Most working moms will tell you that being a professional and a mom takes time and patience. At ShootDotEdit, we are amazed and inspired by strong female photographers who seem to do it all and make it look easy. More than that, we also love when women inspire other women to go out there and get what they want from life. What better way to mark Women’s History Month than to celebrate those women! For this feature story, we spoke to Diane Clifford of Diane Nicole Photography. She is a full-time photographer (for the past six years), mother of two, and a ShootDotEdit customer and we asked her about her journey and all that she has achieved so far.
When we asked Diane to comment on being a female photographer in this industry, she shared, “I am seeing more and more women photographers. 10 or 15 years ago, that wasn’t the case. Many family portrait [photographers] are moms, and they become photographers because they want to take better pictures of their kids. So I just love seeing women being creative and finding a way to make money doing it. If you have the passion for it, go for it”. For Diane, life is about finding your passion and giving it your all. Being a woman in the wedding photography industry taught her several lessons about never giving up, no matter how hard life gets, even when balancing kids and work. Simply put, Diane believes, “It’s all worth it.”
From Caterer to Vivacious Female Photographer – the Start of Something Amazing
Diane has been a part of the wedding industry for about 18 years, making her start as a caterer. She shared, “I catered weddings for 12 years and while I was living in Florida, a friend of mine asked me to shoot her wedding – and I had a great time! When I moved to Chico, CA I started doing more weddings for friends and I really fell in love with it. People are just having a great time. They’re in a great mood. They’re celebrating. So I just kind of pushed forward with it. I was scared every time, but I got better and better and was able to start charging what I’m worth.”
Journey to Becoming a Wedding Photographer
Being a beginner in the wedding photography industry is hardly ever easy. You try, you fail, you learn, you succeed – and that’s kind of what happened with Diane too. Diane told us, “After every wedding, there was always something that I learned. I remember I had a bride, and they had an outside wedding at one of the local parks. She was an hour late to her wedding and it ended up being pitch black outside. That was before I really understood my lighting, so I didn’t have flashes. So I did this wedding in the pitch dark. And from then on [I told myself] I’ll never be in that situation again.” And so she spent the year learning how to use off-camera lighting. She also told us, “I learned from my mistakes and devoted myself to getting better.” Truly sound words of advice from a professional female photographer who we admire!
Photography Education and Mentors Who Inspire
Before getting serious about choosing photography as a profession, Diane knew she had to study the art of wedding photography. When she sought out educational platforms and mentors, she struck gold! Diane told us, “About eight years ago, the first thing that I came across was CreativeLive. That was an awesome beginning education for me. And then I found WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International). It really opened up this whole new world for me. [I got] to meet other people in the industry that were rocking it. And I fell in love with two [strong female photographers and educators] there – Sue Bryce and Susan Stripling. Susan is a wedding photographer, and Sue does more portrait work and is an incredible speaker and educator.”
Diane also has more recently started following India Earl – another strong female brand that features more elopement-type photography. When it comes to being inspired – especially by fellow female photographers – Diane shared, “It’s fun to see other people and how they work. I [use that to influence] new techniques [for my own wedding photography].” Diane has no fear and neither do her clients – she said, “My clients are always down to trying something new, and [sometimes] they [and I] end up loving it.”
The Leap of Faith to Go Full-Time
Diane has her dream job now, but she had to make a conscious decision 6 years ago to switch from catering to full-time wedding photography. When we asked her if the decision was a hard one to make, she said no, because her job as a caterer was just “not feeding the soul”. “I hated the day job. It just ate at my soul. I just hated going to work, and I’d be in a really miserable attitude.” So while she acknowledges that the transition was a leap of faith, she also said it 100% has been worth it. She knew what she wanted, and she went for it. She pursued an Associate’s degree in Photographic Technology, and then, with new skills to draw from, she started booking more clients. She shared, “It all felt right, and it all fell into place. Ever since then, the business has just grown.”
Diane’s Best Business Practices
1. Get Better At Organization
While she is good with schedules, Diane admitted that organization is one department that she’s still working on. She shared, “Once the parenting came into play, everything shifted. So you really do have to be more organized. I was good with scheduling, but the organization bit is still a work in progress with me business-wise.”
2. Set Time Aside For Batchwork
Diane told us, “I have childcare Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those days I really grind it out. I either fill up a day of shooting or answer all my emails and return phone calls. And if I get extra time, I get done with some editing. Batching out my work has really saved me so much time. Plus, I can focus on the kids on their days and work on workdays.”
