Join Nick Onken for an in-depth discussion in this video Keeping an inspiration wall, part of The Creative Spark: Nick Onken, Travel and Lifestyle Photographer.
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So this is my inspiration wall that we put together, well, a couple of years now. You know, I like to look at the different shots and think about different elements that I like out of the shot, and then I apply those different elements for the--that's the lighting and the styling or the energy or the moment or just kind of the position of the talent, maybe the concept or the natural feeling. And I love this one. I love the location. I like how she's casually dressed.
It's like a very staged, but natural-looking portrait. This shot here, it's very outdoor rugged. It's focused on him, but it's also focused on the fashion as well. But it's very lifestyle. He's like sitting there, but those elements and having him and the fashion and just kind of the way it's shot is--it becomes a fashion story. This one's got a lot of kind of editorial moment to it without--it doesn't feel cheesy; it feels real.
And I don't really want to copy any other photograph that's been done, but, you know, there's always some way to pull ideas and things that you like and spill them over into like the photos that you're creating. But I always pull images to show the rest of the team, just to help communicate the vibe of the ideas that we're going for. And I usually say this to people that are starting out: it's a good exercise to go through and find images in magazines that you're attracted to and then you pull those out and then you kind of break those down and and figure out why you like them.
Is it the lighting? Is it the styling? Is it the location? Is it the talent? You know, deconstructing the photo helps you figure out what you like, and you can incorporate that into own work.
Nick was originally educated as a graphic designer but ultimately found that making images with a camera was more fulfilling—and you can see that he didn't leave his design skills behind when he picked up the camera. We follow Nick around New York City as he meets with Cosmopolitan's photo editor, photographs a fashion model, and returns to his home in Brooklyn to share his story with us. We also meet the founder of Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit organization that builds schools in underdeveloped countries, and uses Nick's photographs as the centerpiece of its fundraising efforts. Then we're off to Guatemala to watch him create his magic.
Nick shows us how he has evolved as an artist and how the business of photography has changed—for example, using an online portfolio as opposed to the traditional "book" that art directors review. He's energetic, motivated, and talented. We've captured him for the lynda.com Creative Spark series but it was no easy task getting him to sit still.