From Click to Connection: Unveiling Your Visual Voice with Photographer Annie Nelson
If you’re struggling to find your voice as a photographer or other creative, it’s OK, it happens to all of us from time to time. Creativity and inspiration come from continually trying new things, so this is your permission slip to try it all.
There’s not just one way to be a photographer or pursue your creative medium. It’s important to keep honing your skills and figuring out what lights you up. Who knows, you might even create a style or trend that hasn’t been invented yet.
In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Annie Nelson, a Minnesota-based award-winning photographer. Annie shares about her creative process and staying inspired, tips on how to break through creative resistance, and how to balance your personal vision and your clients’ expectations.
What’s in this episode:
- [02:02] An introduction to Annie Nelson, what she’ll be teaching at our upcoming family retreat (spoiler, it’s emotive motherhood!), and why it speaks to her
- [03:35] Annie, a former hairstylist, shares her analogy about coloring her clients’ hair and editing photos
- [05:23] Annie’s process on how she comes up with new ideas for her personal projects
- [07:21] Creativity is a muscle that must be worked out, but Annie shares her tips on what to do when you feel resistant to that creativity
- [10:29] How Annie balances her personal vision with the needs and expectations of her photography clients
- [12:34] How Annie stays inspired and motivated to push herself as a photographer
- [14:10] Annie’s advice for someone who is struggling to find their creative voice
Tune in to this episode for advice on trying new things in your photography and other creative projects!
And if you want to hear more from Annie and learn about her emotive motherhood sessions, she’ll be teaching at our online 2023 Family Retreat! (Grab your spot now!)
Annie Nelson is: a Minnesota-based lifestyle photographer focused on capturing connection and storytelling; a wife and a mama to 4 little girls; in love with light, movement, emotion, connection, and bold and moody edits; the Unraveled artist expert and artist of the year; the Bold Emotional Colorful leader and top 100 artist 2 years in a row; a Click Pro.
Connect with Annie
And if you want to hear more from Annie and how to infuse your creative voice into your work, she’ll be teaching at our online 2023 Family Retreat! (Grab your spot now!)
Did this episode inspire you to try new things in your photography and creative projects? Check out this episode Creating Living Poetry Through Your Photography with Jodi Lynn Photography
[00:00:00] Annie Nelson Don’t be afraid to try everything that comes your way. Just like I was saying before, to kind of learn what it is you really love. Because you don’t know for sure until you’ve tried it. But then once you find what you love, don’t be afraid to say no to the other stuff like, now I know I don’t love doing seniors and I don’t love doing, you know, whatever it is, don’t feel like you have to take it on for the money because then you might end up booking it. This has happened to me so many times. I take on something I’m not totally in love with, and then I have someone request something I really, really want to do. But I’m full. I can’t.
[00:00:40] Lisa diGeso Welcome to the Art and Soul Show where we dive into heart opening chats on photography, business, life and that messy in between. I’m your host, Lisa diGeso, a mom, a photographer and entrepreneur, and I’ll be sharing honest conversations and advice for photographers with insight on mindset, entrepreneurship and creativity. The goal of this podcast is for you to be able to gain insights and strategies that will get you real results. Because let’s face it, having a photography business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the place you can go when you need a boost of encouragement, a kick in the pants and inspiration to pick up your camera. This is the Art & Soul Show.
[00:01:23] Lisa diGeso Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to the show today. I’m super excited to dive into today’s conversation with Annie Nelson. Annie is a Minnesota-based lifestyle photographer focused on capturing connection and storytelling. Wife and mom of four little girls. In love with light movement, emotion, connection and bold and moody edits. Unraveled Artist expert and Artist of the Year. Bold, Emotional, Colorful leader and top 100 artist two years in a row, as well as a click pro. If you haven’t checked out her work on Instagram, you’re going to have to go check it out. She’s phenomenal. Welcome, Annie.
[00:02:00] Annie Nelson Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:02:02] Lisa diGeso So tell us who you are and what you’re passionate about.
