“One of the best things about being a photographer is how supportive the community of other photographers can be…”
Nick, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what sparked your interest in photography? I went to Europe when I was 14 with my grandmother and all her grandchildren, and at the time I was already interested in photography but the trip there really secured that passion for me. I got my first DSLR about 2 years after that and have been incredibly in love with portraiture ever since.
What do you love the most about your job? As far as fashion and styling goes, I love having creative control of what the final image will look like via having a very specific vision and set of qualities I want to convey through the photos. When it comes to commissioned work such as weddings, families, senior photos, and head shots, it is really interesting to me how much someone’s personality can come through in a photo once you know them. One of the best things about being a photographer is how supportive the community of other photographers can be, from teaching, to inspiring, to collaborating with others, it can really be a fantastic way of meeting new people and coming together with similar interests and artistic styles.
You seem to work mostly with natural light, has this been a conscious decision for your personal style? Yes, I shot with flash for a short time and realized quickly it was not for me. There was a time when photography was just a camera and the photographer, which really fascinated me and made me understand that it isn’t entirely necessary to add your own light to a scene to take a great portrait. I may consider using reflectors in the near future, but it had really become a huge part of my style to shoot with no modifications whatsoever. I love “finding” a good portrait as I am shooting while moving around and finding better light as the shoot progresses.
What is your favorite thing to shoot for yourself? I love working on my color series of monochromatic portraits because it has inspired me so much to get more creative every time. I never would have thought of making headpieces for shoots but now that I have started it really helps with bringing the whole shoot together stylistically. For one of the shoots we sprayed a backdrop at a local area designated for public spray painting, it was a unique experience.
How was your first shooting? What did you shoot? My first portrait shoot was a senior session, it went well and was at the typical local location of downtown Buda, Texas.
What is typically in your camera bag? Now I am shooting with a Sony a7, and a lens I inherited from my grandfather (minolta 50mm 1.4) and ones that were purchased for the Pentax k-5 that used to be in my camera bag (pentax M- 50mm 1.7, 135mm f/2.5, Tamron 28-75). There’s also some faceted glass, smokey quartz, and titanium quartz that I use for prisming.
What is your mental checklist before a shoot? Is there something you always ask yourself/think just before you press the shutter button? Making sure that a concept or theme will be properly executed is definitely atop that list. Decent light, proper makeup, and good direction/emotion from the model are vital to carrying out these shoots. A calm demeanor ensures everyone is comfortable and things go smoothly. Before I press the shutter button I want to make sure the shot I am about to take is for sure different than the last, this comes from when I shot film and is a good way to have a diverse set of images to choose from.
What from your point of view makes the shoot successful? A single good image that encapsulates the characteristics and theme of what I want to capture is definitely a good shoot in my opinion. Generally speaking there’s more than one great shot but as long as you as an artist get the shot that you want or had in mind, that is all you need.
What has been your favorite photo-shoot to date and why? I would have to say this very shoot, due to the fact that it came out exactly as I had hoped and envisioned. The headpiece took a few hours to make but it was an enjoyable process and added a lot to the look of the shoot as a whole.
Where do you get your creative inspiration? Do you look to other photographers for inspiration, or does your inspiration come from other sources? Does the concept come first and then you choose the perfect location, or do you find the location first and build the concept around it? Other photographers play a big part, but most of my inspiration (for this series) comes from things I see such as inanimate objects (for this shoot the white deer antlers really inspired me to make a headpiece), clothes, locations, and colors. This is part of a series of monochromatic portraits I am working on, so one of my biggest inspirations is definitely color.
When you’re working with a model, how important is communication during a shoot? Very important. If they are uncomfortable with a pose or particular direction it shows in a photograph, so I make sure they are comfortable or make the pose their own to preserve a comfortable, natural look.
What part of a shoot is the hardest for you? Sometimes it can be figuring out what I want the hair style and makeup style to be, it is really hard to get that down, because they play a huge role in the look of a shoot.
Nick, tell us more about “Ethereal Dream”. In 2015, I realized how much I love color in my work, so I decided to do a series of monochromatic portraits dedicated to each color. While at a friend’s client party, I saw they decorated the center of the tables with white deer antlers. At the time I was looking for something to add to my shoots another component to really complete the process of a color shoot. Then it clicked: they would go great in a headpiece. Then at the local crafts store, I found several pieces to add to the headpiece that created a very ethereal and elegant look. After that, a dress or outfit needed to be found. I saw this simple maxi dress and had to buy it, because it exactly fit the theme with its simplicity. There was this building in mind in downtown Austin that I have shot at before, and it was definitely the one I wanted to put this shoot together at.
In your opinion what are the biggest challenges for an independent photographer? Setting oneself apart from the rest of the community is immensely challenging, if you throw 50 photos together in a collage, can fans of your work tell your image apart? That is a tough point to get to, and part of that test is figuring out what direction to take your photography in.
If you could tell yourself anything when you first started out, what would you say? Focus on the things you want to accomplish, grasp them firmly in your mind, and never let go, never let what your focus is become a part of your periphery.
What are your future aspirations? I am hoping to make a book of collaborations with fellow photographers all around the country which I will be starting this year. Also, I very much hope to shoot at locations all around the world. Traveling interests me just as much as photography does.
What’s the most important thing you want potential clients to know about you? For those that would like to consider working with you, what’s the best way to start? I have a particular style, and it is what I hope you are choosing to work with me for. Creative control is entirely necessary when I shoot, and to ensure the best possible product I need that creative control. Book me for my style, not my prices. If you have a style in mind, I love helping my fellow photographers, so I will gladly refer you to one of them because I also want to make sure you get the best photos you possibly can. For a portfolio of my work, my website, nickbrunerphotography.com is a great resource. I regularly update instagram with recent work instagram.com/nickbrunerphotography
What’s your favorite thing to do when you are not photographing? Editing, I absolutely love to edit. In the digital world it is almost just as important as photographing. The personal touch that is applied in post processing is an incredibly fun process and ever-changing. I have developed a style of editing that is my own, that is consistent but not stagnant.
Any final words of wisdom you would like to share? Find out what sets your work or style apart and use that to your advantage, it is an irreplaceable commodity in the world of art.
Tell us one surprising fact about you. I am hoping to start 2 of 3 books I intend to write this year!