Fearless Nomad: Nicole Mason

We're so excited to feature Nicole Mason. Her photography has inspired us for a while now and we were intrigued by her because she loves adventure and van life as much as we do. We're stoked to share her interview with you. If you love photography you'll really enjoy reading her responses. 

Tell us a little about yourself. What are you passionate about, what do you do for a living?
I’m a 23-yr-old photographer, artist, business owner, etc. based in Portland, OR. I’m passionate about living an adventurous and purpose-filled life, encouraging others to do what they love, and always looking for ways to improve; both in art and life. 

What projects are you currently working on right now?
Currently, I’m working on booking weddings and shoots for the year, along with starting to prepare a book. It’s been a dream of mine to make one, and I think this year will be the year to compile a lot of my work, from images to writings, and get something in print. 

What sparked your interest in photography?
Photography was just something I always did. It was a natural form of expressing myself and seeing the world around me as I grew up, and something that became part of me without realizing how permanent and serious it would become for me. 

What motivates you to continue taking photos?
There’s always a new perspective. Always. I think that’s the most fascinating thing. You can go to the same place over and over and it can look different based on the weather, who you’re with, what they were wearing, etc. People have been photographing the same things for ages, and so there’s this incredible duality of old and new in every photograph - that’s what keeps me motivated and interested.  

What got you started in this industry and how did you transition from being able to run a photography business full time?
I was studying photography in college; I did an internship with a wedding photographer and I began working as a second-shooter with a studio in Buffalo, NY for weddings as well. I was doing little shoots on the side and personal projects with friends all the time, plus working part-time in retail. I crammed all the photography/art classes I could into my 3rd year and graduated early, shot a full season of weddings in the WNY area under my own business that summer and then moved to Portland, OR to start all over again. :) 

What do you love most about running your own business?
I think what I love most is the freedom. I have to remind myself of that, because it is easy to take for granted. But I can edit images from anywhere that I can sit with a laptop and an outlet. I can travel to other countries to work. I can road trip almost any day of the week. It’s incredible to be able to do this for a living.

What is the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur?
The hardest thing for me is being able to stay focused and figuring out what move to make next. It’s easy to get distracted or unsure of what direction to move in sometimes when things get slower. You’re also every aspect of a business - customer service, marketing, artist, producer, creative director, etc. and that can be overwhelming sometimes. 

What advice would you give someone wanting to be a professional photographer and run their own business?
Be ready for anything, and be willing to put in the work. You can’t just pick up a camera and expect magic to happen. You have to go after what it is you want to shoot, meet other people that do the same, form community, etc. It’s much more than taking pictures and posting them online, but it is doable if you want it.

How do you market yourself and how do you find such awesome clients to work with? Do you have any advice for an aspiring photographer?
I try to be across as many social platforms as possible - if I post to Instagram, I also send that photo to Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr. I post photos 1-2 times a day on average to keep a presence going, allowing a higher chance for people to come across my work somehow. I’m also attempting to blog more, because, yes people do still look at blog posts! I’d say that I’m pretty lucky when it comes to clients. I believe that you will receive what you show, and so, though it’s fewer than most, I get clients that really connect with the work I do + so we already have a connection and the same expectations when we get to a shoot. My advice for producing that work + finding those fits: be true to your own vision and what you really want to make; it’s got to come from your own heart and mind, and people will recognize that.

We’re loving how you’ve expanded your business by selling presets, what made you decide to go that route?
Presets are something I had thought about selling through a company in the past, but it never worked out. I really didn’t know how I felt about it at first; a similar feeling went along with when I started to sell photos as Stock. It kind of feels like you’re selling your soul, something so uniquely yours - how could you let that go, especially at a price far below what you value it at? But something clicked with me as I thought about it more, and I realized that it was one of the most common questions I got: “how do you edit?” “Your tones are amazing.” Things like that came through the comments and messages all the time. I decided that selling the post-production settings I’d come up with over the last couple years, really wouldn’t be all that bad of a thing to share with people - your work will be your work because it is your heart and your brain making it, not because of how you desaturate your colors or turn things to black and white. It’s been really cool so far to hear from people about how it is helping them get the look they’d been wanting and improving their workflow - being able to sell a product that improves other people’s lives is a pretty awesome feeling. 

What is something you’ve learned the hard way?
I’ve learned that who and what you surround yourself with is one of the most important things in life. It’s one of those things that I thought I always knew and would never find myself astray from, until a friendship slowly dissolved and forced me to make some tough decisions to keep my own path going up and onward. It was a time I had to ask myself what was best for me, when I realized that you can’t make that choice for someone else, ever. They will choose what it is they want, and that’s it. I set my eyes on priorities for the future of the adventures and the things I wanted to create, as well as the people I loved all around me, and I cannot say it was easy, but I’m extremely thankful for the lesson and the wisdom it brought. 

What do you think of the photography industry? Where do you see it heading?
It’s huge. (yet extremely small) Haha. It’s honestly pretty overwhelming to me, and I try to keep up with it enough to know who’s out there and what work they’re creating- it is a really cool + talented community, but I kind of like to sit back and keep my distance. I’ve seen a lot of changes in just a few years - a lot more workshops + educational opportunities, a lot more photographers, and a lot more technology. I think there’s enough room for it all - I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of the industry. There are so many companies, couples, and needs for photography in this visual and tech-filled age we’re in. I only see it expanding and improving at this point.

How has travel and adventure influenced you and your business?
Travel and adventure has been something that keeps me creating. It keeps me on my toes and it pushes me to experience new things almost everyday, leading me to new perspectives, new inspirations, and honestly, a lot of my best work comes through hard times and things I wasn’t prepared for. Things go wrong pretty often when you’re traveling, and I think surrendering your control can lead to some of the best moments.

What’s next for you? Do you have any big plans this year?
I’m not completely sure what’s going to happen next (scary and exciting). My goals for this year are to shoot more intimate, uniquely-styled weddings in places I’ve never shot before, shoot bigger campaigns for companies, and create personal work that I can turn into books / prints. I’ll for sure be teaching a class at a workshop for the first time later this year… but what the rest of it has for me, I’ll be finding out soon! 

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