[00:02:04] Annie Nelson Okay. So like you said, I am a wife and I have four girls at home. So first off, I am passionate about them, like all moms. But photography wise, I really like capturing families and anything related to family. So maternity, newborn, kids. I love it. I’m not very good with just like posing couples or weddings or anything like that. But I’ve tried it all, so I have found what I like. And it’s all about kids.
[00:02:37] Lisa diGeso I love it. And what I love is like, you’re so much movement in your work. You’re actually one of our teachers for our upcoming online family retreat. And I actually was just looking and going through videos yesterday and oh my gosh, like, so fun. So can you share a little bit about what you’re going to be teaching on for the family retreat and sort of what it entails to your jam?
[00:02:58] Annie Nelson Sure. Yeah. So I’m teaching a course on motherhood, like an emotive motherhood session, which is very much my jam. And I do love movement. So it’s actually funny because we don’t get a lot of wind where I live, but I took the models out into the country and we did get a lot of wind and like, I wish it could be like this every time, but I’m more about the moments and capturing the connection between the mom and her babies because it’s very much my life. So that’s what speaks to me.
[00:03:35] Lisa diGeso So I also read you are a former hairstylist and you had a really great analogy on social media about coloring hair for clients and how when you do that, you typically record the color formula and editing could really be thought of that similarly. So can you maybe share your thoughts on that?
[00:03:54] Annie Nelson Yeah, it’s funny because I did Hair for ten years and it was literally just the other day that I had the thought, gosh, a preset because I get so many questions about presets, presets, presets, presets. So and they are very important as a base. Absolutely. So you get the tones that you want. But just like when I did Hair, people didn’t always quite understand. There’s just so much more that goes into it, like the base color that you’re starting with, or if somebody has old color in their hair or damage in their hair, everything. You have to tweak your formula depending on what you’re working with to get your desired final result. And the same thing is true with presets in that you can start with the outfit, color choices, the light, the location and the colors in the location. They all go into what preset you use and how exactly you need to tweak it to get the end result that you want. So yeah, it was just like a funny thought that I had and oh my gosh, I’ve never thought about that before.
[00:04:58] Lisa diGeso I love it so much, it makes so much sense because like, if you think of damage, like maybe there’s extra noise or like, maybe you really underexposed it or maybe it’s like overexposed. So when you buy these presets and you think that they’re not working for you, it’s because you’re using a box dye and you work for that, right?
[00:05:19] Annie Nelson Yes, that’s a good analogy too.
[00:05:23] Lisa diGeso Use wax dye. So we both share a love of personal projects. So can you share your process when you come up with a new idea?
[00:05:34] Annie Nelson Yeah. So a lot of my personal projects, they revolve around my kids, of course. When they let me take their picture. But a lot of the ideas come from either pretty light that I see or an outfit that inspires me. I need to watch more movies because I want to get inspired by a movie, but I have yet to like really get inspired by a movie. But even the way movies are shot, like watching. And if I did film, I’d probably be really into this. But the way that movies are shot and seen, the angles that can inspire me even like, Oh my gosh, I want to try that at my next session. But yeah, like sometimes I’ll see a dress. Like I found a really cool dress just recently and I am going to do a whole shoot around that dress. And so I start with one element and then just build upon that.
[00:06:26] Lisa diGeso Have you been seeing the trend? I don’t know if you’re on TikTok at all, but have you seen the trend…
[00:06:30] Annie Nelson Well, I know I would get addicted.
[00:06:33] Lisa diGeso Yeah. It’s dangerous, it’s dangerous. But there’s this trend going on with, like, Wes Anderson, who did like the Budapest Hotel and, like, his color grading is phenomenal. So it’s just been really interesting because I love film and just watching and learning from videographers on how we can be better photographers.
[00:06:55] Annie Nelson Yeah.
[00:06:56] Lisa diGeso So neat.
[00:06:57] Annie Nelson That is really cool.
[00:06:57] Lisa diGeso Yeah. And even like, color grading is like something I’m super interested in, so interested in right now.
[00:07:04] Annie Nelson Uh huh. Yeah, I’ve seen some of those. Even though I’m not on TikTok, I’ve seen some sessions inspired by that. And they do, they look so dreamy and just kind of like surreal.
