Q + A with Dani Nicole Photography

Dani Collage .jpg

Hey guys! First off, I want to say this blog post is WAY overdue! But I finally got it together (which is hard these days, ha!) and truly wanted to share about my pictures and the person behind the camera!

I get asked about my pictures ALL the time! From what kind of camera I use, to do I use a certain preset, do I shoot everyday? How often do I shoot…and etc.. So I thought I would share the details about all of these questions!

Two years ago when I first started my blog, I had a VERY specific vision in my mind on what kind of brand I wanted to build. I knew I wanted to be style focused but have health + lifestyle be a huge part of my blog. I didn’t want my pictures or brand to look like everyone else’s as well. That was a big thing for me. But I also had zero clue what I was doing when I first started and thought well maybe I could just take these pictures or have my husband take them for me in his free time?! Okay, that lasted maybe two weeks. He wanted NOTHING to do with this. And I don’t blame him, it wasn’t working for him to take any of my pictures as well. So I thought great, now I need someone to take my pictures and it’s going to cost me way to much money!

Then one day I had a DM on Instagram from a photographer named Dani. She asked me if she could shoot my blog because she was starting her photography business and wanted to grow her business. I said, “Yes! You are hired.” LOL. I then looked up her website and her pictures which I thought were great, so I was excited to see what we could do!

Dani lives close by to me, is a single mom to two kids who are close in age to mine, and has an awesome story on the WHY behind starting her business. (She has a blog post on her whole story, keep reading to get to that!). So the first time we shot she returned the pictures we took out in my driveway within 24 hours (which she still does every single time) and they were perfect. From that point on, we have been a team!

We usually shoot 1-2x a month no longer then 1 hour. I have all the collaborations I need to shoot, outfits, lifestyle pics ready to go within that hour. This is what works best for me and my family. I know it is not a #OOTD look every time, but it is what works for me as a busy mom. I have three small kids, and I do NOT want to waste time trying to snap the perfect Instagram picture everyday followed by putting 10 different pre-sets on it and so on. I also don’t want my kids taking my pictures! I knock out everything I need to for the month with her in that hour and have it all planned for the next week or so ready to go. Then I do not have to waste any time for finding a photo to post each day or spending family time on the weekend by shooting pictures. I’ve never wanted to fold into a certain mold and have always tried to stay true to my brand. I have a personal Facebook where I can post everyday pics of me and my fam. This is not where you will find those personal photos. (Those are personal!) You can watch my stories for a glimpse into our everyday lifestyle, that I share from time to time. This is my blog and my brand I have built for my style diaries, heath + fitness tips, and lifestyle tips. Something that I have that I can still have a piece of Ashley, and not always, “mommy". (Which I LOVE, but it’s nice to have a little something that is for me). I’m passionate about helping other women feel amazing about themselves by advocating it’s okay to take care of ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. And that is what my entire blog/brand stands for! I’m so grateful it has worked out and can not tell you how proud I am of Dani and her business that is BOOMING! She has a true talent on capturing real moments. I don’t care if I have things ready to go, the pictures I get back could not be more real. I have so many precious ones of the kids and I as well, that I will always and forever be thankful for her capturing those moments. I always joke with her, don’t forget about little old me when your out shooting all your celebs. ;). She has grown into one AMAZING photographer in the past two years. And I’m so lucky to have her apart of the Wonder and Wear Team! (Which consists of me and her. LOL).

So let’s hear from Dani herself!

Q + A with Dani Nicole Photography

Hello Ms. Dani! Well, what do other people call you?! It used to be Danielle forever and always, until I started writing for a certain website (see below). Another girl on the team was named Danielle, so to keep things clear, I decided to go by Dani - plus I always secretly wanted a nickname growing up. It stuck from there, and now it's rare to be called Danielle!

How did you get started in Photography?
I've written my whole story down in the blog section of my website. It's a two-parter, so prepare yourself! It's right here for those who want the dirty details : 

For those who prefer a cliff notes version, I basically got a bit bored as a stay at home mom after my two kids arrived, so I joined a motherhood and women's website writing content as a hobby. I had to learn how to use a DSLR to move forward in the company, so I did, because I loved writing for them. After a few years of shooting and writing, my marriage suddenly ended, and I was faced with the choice of going back into nursing (my college degree), finding something else to do, or being homeless. None of those things, except finding something else to do, was an option, so my "something else" became an overnight photography business, which has taken off over these last two and a half years, and opened up a hidden passion and talent that I didn't even know existed.

How did you learn Photography? Completely self taught, with a little help from my mentors at the website I wrote for (see above). I read my cheap, entry-level camera manual inside and out, I scoured the Internet for tutorials, Pinterest for articles and cheat sheets, researched lighting, posing, and everything I could get my hands on. And then I just shot. And shot and shot and shot. Practiced until I got better, and then practiced some more. And every time I shoot now, I'm still practicing, still learning, still making mistakes, yet always getting better.

What kind of camera do you use? And what lens do you shoot with the most? I own two Canon 5d Mark iii's. I've only ever shot with a Canon, and probably only ever will. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! My 50mm 1.2L prime lens is my baby, and I shoot 90% of sessions with that thing. Fun fact : I don't own any zoom lenses, only primes. Any zooming is done one hundred percent by my feet!

