Nikki Sherouse-Smith of Nikki Smith Photography
Nikki thanks so much for taking the time to let us get to know you a little more by being the guinea pig of my very first feature photographer over at 101 Ways! So first things first. Tell us a little about yourself. You know, the usual spiel. Where are you from? What got you into photography?
First and foremost, I’m a mom to 2 sweet girls--a 12 year old and a 2 year old—and have been married to the love of my life for 17 years. We move around a LOT, so I kind of feel like I’m from everywhere. I’ve been lucky enough to live all over the United States and, even though we move roughly every 2.5 years, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been allowed to not only see America from different perspectives, but also have been able to fully immerse myself in so many new cultures that I never would have been exposed to otherwise. It has really shaped the person I am now. Not too long ago, someone asked me how many move miles were in my 17 years of marriage. I’d never thought about it like that, so I did the math—I have 16,203 miles of moves under my belt!! Currently, I live in Northeast Florida (just north of St. Augustine), which works out great for me because I was raised in Pensacola, FL. No matter how far I move from this state, I’m a Floridian at heart. The nice kind—not the weird-news kind. The beach loving, needs to be near the ocean, toes in the sand, will talk to anyone, super-friendly kind.
I’ve always been very interested in photography, but it wasn’t until my husband and I took a trip to Paris that I really fell in love. Long before digital cameras were reasonably affordable, I was armed with a dinky Canon Sure Shot and a backpack full of film. I took as many pictures as I had rolls of film, but with no instant gratification, I had to wait to have it developed. Once I saw the prints, though, I was in love. Were they technical masterpieces? God, no. But, it didn’t matter. I captured the Paris I saw and, to this day, when I look at those pictures, I can hear, smell, feel and taste the city. And that’s what it’s all about to me!
Photography stayed a casual hobby until after my first daughter was born. Before I had her, I worked in the radio industry as a sports reporter and, though I loved being home with her, my need to create was constant. I took her for newborn photos at a mall store (you know the kind) and walked out with a pile of prints that looked nothing like my baby. In an instant, I knew where I was going to channel my creativity. I bought a new digital camera (much more affordable at that point!) and got to work, learning, practicing, shooting, documenting her life. I am completely self-taught and even though I’m very proud of where I am right now, I’m always seeking to learn and grow and push myself in new directions.
So what kind of camera do you have? Tell us about that bad boy.
I shoot with a Canon EOS 7D. It was my first “big girl” camera and I really love it. There are times when I toy with the idea of moving to a 5D Mark III, but then I feel like I’m cheating on a friend. One day, I’m sure I’ll make the leap, but I’m not quite ready to break up with the 7D just yet.
If you could pick any genre of photography to shoot, what would it be and why?
If she would let me, I would photograph my oldest child all day long. She’s my muse. It’s that simple. We’ve also been taking pictures together for a VERY long time, so she just gets it. Without even realizing it, she knows her angles, she knows how to find the light, she takes direction so, so well. A photographer’s dream!! Aside from her, I really love to shoot couples and children. I love how couples get lost in one another and forget about me and I love how kids just want to be themselves!
Tell us the story about your very first camera. What was it, and who gave it to you?
My VERY first camera was a Polaroid. I got it for Christmas when I was 7 or 8 and blew through the film in less than 30 minutes. Haha! I adored it, though!! And, it certainly motivated me to do more chores to earn more allowance to buy more film. Which may have ultimately been my parents’ evil plan. If so, it worked! My daughter just got an Instax from her grandparents for Christmas and she was out of film in about 30 minutes as well. I loved watching her with it, though. It brought back so many great memories!!!!
When did you discover your photography style? How long did it take you to “get there”?
Even though I truly feel like I’m still honing my style, I think my general style has always been and, probably will always be an extension of my personality. I’ve tried things that are a little more moody, and I love them, but am not drawn to shoot or create images like that nearly as often.
Describe your style to us in three words.
Light, Happy, Airy
Now use those same three words in a sentence about your favorite food.
No food in this world makes me more happy than a delicious pizza that is dripping with cheese and tomato sauce, but if I eat too much of it (which I always do) I feel neither light nor airy.
Let’s say I walk into the room while you’re working. You’re lost in the moment, engrossed with what you’re editing. What music are you listening to?
Are my kids around? If not, then I’m listening to dirty 90s rap. Naughty by Nature, 2Live Crew, 69boyz, Salt-N-Pepa, etc. If they’re around (which is almost always), then it’s a good 80s/90s mix or 80s/90s hair bands. My Sharona is my jam and Jon Bon Jovi is my pretend boyfriend.
You get up from your computer, walk over to the nearest window and look outside. What do you see?
Immediately, I see my pool. My oasis in the summer, where I sit with a good book and a glass of sangria. But, beyond that, I see nature. My house is perched on a lagoon (I call it a pond, but my neighborhood insists that it’s a lagoon, so we’ll call it that because it’s a nice word) and a wooded preserve. Most often, I see herons, cranes, ducks, geese and cormorants. When I’m very lucky, I see a bald eagle, humming birds and deer. It is very, very peaceful. It is also filled with poisonous snakes, so I’m only brave enough enjoy the view from afar.
What if photography never existed; what would we find you preoccupied with instead?
Oh, I would be refinishing furniture. Without question. It’s my second love and I’m constantly looking for new pieces that need rehabbing. My most recent project was my grandmother’s piano that I’d been hauling around since I was a teenager and really didn’t love. It was this brown beast, but, now, it’s a beautiful aqua, has “Then Sings My Soul” scrolled across the music stand and its one of the coolest pieces in my home. I have a credenza on the to-do list next, once life goes back to normal after the holidays are over.
We all know that line by Ansel Adams about how we don’t take a photograph, we make it. So what kind of things do you look for when composing and editing a shot to make it stand out and grab the viewer’s attention?
I look for an interesting angle or idea. If everyone is going right, then I want to go left. Always. My creative soul NEEDS to be different. To try new things. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but when it does? My heart SINGS. So, maybe I don’t necessarily look for anything, per se, but it’s more of a feeling. When I know I’m on to something, my spine tingles and I follow that feeling for as long as I possibly can.
And lastly, I know we all have favorite photographers we like to follow, so who inspires you?
There are so many artists who fill my newsfeed with beautiful images every single day, I think that the answer to this could change on any given afternoon. That being said, I find myself drawn to Lia Edwards’ images. She is a massively talented story-teller and I just adore how she captures a family being a family and turns it into such meaningful art.
101 Ways is a collaborative effort created by myself and a friend with the intent of helping each other grow in our creativity and love for photography. The objective of this monthly project was made as an effort to push our creativity and think outside the box but also have fun while doing so.