[00:07:15] Lisa diGeso Yeah. You just like you’re having a dream or something. Yeah. Yeah, I like that one. Yeah. Super fun. So I honestly believe that creativity is a habit that we need to work like a muscle going to the gym. And there are times that I have massive resistance and I don’t want to creatively work out. Does this ever happened to you, and what do you do to push through it?
[00:07:36] Annie Nelson Yes. So I live in Minnesota and our winters are very, very long. It’s like half the year and very dreary. So usually it hits me in the winter time and it can hit pretty bad. So I don’t always make myself push through it. Sometimes I just kind of let myself take a break. It’s one thing if it’s busy season and you like you have to shoot, which can be helpful, honestly, it can make you give me helpful. And sometimes it makes you not like your job.
[00:08:08] Lisa diGeso But I will go either way.
[00:08:12] Annie Nelson I typically don’t mate force myself to shoot through it because I don’t make as good of art when I do. But I know a lot of people preach. Yep, just shoot through it. And I mean, the inspiration always comes back, right? Like I always feel the urge at some point down the road. So I don’t usually stress myself out about it. So yeah, I just try not to worry about it because I know it’s going to come back.
[00:08:36] Lisa diGeso I think that’s the thing is just trusting that it will come back as soon as you get in your head where it’s like, I’ve lost it, I’m done, I’m done. I’ll never have another idea to save my life. As soon as you start to get in that mindset of like, things are over, it kind of just perpetuates you into not wanting to do anything. And if you just relax and know that that’s part of the creativity cycle, there are going to be periods of rest that you need and there’s going to be periods of massive bursts of inspiration and it’s okay. It’s just part of it.
[00:09:10] Annie Nelson Yeah, It’s funny that when I sometimes have a great idea, then I get another one and another one. Like, where was this two months ago. When it was dry as the desert? Yeah, it’s. Fine.So I agree. I definitely agree.
[00:09:26] Lisa diGeso I have this bad habit of having all those amazing ideas and thinking, Oh, I’m going to remember all of those. I’m not going to write any of them down. Right?
[00:09:34] Annie Nelson I write everything down.
[00:09:37] Lisa diGeso Good girl. Good girl. And it’s funny and I know that I should. And I’m like, Why don’t you write it down? I’m like, I’ll just remember. No you won’t. You won’t.
[00:09:46] Annie Nelson Mhm. Well I will say I write it all down, I have a whole bunch of notebooks but do I go back and look at them. That’s the real question. I should go back and read some of those.
[00:09:54] Lisa diGeso So true. So true. I started a section on my phone just like in the notes section. Like if I start squirreling on black holes of things on my phone and I, somehow, I will end up like, looking at shoes or like, I don’t even know how I got there. And I just take the link and put it there.
[00:10:14] Annie Nelson Oh, that’s a great. idea.
[00:10:15] Lisa diGeso For whatever it was, right? And just like, okay, I’m going to put it aside and I’ll save it for later instead of just like letting myself squirrel all day long because I really, I really will.
[00:10:24] Annie Nelson I take a lot of screenshots, but I should do the the link. I should try that out.
[00:10:29] Lisa diGeso So how do you approach balancing your personal vision with meeting the needs and expectations of your clients?
[00:10:34] Annie Nelson Yeah, that is a really good question. Well, I always have my vision. It doesn’t always line up to my client’s vision, which is totally okay. Not every session is going to be like, Oh my gosh, that was the best session ever. I’m going to post this all over social media. It’s just not because that’s real life. If you’re taking real clients and not models and model families all the time, which I am 99%, it’s real people who live in Minnesota. So but I mean, as the more you put out there, you know, if you’re doing personal projects and you’re putting it out there and people see the colors that you love shooting and you know, the style, the movement, you know, the emotive photography, they’re going to just kind of get on board with your vision. But I also do send out an email just to let people know, like, this is my style, this is how I shoot, because I did used to completely assume and we weren’t always on the same page. And then, you know, it just wasn’t the best experience. So I don’t think you should assume.
