It’s often the case that professional photographers have been extremely successful in other careers before making their hobby of photography their career. Through our interviews with photographers, we’ve seen that there are many entry routes into professional photography.
We wanted to talk to someone who makes portrait photographs, and takes their artwork to a new level of creativity. Traditionally, Midsummer has been a time for fairies and fantasy, inspiring Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and continuing to inspire art and popular culture today.
Nikki Harrison of Vancouver, Canada shares with us her magical portraits that transform her clients into fantasy artworks, and she tells us her hopes and dreams this Midsummer. Whilst most of her fantasy portrait work is with women and children, she also shoots portraits with men too. Smart Photo Editor now has a Studio edition like PortraitPro Studio, making them both a Photoshop plugin, and making artistic, dramatic, and fantasy portraits is now even easier.
PortraitPro: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get in to photography and how did you come to make it your career?
Nikki Harrison: I was always an artist, mostly drawing, sketching, charcoal. Being a creative soul, I was always amazed by the beauty around me, either in paintings, nature, people or places. I was in a successful finance career when I finally got my first camera. I was hooked fairly shortly after I discovered the power of Photoshop. Taking the image was really just the first step for me. My enjoyment came afterwards, in the creating process in Photoshop. For me, that was my new pencil, it gave me freedom to do anything.
Photography/Digital Art became my career when my finance job became a background noise that was nothing but a constant annoyance to my creative process. When I could no longer force myself to do a mundane, boring job for money and be happy as a person, it was time to give up the successful career and follow my passion. I am old enough to understand that as long as all our basic needs are met, food, shelter, security, we can be happy. I chose to be happy.
PortraitPro: Your work is characterized by its heavy photo editing, blurring the lines between photography and digital painting. What was it that drew you to digital art?
Nikki Harrison: I see beauty in all things, and all people. My ability to completely transform people into a different world, place or turn them into a different person is what I loved best. Taking a picture, for example, family portraits, was mundane and boring to me. It was not something I loved to do. I NEEDED to express myself, via digital art. At one point I was going to give up photography and keep it as a hobby, once I accepted that idea, and ONLY shot and edited what I loved, the ability to earn a living at it became simple.
PortraitPro: What was it that inspired you to try this style of work?
Nikki Harrison: It has been an evolution. It didn't happen right away. As my Photoshop skills improved, my ability to do more and more improved. My inspiration comes from my own idea of beauty, my own creative process. Unless I am free to do what I want in an image, I simply do not want to do it. I need to stay true to my passion, my reason for doing this. I can't say any one thing inspired me. I want to create "Art", and not a photograph. That is my goal.
PortraitPro: Can you tell us how you go about shooting and editing a fantasy portrait photo?
Nikki Harrison: I typically will shoot with natural light. I will use flash or constant light if the natural light is either unavailable or not easy to control for whatever reason. My joy is natural, flat light. I like having the ability to create a light source on my subject(s) from any direction. When I shoot, I typically will have an idea of one image for the session. Sometimes I will be culling my images, and will immediately see an image and know it will go in a completely different direction from my original intention. My creative process will start with wardrobe, I will build a creative session around an item and go from there. It has a life of its own by the end of it.
I try to shoot my own stock photography, skies, oceans, textures, etc. so that I have a vast array of imagery to use for composite photography.
PP: That’s a great idea. It’s something that we could all try to do, especially for making our own composite images with Smart Photo Editor.
PortraitPro: You describe your Elegant Portraits as 'For Women, by a Woman'. Do you think that being a female photographer allows you to work differently to your male counterparts?
Nikki Harrison: 100% of the women I have photographed said that they would never trust a male the way they trust me to make them beautiful, feel safe and comfortable (especially for topless, nude and implied). I am a bit of a goof ball, and my easy going nature, ability to pose my clients from head to toe, during the entire session, makes working with me easy and NOT stressful. My posing is my edge.
PortraitPro: You also create beautiful fairy-themed portraits of children What particular challenges do you face when making these images?
Nikki Harrison: Challenges in the fairy line of portraits are really only with the subject, from a behaviour stand point. I have my fairy business running like a well-oiled machine, so challenges are far and few between nowadays. My fairy portraits have evolved and I still truly enjoy them very much. Each mother, each little girl (or big girl) is so excited, so happy and thrilled to have this done, that it is a creative energy surge. I love doing them; they are a huge part of my business.
PortraitPro: Tell us about your favorite photo shoot so far?
Nikki Harrison: I can honestly say I do not yet have a "favorite" shoot. For me, the shooting part is always fun, but the favorite part comes from the creative process in Photoshop, when its just me, my imagination, my computer, music and coffee. So in that respect, I guess every creative session becomes my favorite.
PortraitPro: Are there any particular artists or works of art that inspire you?
Nikki Harrison: My Romantic Portrait Series was inspired by the late Italian Artist, Pino. All of his art, has been my favorite for my whole life. Long before I picked up a camera, I owned his work. He is brilliant, and I try to create images like he did.
PortraitPro: What is your dream project?
Nikki Harrison: My dream project is to work with Leonid Gurevich [an American fashion designer known for his fantastical designs] and shoot some of his incredible designs in a crazy location with stunning models to create a Fantasy world around his dresses.
PortraitPro: Do you feel that the internet has given more people the opportunity to learn to express their creativity? How would you like to see the online photography community improve?
Nikki Harrison: [The] Internet has changed the world! There is far more opportunity for everything, I think. The internet has affected the photography industry both negatively and positively. See it improve? I wish photographers would be nicer to the new ones.
PP: We want to help as many photographers as we can, whether they are amateurs or experienced professionals. If you have any questions at all, get in touch with our customer support team, and we’ll be happy to help:
PortraitPro: Your work is very unusual, how do your clients find you?
Nikki Harrison: Clients find me via social media mostly, my blog, and word of mouth.
PP: It’s so important to engage with your clients on social media. We’ve connected with most of our new friends, like Kendra, and Neil, for these interviews through their social media accounts. Join in the conversations, with the links below.
PortraitPro: You're relocating your business from Calgary to Vancouver. As a photographer and businesswoman, how have you prepared for the move?
Nikki Harrison: I am mid move as I write this. With the reach of social media, I think anyone should be able to successfully move and land on their feet running. Targeting your niche market in advance is the key. I have many connections within my target market in the Vancouver area and have many introductions and sessions booked already.
PortraitPro: Do you have any upcoming projects we should be looking out for?
Nikki Harrison: I am currently planning a huge shoot with another photographer in Greece in 2015, that one will be insane, taking place with local designers and models on a tiny Greek Island in June.
If you're interested in booking a session with Nikki, you can contact her via her website.
You can see some of her huge range of work, and buy prints, on 500px.
and you can also follow Nikki on Facebook.
If Nikki's work has inspired you to create your own fairytale portraits, why not check out our Smart Photo Editor software?
Join the conversation with PortraitPro and Smart Photo Editor today: