Nicole Stephens

How long have you been shooting for? 
I’ve been into photography since my mom got me a camera in 6th grade. I would constantly take photos of friends standing around or make them change clothes after school for “emo” photo shoots for DeviantArt (yup I totally just aged myself haha) but I started seriously shooting in high school. My yearbook teacher and mentor, Tara Fox, encouraged me to pursue photography and journalism as a career. It was the first time I had received that type of push from someone other than my mother and it gave me the courage to get into shooting shows and get a DSLR. 

What made you decide you wanted to become a concert photographer? 
I’ve always been in love with music and I was crazy about taking photos of anything and everything. It wasn’t until I started going to concerts and seeing people in between the barricade taking photos of bands that I realized I could put the two together. 

Did you have a specific part while learning photography you struggled with? Do you still struggle with it? 
Editing was definitely a huge struggle for me. For the first 3-4 years of shooting shows I didn’t edit anything about my photos because I couldn’t afford photoshop or know anyone who had a copy. Because of that, when I finally got my hands on the Adobe Creative Cloud, I didn’t know what to do or what looked good. I think there was a time where I just used the clarity and exposure sliders to edit and the result was not pretty. 

Presently, I’ve gotten a lot better with editing from watching countless hours of YouTube tutorials and constructive feedback from other photographers. While there is always a lot more that I’m interested in learning I’m happy with the progress I’ve made from years ago to now. 

Do you have specific types of shows you like to shoot? 
Genre and size wise, I don’t really have a preference! Festivals and tours with great production and lighting directors are always fun but so are intimate 200 shows in cap rooms with no fancy lighting. Whether it’s hardcore or acoustic doesn’t matter either, It’s all about the moments energy for me, not the location, production, or genre. 

Do you think you have a specific style? Explain it. 
I don’t think have a particular style. Which some may say is a bad thing, but I don’t think it is at all. I like to constantly challenge myself and try different things when I have the freedom to and it prevents me from feeling stuck or bored with my work. 

Have you dealt with any effects of sexism in your career? How do you handle it? 
I definitely have.  I think it’s important to pick up on it as it’s happening and have a proactive response to what I’m being faced with. Being publicly upset about being treated unfairly because of my gender isn’t going to get much done. I think it’s important to continue work hard and produce content you’re happy with and to constantly speak up about your experiences to other peers in the industry. 

Are there other photographers that are a big inspiration to you? 
There are so many! My OG inspiration is definitely Maysa Askar. Her work has always been nothing but incredible in my eyes! 

More recently I’ve been inspired by Courtney Coles, Nesirin Danin, Jonathan Kemp, Kayla Surico, Rosario Guiterrez, Courtney Robbins, Penelope Martinez, Lily P McLaughlin, Michael-Rex Carbonell, Andrew T Kerns, Joshua Hailing, and Brian McMcain. 

What’s your favorite work you’ve ever done? 
Live music wise, would probably be the photo of Code Orange that was printed on the back of one of their merch designs and sold all over the world. All the photos I took of that band are still my favorites. 

Fashion/Portrait wise, Definitely all the visuals I recently shot for my clothing brand Soft-Hearted. I had a bunch of ideas for photos and they all came to life perfectly. 

Any big plans/goals for 2017? 
A couple goals of mine this year are to travel with and create content for a wide variety of brands, do more fashion and portrait work, document a tour or studio time for an artist, and create at least two short films. 

Just to overall be a diverse and well rounded content creator! 

Lastly, do you have any advice you’d want to give for aspiring photographers? 
You don’t need the most expensive DSLR (or even a DSLR at all), a publication, or a photo pass to get started! You just need a camera, the drive to shoot and never stop learning. 

Don’t let anyone get you down with negative comments about ANYTHING. They photo community can be vicious in some circles. 

Be kind to everyone you meet and always remember names! 

And don’t let rejection stop you but let it fuel you!