[00:11:41] Lisa diGeso Especially if you’re more of like a lifestyle photographer and they and they book you just thinking like you’re a photographer and they’re expecting like everybody face the camera, like these traditional portraits.
[00:11:51] Annie Nelson Yes. That’s what’s happened.
[00:11:52] Lisa diGeso You’re like, That’s not my jam.
[00:11:54] Annie Nelson I was like, Wait, have you didn’t you bug me on social media? Didn’t you know, I never show any pictures of people looking at me. But it’s been more with the extended families because they want that posing, you know, but even with extended families, you don’t have to. I think other than like the one posed picture, maybe each individual grouping. Other than that, it can be really fun and playful.
[00:12:16] Lisa diGeso Yeah. Yeah. I think reimagining like extended family sessions and showing like, it doesn’t have to be like everybody in a line in. Jeans. And a white shirt.
[00:12:24] Annie Nelson Like, Right. Right. A flannel.
[00:12:34] Lisa diGeso I love it. So how do you stay inspired and motivated to push yourself as a photographer?
[00:12:41] Annie Nelson And that is a good question. I really love education and I am an educator, so I’m sure some people think it’s a little odd, but I always am taking education just to keep myself inspired and keep myself up on, you know, what is new. Because there’s always new stuff. Like A.I. is crazy. I don’t understand it.
[00:13:02] Lisa diGeso It’s fascinating.
[00:13:03] Annie Nelson Yeah, it’s really interesting. But then as a hairstylist, every good hairstylist does continued education their whole career. So I kind of look at it that way, like keep myself, you know, up to date. I should be doing education and you don’t have to take education. And then if you’re an educator, educator, teach what you learn. Of course you never want to do that, but you take all of the stuff that you’ve learned and make it your own. And I think that’s just how you get better.
[00:13:35] Lisa diGeso I think so too. I think that’s like part of the reason our Milky Way retreats really came into existence is like, I’m a curious cat and I just want to know how people do things.
[00:13:45] Annie Nelson Yeah, me too.
[00:13:46] Lisa diGeso Right? Like, I just want to know. And it’s not that I’m like, going to teach it myself. I just really. I’m so curious on just seeing someone. Seeing it from someone else’s angle, you know, like resonating and like these little tricks that you can pick up that you’re like, Oh my gosh, that’s a genius idea.
[00:14:02] Annie Nelson Yeah, just little things that you’re like, I even from this whole thing, if I take one trick away, it’s totally worth it.
[00:14:10] Lisa diGeso Yeah, I think it’s. It’s so cool. So what advice would you have to someone who might be struggling, finding their creative voice or just a vision for their work?
[00:14:20] Annie Nelson I would say don’t be afraid to try everything, because there are some things that I never thought I would like that are now like almost my bread and butter, like the lifestyle in home sessions. That was not something I was interested in trying, but I took a few when I was newer. Well, I would say like, you know, a few years down the road and I love them. They are like some of my favorite sessions and newborns. I was terrified of newborns, like, Nope, don’t do those. I do not do that. But when I realized you don’t have to pose, you know, like I can’t pose the way you do, there is no way. But once I realize I don’t have to do it that way, I can do it a very, you know, take a lifestyle approach. I love newborns and I love babies. So it I would just say, yeah, my advice would be you just try everything and don’t make a decision until you’ve tried it because you might think you hate seniors and then you take on an amazing senior session and it’s your new jam. So completely. Yeah, that would be my advice.
[00:15:26] Lisa diGeso I love that you touched on that there is not just one way to do newborn photography or really, photography, because I think that once people try something and they’re like, “Oh, it’s just not for me.” But there’s so many different ways. There’s styles that haven’t even been invented yet. Right now.
[00:15:46] Annie Nelson Yeah.
[00:15:47] Lisa diGeso These hybrid styles of things that we have not even seen yet. And I think that’s just so cool. And especially lifestyle newborn, it really wasn’t a thing until like eight years ago maybe.
[00:16:01] Annie Nelson Right. Yeah.
