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Get to Know a Pro: Nicole S. Young

Our friend, photographer Nicole S. Young, is a member of the CanvasPop Pro Community. She’s a full-time photographer based in Seattle, who’s also an author, poet and dreamer. We caught up with Nicole to ask her some questions and learn more about life as a Pro. 

What type or style of photography do you specialize in?
I primarily photograph people and food for my stock photography portfolio on iStockphoto.

What is your favourite thing to shoot (event, subject, etc.)?
When it comes to people, I enjoy photographing children the most. Since I do stock and I’m not always looking for a perfectly posed photograph, I welcome the spontaneaity and unexpectedness of what children can create. With that said, some children are easier to photograph than others … and I have the luxury of only having to photograph people I want to. With food, I have the same luxury of picking my subjects so I’m always trying to find food that is beautiful, colorful, and something I actually want to eat.


How long have you been a photographer?
If you count high school, I’ve been at this for 15 years. As a professional photographer I’m in my 6th year of doing stock photography.

How did you get started?
In 2006 I wanted to improve my photography, and I discovered microstock while reading through a photography magazine. I started creating photos and uploading them to the sites, and through this process I learned about post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop, along with how to use off-camera strobes. The online social media and photography community wasn’t what it is today, but iStockphoto had a wonderful community of photographers that was very helpful in this process. I started making money and realized that I could actually do this as a job. So, I “quit” my job (I was a linguist in the U.S. Navy) and started doing photography full time. The rest of the work I do (writing books and working for NAPP) grew from being involved in Photography and the that community on Twitter and going to conferences.


What is your all-time favourite image or shoot?
My favorite image of mine changes all the time. I’m always on a quest to continually improve my photography and make better photographs each time I go out to shoot. Right now, if I had to pick my favorite, it would be an image of a creek right next to a waterfall on the Columbia River Gorge (left). It’s also so peaceful and tranquil in those locations, so there’s more behind the lens for me that what other people see in the photograph. I think we all have biases towards our own photographs which are difficult to break free from at times.

What is your main camera?
I currently use a Canon 5DMkIII as my primary camera.



What’s the piece of gear that you just can’t live without?
I’ve recently developed a love for landscape photography—it’s a relaxing and enjoyable experience and I get to create beautiful images I can print and hang on my wall. So I guess that the gear I couldn’t live without would be my ND filters. I photograph a lot of waterfalls and streams and to get that soft, misty, cotton-candy look I use ND filters to cut the light and give me a longer exposure.

What do you like most about being a photographer?
I love that it gives me the freedom to do other things, like write books, eBooks and travel. And the cool thing is that those “other things” all, in some way or another, have to do with photography.

What do you like least about being a photographer?
I love computers and technology but I sometimes have a love-hate relationship with it. I tend to sit at my computer all day long working and doing things like answering emails, tending to miscellaneous business work, processing images, uploading to my portfolio, staying active on social networks, etc. Some days I spend all day in my apartment, staring at the computer the whole time. It gets difficult to balance and it’s tough to pull myself away when I (always) have so much to do.

What is the biggest mistake you see amateur photographers make?
I know that my photography immensely improved when I started to actually see light. Mastering concepts like strobes, flashes and even daylight can seem daunting to a new photographer because they don’t quite know what they’re looking at. When people first pick up a camera they focus on the subject and this can sometimes mean that the light used to light them is horrible. Once photographers learn how to see light they will improve their photography by leaps and bounds.

In your opinion, what makes a good photo?
Light is always the number one ingredient for a photograph. It doesn’t matter what your subject is, if the light is good then you’re at least 80% of the way there.



Who are your favorite photographers?
Many of the photographers I consider my “favorites” I know through social media sites, particularly through Google+. Photography to me is not only about creating a pretty picture, it’s also about inspiring others to create beautiful memories and improve their craft along the way. Some photographers who share their work and leave trails of inspirational bread crumbs along the way are Brian Matiash, Trey Ratcliff, David duChemin, Karen Hutton, and Varina & Jay Patel … and here are SO many other photographers out there who inspire me and I adore.

You license your photos on Getty Images and iStockphoto. Do you have any tips on promoting your work or business?
I have a somewhat unique business model as a stock photographer, since I don’t have clients, so I’m not always trying to market my photography to get business. However, I do other things (like writing books) where it’s important that I play a part in getting the word out. The way I do that is through social media and my blog. I think that social media is one of the biggest forms of marketing and self-promotion you can do, and the great thing is that it’s free. The only thing you really need is time to post and interact with your clients and/or other photographers. This could be through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or any other site where sharing is a big part of the business. For your blog, or website, it’s important to show the type of work which will attract the type of clients you want to have. Also, make sure that they have a way to contact you—you wouldn’t believe the amount of websites I’ve seen where there was no email, phone number or contact form available.

Thanks, Nicole!


Nicole S. Young is a full-time photographer and author currently living in Seattle, Washington. She specializes in food and stock photography and licenses her images through iStockphoto and Getty Images. You can find Nicole on her blogGoogle+ and Twitter.