Nicole describes herself as an artist - from the inside-out. Creativity and ideas are what keep her up at night, and what wake her in the morning. So many assume that a lot of photographers must be extroverted, but Nicole Mason is a true introvert at heart. And this is one of the many things, which we believe, allow her to capture the most honest split-seconds of human interactions and make her photography so unique, candid and emotional. There is an unwritten trademark on each of her photographs and a recognizable photography style.
If you’re still struggling with finding your own voice as a photographer, and you’re curious what secrets are lurking behind Nicole’s professional success and her warm personality - keep reading :)
1. Nicole, you have quite a following on social media, what would you say is drawing people towards your work?
I try to keep things moving forward - post a variety of content, from landscapes and travel, to weddings and couples. I also write a lot, most of the time, and I find that people really do appreciate a couple paragraphs, rather than a one-word description. I see a ton of Instagram accounts that are static - the same type of images posted over and over - which also do really well with engagement, because people simply will like those type of images forever. My main goal with social media has never been simply to gain following, just to use it as a tool to post the work I’m doing and try to inspire others, teach, and encourage creativity.
2. Seems now that many photographers are “pleading” for the natural, real and raw shots. How do you differentiate yourself?
Yeah - I think the industry has shifted a ton from the traditional “posed” shots and many people are trying to capture natural and candid moments. Though we’re all seeking those photos, I think it’s still possible to set yourself apart in style. I usually shoot in natural landscapes and my edits are designed to match that - no bright, super-saturated colors. I also think my background in fine art has influenced my style of composition and use of light. Natural, candid moments tend to happen very quickly, but I still try to capture them with an interesting composition and make sure it’s going to be a well-balanced photograph.
3. Name some details to which you try to give more attention when taking a photo, in order to make it more special?
The most attention is given to the light. I have to scan the area and know where the best light is, and that’s where my couple is going to be - whether standing, walking through it, or holding each other. I also pay attention to the relationship that my couple has with a space or environment we’re in. I try to capture a variety of wide shots that show the whole area, and the couple small in the frame, and then some closer-in, to a point where you can’t even pinpoint exactly where that photo was taken - they could be in any forest, any desert, etc. I think there’s something to that idea that makes the place relatable to viewers.
4. Has your “muse” ever left you? What did you do to find inspiration again?
It has - it is rare that I’m uninspired, but it happens when I’m not surrounded by other positive, creative people and a natural or city-environment to match (this is why I live in Portland haha). I find inspiration in design, interior design, other art, landscapes (especially the ocean, as you can see), and old/vintage things - from clothing to cars, and for me, I’ve found no better place than the PNW to be surrounded by all these things that keep me going creatively.
5. Which shoot was one of your favorite? What made it so memorable?
The wedding of my friends Jonathan and Amelia in Big Sur has to be the first to come to mind. It was the first wedding I’d ever shot where the couple got ready together, and just really did their day the way they wanted - totally non-traditional, outdoors, small + intimate. They both are creative and have their own unique style as well, which made it all the more exciting to capture. It was one of the days I felt they handed over the complete creative control (so important to a photographer or any artist really) and trusted me to do my job.
6. Is it important to be your own critic? Why?
To a certain degree, yes. I think it’s important to question your own work - why you’re doing it, if it’s quality work, etc. It’s important to stay educated and in tune with what you’re making. But it’s also important to get to a place where you actually are happy with your work - not to pick it apart and look at all of its imperfections. I’ve learned to embrace the imperfections. If my photos were “perfect” I think I actually wouldn’t like them - I like a little roughness and someone’s hair flying in front of their face; it’s human.
7. Would you host a workshop?
Yes - I’ve thought about doing it in the past, but just never worked out the logistics (I’m not a planner.) I will be speaking at a few this year, but we’ll see about hosting my own :)
8. What makes you crack a smile?
Bring me to the Oregon coast, guaranteed to smile every time.
9. How critical is promotion in photography? How do you promote yourself?
I think it depends on who you are. If you go out and meet people a lot and have good connections in-person, I think that is a majority of your promotion. I’ve found word-of-mouth to be the most powerful form of promotion. And usually I’m not even trying to promote; I just meet friends of friends, and they recommend me for something, or think of someone else I should meet. But as for the online-world, I try to just post regularly to social media - Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. Just having your work out there for people to see has always been one of my priorities - take advantage of free marketing on all these platforms.
10. Who is your style icon?
I honestly can’t really think of one haha. I guess it would have to be my friend Shea - she makes her own clothing (@openairmuseum) and I’m lucky enough to get to wear her work!
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate for eating, Vanilla for lattes :)
Jazz or classical? Jazz.
Mountains or beach? Beach - if it’s rocky ;)
Cats or dogs? Dogs.
Film or digital? Film.
Introvert or extrovert? Introvert.
The idea of discovering your own personal style is often too heavily weighted upon all creatives, but the more you stress this idea of “finding it” the more it seems to get blurry. Nobody is you and not everyone sees everything in the same light - that’s your advantage. Learn the rules and then twist them. Shoot daily. Remember - art is very subjective and what works and feels perfect for one photographer may not be the case for another. By all means - get inspired by other’s work, but don’t forget to become inspiring as well. Cultivate a style that will work for years, instead of wanting to shoot exactly like somebody else. Just be your own self!