[00:16:01] Lisa diGeso Like before that posed newborn like 13 years ago wasn’t even a thing. There was like maybe five people doing it. And now there’s this massive industry. So I’m like, just so curious to see what’s going to happen, like in the next five years and like, what’s the trend going to do, right?
[00:16:16] Annie Nelson I know. I’m so curious to see what the trends are going to be like.
[00:16:19] Lisa diGeso Yeah. I’m like, I’d just be like, like how A.I. Even fits in with that. Right.
[00:16:24] Annie Nelson Yeah, that’ll be crazy.
[00:16:26] Lisa diGeso We’ve been using AI longer than we actually think. Like when it comes to like A.I. Now in Lightroom where they’re doing like, the sky or like the masking. Like that’s A.I..
[00:16:36] Annie Nelson Mm hmm. Yup.
[00:16:37] Lisa diGeso Right. And we don’t really think about that. And it’s just it’s just. It’s fascinating. Yeah, I agree. So you ready for our lightning round?
[00:16:46] Annie Nelson Sure.
[00:16:46] Lisa diGeso Okay. Coffee or tea?
[00:16:48] Annie Nelson Definitely coffee.
[00:16:50] Lisa diGeso Most luxurious vacation you’ve ever been on.
[00:16:53] Annie Nelson That would be my honeymoon. We went to Rome and Venice and Assisi, which was really awesome. Since then, nothing nearly as that, because that was, like, ten years ago.
[00:17:06] Lisa diGeso Oh. Love it. Favorite TV show as a kid.
[00:17:09] Annie Nelson This is funny, but my favorite TV show is I Love Lucy.
[00:17:15] Lisa diGeso I love it. Last thing you did for yourself was an indulgence.
[00:17:20] Annie Nelson I read a book outside the other day in my lawn chair. It was amazing.
[00:17:25] Lisa diGeso I love it. What kind of book?
[00:17:27] Annie Nelson It was actually Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. Have you read that one yet?
[00:17:31] Lisa diGeso I haven’t read it yet, but everyone keeps telling me, okay, I actually heard the audiobook is incredible.
[00:17:39] Annie Nelson I don’t do audiobooks. But maybe I should.
[00:17:41] Lisa diGeso I love it. Morning person or Night Owl?
[00:17:43] Annie Nelson Definitely Morning person.
[00:17:45] Lisa diGeso What did you want to be when you grew up?
[00:17:48] Annie Nelson Mom and an artist.
[00:17:50] Lisa diGeso I love it, living the dream.
[00:17:51] Annie Nelson Yeah.
[00:17:53] Lisa diGeso Go-to karaoke jam.
[00:17:55] Annie Nelson Oh, I don’t do karaoke, but, I mean, probably something by Taylor Swift.
[00:18:01] Lisa diGeso Yeah. Taylor Swift. I love it. Are you going to go on the Eras tour? You going to see her?
[00:18:05] Annie Nelson You know what? I’ve seen her a couple of times, but I probably won’t see her again for a long, long time. I don’t know. Life with 4 kids. I just don’t… I stay home.
[00:18:15] Lisa diGeso Favorite movie?
[00:18:16] Annie Nelson Probably, this is a hard question, but I would have to say, Remember the Titans. It’s just so good.
[00:18:22] Lisa diGeso Oh, I’ve never seen it.
[00:18:23] Annie Nelson Oh, it’s so good. It was my favorite when I was younger, but I don’t think anything is really beat it out yet.
[00:18:29] Lisa diGeso What’s for dinner tonight?
[00:18:31] Annie Nelson Cheeseburgers.
[00:18:32] Lisa diGeso Favorite guilty or not so guilty? Pleasure.
[00:18:35] Annie Nelson I would have to say buying new plants.
[00:18:42] Lisa diGeso I love it. Oceans or mountains.
[00:18:44] Annie Nelson I would take either being in the Midwest, it’s very flat. But I’m going to say mountains because we are, me and my husband are going to climb Pike’s Peak this summer for our ten year anniversary, so I just have to.
