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Photographer Interview Series: Food Photographer Nicole S Young

Nicole S Young
Nicole S Young

In this installment of the photographer interview series we're talking with Nicole S Young.

Nicole S Young is a professional photographer and author, focusing on food and landscape photography. She writes books about photography, regularly contributes to several podcasts, and writes articles for photography and post-processing magazines. Nicole is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and owns and operates an online store, where she sells photography-related post-processing tools and eBooks.

We can only learn so much by reading, talking, and learning photography, and the best way to get better and grow is to use your camera as much as possible.

Nicole S Young

Who or what was your biggest influence in photography and why?
I took a photography class in high school to satisfy an art credit. I had no prior interest in photography, other than shooting with my 110 camera, or using the throwaway cameras you could get at the store. But the teacher for my photography class, whom we called “Mr. C”, was a huge influence and did what the best of teachers can do: he help me realize my own aptitude for photography, and then fostered that growth throughout the year. It took several years after high school for me to rediscover my passion with digital photography and grow what I now have today, but if it had not been for that one photography class and that one teacher, I don't know if I would be a photographer today.


What's your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
I wouldn't say that I have had any big failures with photography, only short paths in directions that have benefited other people's interests and success much more than my own. A few examples are getting paid “pennies” for writing articles for websites that sell advertising, or even creating products for larger companies where I get paid less than I feel was deserved. It's not all about money, though. Some of the things I have done have not paid well (or even at all), but have grown into other opportunities that are mutually beneficial. I have learned that it's okay to say “no” to opportunities that I do not feel are a good fit.
What is your biggest success or thing you're most proud of?
The thing that I am currently most proud of with my career is that I have been able to sustain a very comfortable living as an entrepreneur, selling digital photography goods (presets and self-published eBooks) in my online store. Being self-employed is the best feeling in the world! I have exponentially grown my brand and my business in a short period of time, and it's a good feeling that I don't have to rely on an employer, or even a third party, to help pay the bills.
What's your one “can't live without it” piece of gear?
A lot of the work I do is either landscape or food photography, and so I could not live without a sturdy tripod. My favorite so far is the Really Right Stuff brand and I also use their “Arca-Swiss” style L-Plates to use with their ball-heads, too. It gives an extra level of support and security when the camera is on the tripod, and it also makes it easy to switch back-and-forth between vertical and horizontal.
Your favourite image you've ever taken and why?
That's a tough question, because it is constantly changing. Off the top of my head, however, I would have to say that a photo I took in Australia I call “Lavender Honey” is my current favorite. I got up at sunrise to photograph the view, but the sky was dead with hardly any clouds. So, instead, I focused on a lavender plant and waited for the bees to land perfectly in the frame. I love it because it is bright and colorful, which a lot of my work tends to be. I also love lavender, as well as the color purple, so it hits a lot of my favorite things in one.
Lavender Honey
Lavender Honey
Your favourite image from another photographer and why?
I am a HUGE fan of Gregory Crewdson. He has a very unique style that is very different from my own, which is probably why I admire him so much. I consider my images to be very bright, colorful, and happy, while Gregory's are dark, imaginative and mysterious. One of my favorite images of his would have to be of a car in the snow, driving past a yellow light. It's a subtle photograph, but there's something about it that is really compelling to me. I see him as more of a director than a photographer; in fact, his photographs are all huge productions and I find it fascinating. The best way to get a feel for his images is to watch the film called “Brief Encounters“, which documents his technique and artistry.


What one thing can the viewers do right now to improve their photography?
Stop reading and get out with your camera! Make some beautiful photographs, and then make some more. We can only learn so much by reading, talking, and learning photography, and the best way to get better and grow is to use your camera as much as possible.


If you could do it all over again would do anything differently? Photographically or life wise?
If I could start all over, I would do everything I am doing now but just get an earlier start. Most of my growth and success with photography initially started out while doing stock photography, and while I still do have images on a stock website, the income I make from other means far surpasses my efforts with stock (such as my store, writing articles, etc.). It's important to work with other brands, especially when the benefits are mutual, but then there are also times when it's best to do your own thing.

Photographer Interview Series

See what makes professional photographers tick, learn about their favorite images and their greatest failures as well as their greatest successes. Check out others in this series below:


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