EHC: What do you do on a daily basis as a family photographer?
Nickol: I simplify the photography process for my clients by helping them choose what to wear, advising on poses, and selecting locations that match their personal style. The best part of my job is bringing out authentic personalities from my clients, making them feel comfortable, and capturing real smiles and laughs. In the end, it’s also making my clients feel good about themselves. In fact, the best part of working in this people-focused business is when you see someone’s self-confidence boost after a successful shoot.
In addition to the photo shoot, photography involves editing, which takes place after the shoot. Every shoot has its own personality, so I edit based on people’s personalities; if someone is bold, I edit bold, and if someone is softer, I edit softer. Once I have edited, I deliver the photographs. Ultimately, as a photographer, I form relationships with people–watching families grow and children grow up.
In the past several years, photography has changed a lot. Being a successful photographer requires that I stay current on photography trends by conducting research and developing new techniques. Since I cannot take classes every time something changes, I learn it on my own, which is usually a process of trial and error.
EHC: How did you become a photographer?
Nickol: When my first daughter was born in 2010, my husband and I were completely broke. We were young and trying to figure it all out. A friend mentioned to me that pictures were so expensive and viewed them as a luxury, not a need. Since I wanted to practice, I did a session with her family and quickly understood the gravity and generosity of providing family pictures. That always stuck with me. I have always been artsy. In 2013, I bought a camera and thought I would take my children’s pictures, yet I still thought of photography as a hobby.
Eventually, I began learning, self-teaching, going onto YouTube, reading, and practicing. Once I started to get the hang of it, I knew I could use this tool for others. Even at that point, I didn’t see photography as what I truly wanted to do. But situations kept arising, and God spoke to me about THIS PLAN, THIS PATH.
I started my site and decided to do a giveaway. The person I selected to receive a free photo shoot had a remarkable story, and we continued crossing paths. I selected her name randomly, and she shared her story with me about how much I blessed her with the photos. She had a son with a tracheotomy, and medical bills were piling up. It was a special moment, and once again, it hit me that I wanted to give back because pictures should be a need and not a want.
A lot of people cannot afford to spend $500 on pictures, so I thought I will give away one photo shoot per month and just let God work with that. Month after month, I prayed about it and prayed for my clients. I cannot even explain it, but every month God brought the right person to me. I was never disappointed. Those selected for a free shoot consistently told me, “You have no idea how much this means to me. I needed a win.” The people I worked with were able to get out of their situation for our 90 minutes together, and I always prayed for them afterwards. I think it’s important to glorify God and thank him for bringing us together.
Interestingly, in 2018, I was looking over mission trips. I thought to myself, “Yes! I am feeling India!” But then I saw the price tag. I went home and spoke with my husband who said we would have to look at our finances. We prayed about it, and I said to God, “If you want me to go to India, then please help me get there.” I decided to open more photography session slots. I usually only take 10 per month, but within two weeks I had 90 sessions booked over the next three months. I had never done that before and don’t do it now, but everything came to fruition.
EHC: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Nickol: Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then, I decided anything medical-related would be good. From the time I can remember, I was always into art; however, my family said that if you really want to be successful, you need to make a lot of money. To me, the definition of success was different–it was kindness and being a good steward. I wanted to be good, kind, and loving.
I attended college and stayed on the medical track but mistakenly put my cart before the horse. I took a lot of classes, but they didn’t add up to anything but credits; they didn’t lead to a major. I tried to figure all of that out for two years. But, during the same time, I became friends with my now-husband. When I was expecting our first child, I stopped going to school in order to work full-time, and so did he. We had a lot of hard times but eventually moved for a job offer he received.
It felt like we were just meant to be where we were, but it still didn’t feel like we had found exactly what we were supposed to be doing. In the movies, people figure out what they are supposed to do and do it. That didn’t happen for us. My path kept changing until I discovered that I am good at photography.
EHC: What Advice Would You Give Young Women?
Nickol: When you are young, you wait for this “aha” moment you’re supposed to have. It doesn’t always happen when we want it to. God will put it in your heart. As vague and cliché as it sounds, you will know when you are doing something you have a passion for.
Ask yourself what your definition of success is. If it’s a big house, get a degree and a high-paying job. If you need to work with orphans in India, figure out how to do that. Just determine your own definition, and figure out what you need to do. Also remember that your definition of success will be different than everyone else’s.