3. Find a Mentor
Diane believes that a photographer, especially a female photographer, needs a mentor to make things easier. Finding a mentor means looking for a wedding photographer whose style speaks to you. She shared that it’s important to find “somebody that you can invest in, someone who has been where you are going and can help guide you and keep you pumped up. There are so many ways to learn things online, but you don’t get the actual follow-through that you would with a mentor. So find somebody that has walked the steps before you so you don’t make all the mistakes.”
4. Learn Your Equipment
Another piece of advice Diane gave us was to get to know your gear! “I think [learning about your equipment] is something that people don’t really realize [is important]. I read my manual, and it’s a long manual. Whether you use all the functions or not, it’s just better to know all the things that your camera can actually do for you.”
Lessons From the COVID Pandemic
Like many other wedding photographers across the world, Diane was affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. She said, “About half of my weddings were either canceled or postponed. That was half of my income. So that was also a business lesson. It taught me the importance of keeping a savings account for emergencies.”
However, the pandemic also gave Diane the chance to add more tools to her toolbox. “I tried to photograph more families and commercial work. [I didn’t have a website specifically for my family portraits so I took the time to] get a website up, design the logo, and started marketing for that. And that really kind of kept me afloat last year. So I [photographed] a lot more families than I’ve ever done.” What Diane loves about family portraits is that, now that she has children of her own, she feels it’s much easier to photograph little ones because she can relate to them. She added, “I love photographing the younger kids now, and it’s become a great other business. But weddings are still my favorite.”
Outsourcing Makes Life Easier
Diane says outsourcing has really helped with speeding up her post-production process and getting the final photos to her couples in a short timeframe. She also had great things to say about ShootDotEdit, – “ShootDotEdit started helping me with the post-production [and wedding photo editing]. And then when I get [my edited images] back, I’ll usually go through and do little extra cleanups – like clean up the skin and background distractions. But I’ve gotten pretty quick now. So that workflow is really great for me to be able to get pictures back [to my clients] a lot quicker. It’s worth every penny.”
Being a big fan of outsourcing, and knowing that it’s a balancing act to be both a female photographer and a mom, Diane made the decision to hire someone to handle her social media, particularly Instagram. She knows how important this is for her business and hopes outsourcing this part of her business will help her “get on track and [stay] motivated with doing all the posting and showcasing things behind-the-scenes. Within our industry, I feel like if you’re not keeping up with [social media], you’re going to be really far behind, especially with the younger brides who want to look at your Instagram.”
Diane’s Go-To Vendors
- ShootDotEdit – For editing wedding photos
- Shoot Proof – For online proofing galleries
- Red Tree Album and Kiss Books – For albums
- ProDPI – For canvases and prints
- Miller’s Lab – Presentation boxes as thank you gifts for clients who book over a six-hour day
Quick Lighting Tips with Diane Nicole Photography
- Learn to use speedlights – it changes everything!
- Have 2-3 speedlights that face each other for cross lighting, and either another light or a trigger on the camera that controls them
Diane’s Go-To Photography Brands
- Canon – her camera of choice
- Yongnuo – her off-camera lighting kit
- Flashpoint – a new off-camera light she is getting ready to test out
Diane’s Top Posing Tips
When photographing couples, Diane asks them to stand facing each other, hips close together and then photographs using a longer lens and takes a series of photos that get closer and closer using the same pose. She believes that being farther away when shooting a couples portraits makes the couple more comfortable right away. She also asks the couple to look at each other which makes them feel more comfortable too. She says that even if they feel awkward in that moment, at least they are awkward together and smiling at each other. She will also stick with the same initial pose and change to a wider angle lens to get different perspectives. During the whole process she encourages her couples to talk to each other and interact naturally.
Diane’s Go-To Apps
Things You Didn’t Know About Diane
- Diane actually wanted to be a sports photographer. She used to be a big surfer, which is what first got her thinking about photography as a career.
- The beach is Diane’s church.
- She calls herself a dork.
- Her favorite lens is a 35mm.
- She photographs 95% of her weddings on her own, without a second shooter.
- She shared that her superpower is empathy and that it has helped her relate to people and go a long way in life.
- She considers herself an artist first and a business person second. She fell in love with photography because of it as an art form.
We want to extend a big thank you to Diane for taking out the time to speak with us and sharing so much of her journey with us. Women deserve to be celebrated every day, and marking Women’s History Month with an extraordinary female photographer like Diane has truly made us realize how much work goes on behind-the-scenes. From balancing a life at home and starting a wedding photography business from nothing, we are honored to have her with us and continue to be inspired by what she has achieved in her life. To learn more about Diane Nicole Photography, check out her website, Facebook page, Pinterest, or Instagram.