. I was drawn to the meditative nature the darkroom provides as well as seeing the images come to life.

What photographers are your biggest influences?

I love William Eggleston’s aesthetic, Tim Walker’s creativity and execution, Chef Magnus Nilsson’s nordic imagery, Stephen Shore’s ordinary road trip details, and I could go on and on…

How long have you been shooting?

I have been photographing film and digital for 8 years.

Why is photography and shooting so important to you?

Capturing memories and feelings is very important to me. I love to live in the moment and I feel that when I capture those memories, it brings me back to those feelings, such as a cool salty breeze from a sailboat.

Do you feel that you are more of a creator or a documenter? Why?

I feel that I lie in the middle. I love documenting a moment, but I can’t help to frame it my way. Whether that’s moving something out of the frame or telling the subject to move a certain way. The photographs are for my personal use and I’ll adjust what’s in front of the camera (but not always) to get a shot that I love.

What’s typically going through your mind when you create an image? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?

When I am photographing, I feel like I am in a bubble. It is a little escape to be behind the camera capturing someone else on the street, little life details and even on product/commercial shoots. I shoot with a Nikon DF which is designed like a film camera. It makes me stop and think about what I shoot since I shoot completely manually. When I got into photography, my dad gave me his old Minolta film camera. I love shooting and developing film. Seeing the image come to life on the paper, each being one of a kind, is magical. Being in the darkroom is a little bubble too. It’s a time to escape from reality and meditate by myself with my work.

Want to walk us through your processing techniques?

I always shoot in RAW when shooting digital. I process them lightly in Adobe Lightroom, then edit further in Photoshop. I like to stick to minimal edits because I want the photos to seem natural. Sometimes, I’ll play with color balance and edit out any details I don’t like. When shooting film, I shoot 35mm black & white and color film then process the rolls and print in a traditional darkroom.

Tell us about the project that your pitching, or your portfolio.

This project is a collection of digital photographs that I made while traveling Australia. Before this trip, I was turned down by every job I applied to and my boyfriend (at the time) and I decided to take a break. I needed an escape, and my best friend and I decided to backpack Australia’s east coast.

I brought my camera everywhere and photographed everyday. It was an outlet for my emotions. No one was seeing what I took, it was as if I was creating a visual journal for myself. At the time I was just shooting to clear my mind. But, when I looked through the body of work I had captured, I saw my emotions in the imagery. Photographing subjects alone, showing unclear identities, capturing my mood in the colors and showing constant movement, were emotions I was working through internally. Seeing my images flutter between happy moments and lonely ones was just showing life’s journey.

When I saw that even the sad moments were learning ones, I really began to embody that everything happens for a reason. There are always ups and downs and you just move through it, and through capturing these images I was able to start a new beginning with a clear mindset.

It was a game changer. All the people I came across valued like and experience so much more than making sure they got a great job. The photos show a mix of emotions, from sad and broken to brief happy moments to quiet peace. It also shows contemplation of self and the journey of figuring out who one is. This trip gave me a new outlook on life and the courage to eventually quit my job and relocate from NJ to LA for a new adventure (which I did this summer!).

I think my project has a theme that is common among many individuals: how to deal with relationships and life changing its course. I love how I can see my emotional journey, having individuals shown alone or not showing their identities, as I search for mine. I want others to see there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

What made you want to get into your genre?

I think I fall under the Lifestyle genre. I enjoy capturing moments and details of everyday life, as well as product and portraiture images for commercial use. It’s a broad category but everyone/everything has a story that needs to be told, and I like to help tell it.

Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision.

Currently I use a Nikon DF with a Sigma Art lens. I love how the DF is set up like an old film camera and the Sigma Art lens could not be crisper! It takes great photos and the film set-up still reminds me to stop and think about the image as I capture it. Recently, I’ve been thinking about investing in a Sony mirrorless camera, as it’s lighter and has video capability. I feel that there are many moments I wish I could capture in video that with the Sony I’ll be able to achieve.

What motivates you to shoot?

I am motivated by everything around me. I am constantly going to art shows, gaining inspiration from social media, and have an amazing group of photographer friends. It makes photography seem like a small community, where we all support each others’ work and life goals.

Visit Laura Palladino’s website to see more of her work.