For our recent Vienna Collection, we had the pleasure of collaborating with Nashville based photographer Nicola Harger. With her original creative roots in wedding photography, Nicola has migrated into editorial and commercial photography and forged a successful career, creating striking visual content for forward thinking brands. With a beautiful portfolio of portraits, lifestyle and interiors – we instantly fell in love with Nicola’s sensitivity of light and the beautiful tonal qualities of her images.
As part of our Contributor highlights series, we caught up with Nicola, to find out more about her creative journey and path to freelance photography.
We’d love to know the story behind your photography business, how did it all begin?
I was near the end of my first year of university as a journalism student when I picked up a camera for the first time, thanks to my then boyfriend now husband, who let me borrow his SLR for the summer. It felt so natural that I switched my major to photojournalism when I returned to school that fall and started taking art classes along the way. As the years went on, I would photograph various events for publications around the city and made some industry friends along the way. One of them asked me if I had any interest in helping him shoot a wedding, and soon after I realised I wanted to work for myself. Weddings at the time seemed like the best way to do this – so I worked under various photographers until I had a solid portfolio, and then launched full-time into my own business in 2014.
How has your business evolved since you launched, what’s the journey been like so far?
I photographed weddings (25-30/year) full-time for four years. The travel aspect of my job was incredible – I got to fly to places I had only dreamed about visiting, from Norway to Iceland to southeast Asia to all over the US. My favorite part of what I did was the freedom, both in working for myself and the travel. However, there was always a nagging thought in the back of my mind that wondered what other kind of photography work was out there for me outside of weddings. I finally stopped ignoring that voice and took the leap to start pursuing editorial and commercial work a few years ago, scaling back on weddings to make room for other skills to develop to pursue this new work. In a lot of ways, it was like starting over — not much translates between the commercial and wedding industries — but in other ways, it felt like my world had really opened up with so many creative possibilities and jobs to pursue. Currently, I do still take on a few select weddings a year under my contracted wedding company Someplace Wild, but that number of weddings for me is limited as I want to ensure I can give solid focus to my other photography endeavours in the editorial and commercial industry as well.
What does a typical day look like for you, do you have any particular routines?
The most ideal way to start my day would be to be with poetry or other readings, on my deck with great coffee. I always feel the most creative in the morning, so I try to get an early start and push off any emails or meetings until the afternoon to ensure that I can give my best time to my best work. It’s not always possible, but I can tell a difference when I prioritise this!
You create content for a wide range of creative businesses and brands, ranging from portraits, lifestyle and interiors. Could you share with us more about this and how you find your ideal clients whose business resonate with your own values?
We have been living in Nashville for almost five years and I’ve realised over that time how important it is to be kind, invest in relationships and then make good work. Word of mouth and referrals are so huge here, so connecting with other like-minded creatives and businesses often leads to us working together at some point down the road. Showing up for your audience and presenting work that is your best online is also so important – what you show is what you will later book, so I’ve found that continuing to stay consistent in your aesthetic over time helps you stay in the long game in booking ideal clients!
Do you have any dream clients or brands that you’d love to work with?
So many. Overall, I’d love to shoot campaigns that are centered around important issues like diversity and empowering women as well as being a beautiful brand, such as Girlfriend, Adidas, Elizabeth Suzann, Cora, etc.
What have been the highlights and the challenges of your creative freelance journey so far?
The highlights are truly the relationships with people I’ve built along the way – that’s what really stands out to me when I think back over the past six years. The work can be beautiful and a gift to make, but it’s the way you make people feel that stays with them and really takes the work from good to great.
Challenges – there can be lonely days when you work for yourself, as you’re the one making all of the small and big decisions. It can be hard to know if you’re propelling yourself in the right direction when there are so many ways to go. At some point you have to let go and let yourself try things to see what fits, give yourself time to learn and then trust yourself to pick the right path.
If you could go back in time and give the younger version of yourself advice, what would it be?
Let yourself breathe when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and trust that you’re not falling behind – you’re right where you’re supposed to be. One day at a time.
On your days off, tell us what a perfect day or weekend for Nicola would look like!
My favourite days ever are always the ones where I’m waking up in a foreign city with my husband and get to spend the day exploring and trying cafés and walking through giant parks. When we’re home (more likely most days off) we make coffee and breakfast tacos in our kitchen, maybe walk or spend time working on our garden and then meet up with friends for patio drinks in the summer. Simple but perfect.
What’s next and what do you envision for the future for your business?
That’s a great question, and truly one I’m not entirely sure how to answer with the state of the world right now! I know I want to continue pursuing editorial and commercial work but with all that’s happening with COVID-19, I’m also seeing more of a need for quiet and rest in my life instead of endless hustle. I would love to dive deeper into portraits and shape my studio lighting skills even more there. I’m starting to work on a big personal project which is exciting and lends itself more to the above, but also want to start developing some digital products to help other photographers and designers in their own journey. What comes next always feels like a small surprise, so I’m excited to see what’s ahead, whatever it is.
Nicola’s photos can be seen in our Vienna Collection, designed to show a behind the scenes glimpse into a creative studio. Nicola created a beautiful tactile set of images, featuring draped fabrics, ceramics with brass accents, ideal for fellow photographers and creatives. The Vienna Collection features 30 images and is now available in the shop.