We recently launched something brand new here to this space- Fount Community Spotlights!
MEET NIKKI SANTERRE
Nikki Santerre is a Fine Art Film Hybrid Photographer with a passion for harvesting light in order to curate beautiful and timeless heirlooms for her clients. She is also a writer, advocate for women who struggle with infertility, and lives her life to love others well. She is married to a handsome fella named Matt and has two pups who have stolen their hearts, couch cushions, and her side of the bed.
How long have you been in business?
I started my business in January of 2013, so we’re currently celebrating my fourth anniversary!
Did you always want to be a photographer? Would you share a bit about your journey into photography with us?
Being a planner nearly to a fault, becoming a photographer was never a “life goal.” I actually graduated with a Master’s in Elementary Education, and it wasn’t until my student teaching experience that I realized it might not be for me. I came to a crossroads where I could pursue this art that had captivated me while planning my own wedding, or I could take the “safe” route and accept a teaching position. After a lot of prayer (and hard work!), my husband and I decided if there was ever a time to pursue my business, it was now. It has turned out to be one of the most joy-filled journeys of my life thus far!
What kind of camera did you have when you first started?
Oh goodness. I shot my first wedding season with a Canon 40D. I was newly married, in grad school, and couldn’t necessarily afford the best of the industry yet. I had to make what it work and save, which has taught me to take great care of my nice equipment now!
What would you say was a pivotal moment for you in your business?
Choosing film has been the biggest game-changer in my business. It has provided me with challenges, learning experiences, and allowed my work to grow exponentially in a short amount of time. Having my work published by national publications and traveling across the country to shoot weddings this year were a result I’m so grateful for!
Image by Nikki Santerre.
Do you have any advice for photographers who work a full time job in addition to their photography?
There’s a really delicate balance and I think the right time to leave a day job in pursuit of your dream looks different for everyone. For me, I stayed longer than I should have out of fear. Fear of failure, fear that I wasn’t “enough” to be successful. If these lies are keeping you from moving forward, quit tomorrow! If you’re waiting because you want to make the most financially responsible decision for your family, I understand that as well. I will say you will be pleasantly surprised with the diligence in which you will work to provide for yourself/your family when that dream becomes your only income!
What’s in your camera bag today?
Currently, empty Fuji 400 film wrappers, Starbursts, my Sekonic light meter and my Contax 645. All but the film wrappers are necessities.
What is a fun photography “toy” that you’re obsessed with?
I love my Fujifilm Instax camera! When I became a photographer professionally, it became the expectation in our family that I would photograph family events. In order for me to enjoy that time and step away from my camera, I started bringing my Instax to all our family holiday dinners. That way, my family can help document and we all get to take photos home from the event!
When you aren’t behind the camera, what are your favorite hobbies?
I’m a writer, am learning to play piano, and as much as I love exploring the food and culture of new places, I equally enjoy making our house a home. Sharing a meal with people I love, filling my kitchen with good smells and laughter, that’s my love language.
Image by Nikki Santerre.
If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be?
My maternal grandmother. I never knew her, but hear frequently I am so much like her. I would have loved a chance to have her in front of my camera.
If you could be photographed BY anyone in the world, who would it be?
What does your editing playlist sound like?
Indie on Pandora.
Will you share about an obstacle or difficult season in your business?
The night before the biggest wedding I’d commissioned up until that point, I was cleaning and testing equipment when my shutter died. I had a back-up camera, but it wasn’t as good as my main body and I knew wouldn’t do the day justice. Thank God for a dear industry friend who happened to just begin her maternity leave! She literally saved the day (and probably my business) and I immediately ordered a new camera body so I would have two. That wedding went on to be one of my best to this day, was published in a national online wedding publication, and has booked me several additional events at that venue. This is why I advise everyone have reliable back-up equipment!
Where or When do you feel most inspired as an artist?
As an artist, I feel most fueled when I have opportunities to physically surround myself with creative community, when the people in my “internet” corner become people I share stories with in person over coffee (or, ahem, wine). Tangible relationships are priceless in today’s digital age. I’m also inspired by the exploration new places, architecture, music, and history.
Image by Nikki Santerre.
Describe to us your dream portrait session:
I dream of traveling to the Cliffs of Moher, of Italian Villas, of quaint English hamlets, of Parisian cafes. I’ve never been to Europe, and there are so many people and places there I’m eager to get in front of my lens!
What are 3 of the top best financial investments you have made in your business?
1) Education! The first big investment I made into my business was coaching was an industry leader, and it was a catalyst that forever changed my life and business.
2) Online Presence. Having a website/blog space that is functional and aesthetically pleasing is incredibly powerful when trying to reach your ideal client. Invest in a professional. This is one area I believe you can’t “fake it ’til you make it.”
3) Equipment and back-up equipment. Cameras may be expensive, but it’s your responsibility once a client entrusts you with the creation of their heirlooms to have back-up equipment in the event your main equipment fails.
What is your best piece of advice for a photographer who is just starting out?
Keep your eye on your own paper. If you worry more about what everyone else is doing than you worry about the heart behind what you are doing, you’ll only dig your heels in and never make any progress. It’s true what they say, comparison is a ravenous thief who hungers to take every ounce of your joy, but only if you let it.
Do you have a favorite quote to live by?
Philippians 1:6 and Matthew 5:16 are current favorites
What do you want people to say about your work long after you’re gone?
All I could ever ask is for my work to become someone’s heirloom. For the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren of my current clients to look at an image I created of their beloved mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, and not only be able to see, but be able to feel who they were. To create a link between the past, present, and future via timeless imagery.
Image by Nikki Santerre.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Of all the things you could be in this life, be kind.
What is something in your business, brand, or work that you want to grow in for 2017?
2017 is going to be a big year (although so was 2016!). I’m hoping to begin teaching more in 2017, launch a print shop, and give my website a few updates to name a few goals.