With a background in fashion and modeling, photographer Nikki intimately understands all aspects of this demanding industry.
With a keen, creative eye this ‘in-demand’ photographer is definitely a woman with talent, focus and a unique perspective on capturing the curvy woman… get to know Nikki…
[Maddy] Many of us remember you as a model – tell me about the decision you made to become a photographer?
[Nikki] Modeling was a dream of mine for a long time and I am so happy I had the opportunity to do that. But it was never a future for me. Modeling led me to fashion that in turn led me to photography.
I was fortunate enough to work for “Dulce” for about a year and while I was working for them we did a spring photo shoot to promote the new designs we were carrying. We had a very small budget so Fluvia and I (a close friend and PLUS Model Magazine’s very first cover model) took turns as both models and photographers on a windy March day in Brooklyn. Once we reviewed the pictures I realized I was much more excited to see the images I shot of Fluvia then I was so see the images of me as a model. It was in that moment I understood this is what I wanted to do.
[Maddy] Once you felt that urge did you react immediately or did you really think about this career change?
[Nikki] I have to admit, I struggled with this realization for a while before I accepted it. You see, I was never the one to walk around with a camera around my neck. I always forgot to bring the camera to family functions and when I did remember the camera months would go by before I developed the film. I honestly never saw this coming. As time went on I kept thinking about the feeling I had when I saw the images I created. There was no longer any denying it… this is what I was meant to do.
[Maddy] Sounds exciting… what steps did you take in order to develop your skills?
[Nikki] I eventually decided to invest in my equipment and practice on anyone that was willing to model for me. Eventually the need to do this was overwhelming and just a few photo shoots brought me a steady client. Once I had that client (and a decent portfolio), I decided it was time to quit my job and devote all of my time to my passion. I knew this was the only way to really make this dream work.
[Maddy] You have a unique style of shooting; do you feel your years as a model have contributed to your development as a photographer?
[Nikki] I have heard my style of shooting described as “unique” quite a few times and honestly I still don’t know what people mean when they describe my work that way. I do know that I am flattered to be “unique” and I will continue to see that as a compliment.
I am sure modeling has played a role in developing my style but, I am also sure that was not the only thing that contributed to my photographic “eye”. Perhaps my style is a reflection of my lack of professional training. At times I think my style comes from my love of television and film. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of going to the movies with my mom. I like to think that all of those hours spent in front of screen were not a waste but, rather hours and hours of research that I am now applying to my craft. I think all of those images somehow contribute to the images I get in my head and in turn need to create.
[Maddy] What inspires you as a photographer?
[Nikki] My models inspire me. Whether it is a model test shoot or a portrait shoot, I always make a conscious effort to capture the true essence of the individual in the image we are creating. I can’t really explain how that happens but I think it has something to do with the connection between model and photographer and the photographer’s ability to make the model comfortable.
[Maddy] From a photographer’s point of view, what makes a good model?
[Nikki] Naturally physical appearances are a key factor but there is much more to it. New models should practice in front of the mirror. Learn what expressions and poses work for them. All models should trust their photographer. We are there to work hard to get images everyone is happy with. A good model works with the photographer to achieve the desired image. Collaboration on a shoot is key!
[Maddy] Now that you are on the other side of the camera, what advice do you have for models about preparing for a shoot?
[Nikki] Make sure your nails, skin and hair are in good shape. Be sure to get your model bag ready with all of the shoes, undergarments and anything else you will need for the shoot. Think about what you want from this test shoot and be prepared to tell your photographer. Perhaps the most important advice I can offer is get rest; it is so important the model is relaxed and well rested before a shoot. Not only will she look better but also, overall she will feel better.
[Maddy] How important do you believe “testing” is to the development of a models portfolio and skills?
[Nikki] I believe testing is essential for all models. Aside from keeping a models portfolio up to date, tests also show clients a model’s versatility. A client may be looking for a specific look and the model may be right for the job however, maybe there aren’t any images conveying that look in their book. Not everyone has the imagination necessary to envision that model as the right one for the job. One test image may be the image that convinces the client to hire that model. For example… a model may be sexy but can she be sweet and approachable? A model may be sweet and approachable but can she be sexy? Only a diverse portfolio can prove the model is capable of many looks.
[Maddy] How much collaboration do you do with the models regarding hair, make up and styling?
[Nikki] Most of the time I leave the hair and makeup to the hair/makeup artists. I try to work with the best in the business because I trust their vision and passion for their craft. I often email the makeup artist images of the model we will be working with so they have time to think about what is best for the model.
I think I am a bit of a fashion snob! I have a background in fashion and I am sure that plays a role in the styling on my shoots. I like the styling to be current. I also love natural fabrics and fit is extremely important. If I am styling a shoot, I am looking for clothes that not only fit the model and show off her best attributes, I am also looking for something unique. I like clothes that are like individual pieces of art. Too often models go to the same three stores and get the same clothes as other models. I like to create a unique image for each model and often clothes are key to achieving this.
[Maddy] The future seems very bright for you – do you have any special projects coming up?
[Nikki] Thank you! I hope it turns out as bright as it seems! For now I am really just focusing on the present. While I have several goals I would like to achieve, I really want to enjoy what I am doing now and appreciate each day for what it is. I am certain that my love for my work and my passion for my dream will continue to point me in the right direction. I like for my projects to develop naturally. I feel that creativity can’t be forced. If I try to force it, I am certain I won’t be happy with the result. I can only remain optimistic that the future is as good as the present!