[00:18:57] Lisa diGeso That’s exciting. What is something you’ve accomplished as an adult that your younger self would be proud of?
[00:19:02] Annie Nelson Probably my confidence levels have definitely gone up and younger me would be pleased to know that.
[00:19:15] Lisa diGeso Same. What makes your soul light up?
[00:19:17] Annie Nelson My family, for sure. My husband and my kids. I know that’s a sappy answer, but it’s the truth.
[00:19:25] Lisa diGeso What would be your dream session and where?
[00:19:28] Annie Nelson Oh, that’s a good question. My dream session. Oh, man. Probably in the mountains or ocean. I’m telling you, we just don’t have a lot here. So it’s a lot like, Oh, there’s a creek. Let’s go there.
[00:19:45] Lisa diGeso You know what has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
[00:19:50] Annie Nelson I heard this on a podcast recently, and I was just like, Oh my gosh, that is such great advice. Just to not take your business so seriously. Like when you take your business really seriously, you lose the fun. I mean, you have to take it seriously. It’s how you make money, but you don’t want to lose the reason you started it. Cause it it was to have fun and do something creative. And I’m like, That is so true. Sometimes I can take it too seriously, and then it just isn’t as fun now.
[00:20:24] Lisa diGeso And we get stuck in like, the business. Like the business that that’s the part that is just like eating at your sole bookkeeper. Like that was.
[00:20:34] Annie Nelson Oh, that’s what I need. I keep asking my husband, but you want to take over this side of the business for me? That be great.
[00:20:41] Lisa diGeso No, it’s. I am not a bookkeeper. What advice would you have for someone just starting out?
[00:20:49] Annie Nelson Don’t be afraid to try everything that comes your way. Just like I was saying before, to kind of learn what it is you really love. Because you don’t. You don’t know for sure until you’ve tried it. But then, once you find what you love, don’t be afraid to say no to the other stuff. Now I know I don’t love doing seniors and I don’t love doing, you know, whatever it is, don’t feel like you have to take it on for the money because then you might end up booking. This has happened to me so many times. I take on something I’m not totally in love with, and then I have someone request something I really, really want to do. But I’m full. I can’t.
[00:21:27] Lisa diGeso It’s like you learn to say the no. So true. For me, it’s like if it’s not a hell, yeah, it’s like a hell no.
[00:21:32] Annie Nelson Mm hmm.
[00:21:32] Lisa diGeso So. And as long as I like, take that as my compass, like it does not steer me wrong. If I’m excited and lit up, I’m like, Oh, yeah, I’m in love. If I’m lukewarm, I’m just going to pass. It’s okay. All right.
[00:21:46] Annie Nelson Yeah. Yeah, That’s a good way to look at it.
[00:21:49] Lisa diGeso So where can our listeners learn more from you?
[00:21:51] Annie Nelson Instagram at annienelsonphotography and same name for my Facebook business page and then my website. All the same name. Annie Nelson Photography.
[00:22:03] Lisa diGeso Now, I love to end my interviews just with this last question, and it is, what are you currently curious about? Artistically curious about?
[00:22:10] Annie Nelson I would have to say artistically, this is a little bit like off of photography, but my kids are learning to play piano and guitar and violin, so it’s funny to see them reading music because I can’t read music like I never learned. So I’m kind of curious to learn how to read music because they’re already way ahead of the game. I mean, ahead of me. So my gosh, I should bring this to you.
[00:22:37] Lisa diGeso I love it. Well, Annie, thanks for hanging out with me today.
[00:22:40] Annie Nelson Yeah, thank you for having me.
[00:22:42] Lisa diGeso Oh, my beautiful friends, I hope you enjoyed this conversation just as much as I did. I am sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day. We will see you next time. Thank you so much for listening to the Art and Soul show. If you’re the kind of person that likes helping others, please share this podcast with your photographer friends. Sharing is caring, and it’s our mission to help as many photographers create a business and life they are truly passionate about. I’m here to support you on your journey, and if you have any questions, topics, or guests you would love to hear from, please shoot me a note at least that at the Milky Way dossier and we may even feature your question in an upcoming episode.
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