What do you use to edit your photos? Do you use a "Preset?"
Lightroom exclusively. I only use Photoshop if I'm backed into a corner, but honestly, that's probably only happened once or twice. I have one Rooke and Rover preset that's been my golden child for the last few months. But it's never as simple as just clicking a preset and considering your image edited. I always tweak every photo after applying the preset to make it look exactly the way I want it.

What is the best lighting to use? And when?
Natural light always! For outdoors, shooting an hour or so before sunset is ideal. The light is softer, you can get some amazing backlight and sun flares, and there are more shadows to utilize if you're not comfortable shooting with the sun. If you have to shoot midday and it's sunny out, find locations that offer consistent shade - nothing too patchy. An overcast, cloudy day (while shooting in the afternoon) is the ultimate blessing! 

If shooting indoors, any time of day works (before dark), and be sure to use natural light flowing in from a window with all the artificial lights in the room turned off. Place your subject either facing the window or slightly angled with her face towards it, and enjoy your images! 

What inspires you the most? Love. Through couples and self.

It sounds simple and cliche, but it's true. I've always been a romantic, and even though I went through a painful divorce, I do still believe that true love in relationships exist. I love capturing the passion between couples, which is why I focus on weddings and couple's photography. I love the intimate connection that can be captured between two people who share a life together. I love photographing skin on skin contact; my love language is physical touch, so that makes sense, haha. 

I also practice self-love; the women who come to me for boudoir and empowerment sessions bring a different kind of love to my life that inspires me. I adore seeing other women be comfortable in their skin, being brave enough to trust me with their self-professed imperfections and insecurities, and for allowing me the privilege of helping them along their journey towards complete self-love. Which is also why I focus on boudoir photography. 

What kind of looks do you like shooting the most besides AshleyJGeorge....hehe?
Boudoir photography is my favorite, and the most popular thing I shoot. Besides that, weddings, especially elopements and tiny gatherings, are my other passion.

Do you think you will always want to be a photographer? I sure hope I always think that! It's definitely been the one and only thing that I've ever felt so passionately about from a career standpoint. If I could keep doing exactly what I'm doing now forever, I'd be enormously blessed and content. I don't view what I do as "work"; it's more of a calling. As long as I keep my boundaries intact and continue to be intentional with this business to avoid burn out, I would love to keep doing this forever. But then again, God surprises me from time to time with where He wants me next, so while I hope to be a photography entrepreneur forever, He may one day want me to do something else.

For people who want to create a similar look to my photos, what would you advise them to do?
As far as editing, shoot a bit darker - drop that exposure, bring down the vibrancy of natural greens (grass can be a killer in photographs!), increase contrast, keep things a bit on the cooler side when it comes to white balance, decrease your oranges, and then call me to photograph you when you can't get it right!!

As far as posing, real moments aren't taken while looking at the camera. Pretend at all costs the camera isn't even there. Just do what you do. Avoid looking straight on when you're being photographed, embrace movement, sit, stand, squat, etc. (don't always use the same pose), BE WHO YOU ARE, and always laugh! Fake laughs instantly turn into real ones towards the end, and those are priceless.

You shoot such real moments! You do not photoshop your work, what would you tell someone who thinks they need to photoshop every picture?
You're killing the whole concept of photography! Photography is capturing and preserving a moment in time, and if you alter that moment through extensive editing, you lose its authenticity, especially when it comes to lifestyle photography. I understand photography can also be a specific art form - which some people do very well through Photoshop and editing - but if you value the realness in your photographs, resist the urge to go crazy on the back end. Focus on being intentional with your shots, so there is less editing to do afterwards. Don't be trigger happy; set up your shots, be patient and wait for the right moment before pressing the shutter, and embrace the grit and realness (for better or worse) that comes with each frame. 

If you're an influencer, don't fake who you are. Learn to love yourself and what you look like, and in turn, you'll earn the trust of those who follow you, which produces even more followers and influence. We all crave real, and we can see right through fake, trust me.

For someone who is maybe just starting out and learning photography, maybe for their own blog or adventures, what is the best piece of advice you could give them?
Practice until your eyes cross and your head spins! Know your camera inside and out - especially the focusing component - and find a mentor with a teacher's heart who you can bounce questions off of. A lot of photography dilemmas can be figured out online and in research, but some things are just better through visual learning when a human being explains and shows them to you. 

And if you just want to add anything else or what would you like the world to know, HA?!When you're at your darkest and you don't see any way out, keep going. Start or nurture a relationship with God, and let Him lead you down the next path. When you relinquish control to the One who's already written your entire life story, it's much easier to sit back and take the good with the bad, knowing that it's all for a reason and all part of your unique story. It's amazing to see what kind of beauty can come from the ugliest of places, and as long as you never give up and you let Him lead, you'll always see it. 

If we can't find you shooting away on a photo shoot, where would we find you?
Probably in the car or eating somewhere, haha! I eat out way too much; one, because I hate to cook, and two, because I love food. And I'm always playing chauffeur to my socialite children, so the bimmer gets some serious miles. I also can be spotted at the closest RockBox, anywhere in downtown Davidson - I'm a self-professed townie, at a brewery with the boyfriend, or a coffeeshop happily editing the hours away.

Thanks for reading!! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!


Ashley + Dani

You can find Dani at www.daninicolephotography.com or on Instagram at @dani_nicole_photography

Ashley George