Interview with photographer #3: Roberto Nickson (US, Landscape photography)84LENS
Name: Roberto Nickson
Country: USA, Los Angeles
Style: I generally like to focus on landscape, ideally with a subject in frame
Canon 1DX2 & Canon 5D MkIV (Will likely sell one and purchase the Black Magic 6K soon)
Canon 24mm 1.4
Canon 50mm 1.2
Canon 70-200mm 2.8
Canon 14mm 2.8 Nikon D3500 / Fuji GFX 50s (temporary)
Experience: Around 6 years at at least a semi-serious level.
When did you first become interested in photography? What sparked it and when did you decide that it was what you were going to do? Tell us your story 😉
I’ve always been interested in the creative arts, and I started my career as a web/graphic designer. I had several side projects early on that required photography, and by trying to do it on my own is how my interest in photography developed.
Were you formally educated in photography, or are you self taught?
I am completely self taught. Practice, experimenting, and YouTube go a long way.
What is your ways of income from photography? Do you sell your photos on microstock sites? What else?
I actually make no direct income from my photography, and this has been as of now, deliberate.
I am fortunate enough to be able to make a living through software design/development.
The reason I have stayed away from trying to monetize from photo/video work is because I am a little nervous it will taint it as a passion of mine.
However, I may start exploring some opportunities in the field that really excite me in the near future.
What else do you do besides photography? 😉
My main focus for the last 4 years has been app development. I also have been actively building some Instagram accounts.
Realizing my time was spread very thin, I have since sold several apps and Instagram accounts, and am now heavily focused on 4 projects.
What mistakes did you make when you started taking pictures?
Too many to count! However, I don’t consider them mistakes – I just consider it learning.
Here are some hilarious ones to look back on.
1. I would only shoot JPEG, because RAW would take too much space and I had a slow computer.
2. I’d go crazy with the clarity and saturation tools, thinking those ultra sharp, oversaturated HDR photos was a good look!
3. I would always shoot wide open, no matter what. I thought anything else was wasting the potential of the lens.
4. Lack of composition knowledge/experience. I would always center the subject, which led to a lot of cropping of important background elements, and awkward framing.
I am likely making a ton of mistakes now as well, I am just not aware of it – but it is an integral part of the continuous evolvement and never-ending education of a photographer.
Which photo are you currently most proud of? Tell us a story about this photo please.
Something interesting about this question, is that some of my least technically impressive photos, are my favorite.
I have some shots that, on a technical level, are tricky to achieve, but I find them boring. Who hasn’t seen the same milky way photo over and over?
As an example of what I am trying to illustrate, here is an example of one my favorite photos I’ve ever taken:
An iPhone shot of my mother in tears, hugging our childhood Golden Retriever, before the dog was put to sleep. I’d rather not share this shot, but it’s one of the photos I cherish most. It encapsulates not only a memory, but an everlasting feeling that can be invoked any time I look tat the photo.
Here’s another example – attached. It’s not a technically impressive photo, but it is a shot of my friend Cole.
He had just lost his mother, and was telling me how beautiful the sunset was, how it was a gift from her, and how appreciative he was of having her as a mother.
A week later, Cole himself passed.
I am glad I was able to capture this touching moment, and the image forever represents the memory of how kind and thoughtful a person Cole was.
Who have you learned the most from?
I have learned a lot from countless YouTubers, but I learn best from shooting with awesome photographers. For example, the times I’ve gotten to shoot with folks such as Justin Kauffman (@justindkauffman) have been invaluable, and I always leave those sessions a better photographer.
When did you start sharing your photos on Pexels and Unsplash? Many photographers prefer not to share their photos for free, but sell them on photo banks. What is your reason to do that? Does it helps you to attract new customers or you have some any other reasons?
I started for a few distinct reasons:
1. I have used these sites on countless occasions, whether it be for my App Store screenshots, marketing material, DesignLab templates design, etc. etc. – I thought it was only right to give back to the generous community that has provided me with so much value.
2. I figured it was better than these photos sitting in a hard drive for the rest of eternity without seeing the light of day.
3. More attention to my photography I thought would lead to more followers to my Instagram.
4. One of these platforms, with the right moves and visionary leadership, could harness the momentum they’ve got and become a substitute or replacement for Instagram as the top platform for photographers. Getting in early could prove invaluable.
Overall, I am still going to contribute my photos to these sites, primarily because they offer me so much value in my day to day professional life.
However, I am a little unenthused and disillusioned with these platforms. I am closing in on 300M views on these platforms, and have personally received next to nothing. Which for me, is fine, because as I said I contribute for a non-financial reason.
But, 300M impressions, at a say, $5 CPM (very standard) is generating a staggering amount of money for these companies. They should consider a revenue share program (ala YouTube) otherwise I think they are in a vulnerable position to the tough competition emerging.
How did you find your photography style, and what can you recommend to other photographers trying to find their niche?
I am still trying to find it! I think it’s an always evolving process. But, always shooting, practicing, and working on your craft is the way to truly find your photographic voice, so to speak.
Your favourite accessory? I always try to carry an intervalometer, CP filters, ND filter, and little video light. I always find myself finding a lot of use and value from these.
Favourite photography website? I am not sure I have one. I use YouTube, Instagram, Twitter & Reddit to stay up on photography news, draw inspiration, and learn new techniques. So it’s not so much a website or publication, but individuals I follow on social.
Top tip for any aspiring in your niche photographers out there?
Never stop shooting, especially if you want to make this your profession.
We’ve seen an explosion in content, and it won’t slow down over the next decade. It’s as good a time as ever to be a photographer – but at the same time, more competitive than it’s ever been.
To what degree do you retouch your photos, Photoshop? Lightroom? Aperture? Anything that you like to do in your photos in particular, such as add certain curves?
I generally use Lightroom to edit my photos, and will sometimes touch up in Photoshop.
I usually start by applying one of my presets, and tweak from there for the individual photo.
Sometimes, before posting on social, I’ll do a final touch up in my iOS app, MuseCam.
Do you use some photographer’s facebook groups/forums/subreddits/medium to share your experience or discuss something?
Instagram, Twitter & Reddit are my go-to’s for this. But I’ll admit, I am generally browsing/lurking and soaking up valuable tidbits of info. I would like to start contributing more as well.
Recommend some blogs or instagram profiles about photography you love to read.
Again, I generally use individual photographers to learn from. However, I would love to be introduced to some awesome publications and blogs – DM me if you recommend any!
What promotion methods do you use? How do you find customers for your photo shoots?
As I mentioned before, I don’t directly monetize my photography, but I certainly would use social media as my number 1 promotional tool.
What apps do you use to organize your work? Maybe there are some interesting services that our readers would be interested to know about?
Lightroom generally. Otherwise I don’t use an app to organize my work. I generally do it manually with a naming convention I’ve developed – and a lot of external hard drives!
Thanks a lot Roberto! I wish you the most juicy shots!