Seeing wonderfully kind people succeeding is one of the best feelings on this planet. It’s how I feel every time I see Ashly Nicole doing something cool. If you’ve somehow never found yourself staring awestruck at her Instagram feed, you’ve been missing out. She’s an incredible photographer, an all-around talented creative, and just the sweetest person I’ve ever met.
She lights up a room, and her photos reflect that same feeling. I tell people constantly that I’m ~just not photogenic~ and then… Ashly took photos of me at El Matador Beach in Malibu. And suddenly I was looking at photos of myself that I thought looked incredible?? It was such a foreign feeling. But it’s incredible how she’s able to transmit her own light & kindness through the lens.
I find myself so curious about her journey. She’s always doing something crazy & fun, and I’m inspired by how people get to where they are in their careers — especially when they start out as fans as Ashly did with Lights! It just confirms my theory that fans build themselves to be professionally trained industry members through their own passionate support of the music they love.
So I asked Ashly Nicole about a dozen questions to learn more about her, what she does, and what she wants to do. Hopefully her answers can help give you some guidance, or just teach you about someone who is SO ABSOLUTELY amazing.
A request before we get into this: can someone please take this talented lady on tour so she can casually roll through Toronto and we can hang out? I’d appreciate it. Thanks.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
Hi hello! I’m Ashly and I’m a photographer, and sometimes I sing, but I mainly take photos of people and things. My favorite subject to photograph is live music, but I’ve more recently started diving more into lifestyle portraits and product photography, as well as some behind the scenes content here and there, which is super fun.
What’s your industry like in the city you live in?
In short, extremely saturated. I live in Los Angeles, and everyone is here because they are somebody or they’re trying to be somebody, and every aspect of the entertainment and arts industry is jam packed. It’s very competitive as well, and if you want to achieve your goals and dreams, you have to work overtime for them.
Where did you start in your industry?
I started off photographing local shows/bands. I believe my first “gig” was photographing my friends In Memory Of when they opened for Alesana, and then after that Waterparks would let me come out and take their photos and what not, then came the Warped Tour approvals when I did stuff for a publication called Restless Press where I got to shoot in a photo pit for the first time, which was super exciting.
How did you end up in your current role?
Currently I’m freelancing any way I can, so that sometimes means taking odd jobs or stuff that isn’t exactly “fun”, but I’m still taking pictures, and that’s what counts.
I ended up here by constantly working for things, networking, making as many connections as possible, and still doing so. I’m constantly applying for part time, freelance, and random odd photo jobs every single day, and some of the stuff I get to do is actually really cool.
What’s the best/worst thing about what you do?
The best thing about what I do is sometimes coming across unique and cool opportunities that I wouldn’t come across working a normal 9-5, serving, or office job. Another awesome thing is getting to work with and meet people that I’ve always admired or looked up to and creating content with them, I feel it definitely pushes me more and contributes to my drive and inspiration in my work.
The worst thing is having to work 10x harder, 1. being a girl in the industry, and 2. freelancing and networking in such a saturated market such as Los Angeles. Also just not knowing when or how big your next project is going to be.
Did you take any courses to learn about photography or are you self-taught?
I’m primarily self taught, but I did take 2 years of film photography and 1 year of photo journalism in high school, then obtained my BA in photography.
What tools do you swear by?
Adobe Photoshop, and especially Lightroom, are your best friends. I work with Nikon gear, but have also worked with Canon and hear tons of great things about Sony, so I’m definitely not 100% loyal to one camera company, but I say whatever you like most and feel you’re able to learn better and grow better with.
Are you able to do your creative work full time?
Currently, yes. Mind you, I’m VERY broke, but I am in a situation that allows me to take on creative responsibilities and seek more all the time. It’s ALMOST steady enough to rely on, but definitely still working toward it. If I lived by myself, I would not be able to do what I do. I’ve been serving and working customer service for the past 7 years, so this is still very new and still a bit wobbly haha
Working in a creative industry can be isolating as a lot of your work is done alone. Is this something that affects you? If so, what sorts of things do you do to fix it?
I actually enjoy working alone! However, I’ve also been fortunate enough to be put on projects that require collaboration with other creatives, and I get to work alongside some pretty rad people.
What’s your “pipe dream” goal?
Hahaha I love this one. Honestly (don’t judge me), being Ariana Grande’s photographer or working for one of my favorite companies like Lush doing their product photography.
What advice would you give to the next generation of people looking to break into your industry?
Network, network, network. Ask questions and for advice. If someone wants to be a dick and act like they’re too good to help you learn, move on to someone else that will. Stay curious and let your imagination guide you in the creative aspect of things because nothing is “too big” as long as you’re willing to fail and try again until you get it right.
Learn your camera settings, learn the capabilities of your gear, learn your editing software, constantly experiment and teach yourself new things. Expand your knowledge and skills as much and as often as you can.
And finally, what’s the top album you’d currently recommend to anyone reading this?
Oooo can I suggest 2? Billie Eilish’s new album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go and Lennon Stella’s album, Love Me.