The FPA is an International Photography Awards Competition created to showcase and excel Fine Art Photographers.
Each month one photographer is crowned ‘Judges Choice’. May 2022 Judges Choice Winner is Karen Nicholson! We caught up with Karen for inspiration and advice.
Hi Karen! Congratulations again on winning the coveted Judges Choice Award for May! How does it feel to be an international photography award winner! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
When my daughter was born 18 years ago with eyes to rival any Disney baby I knew that I had to learn photography very quickly to capture her as she grew. We’d called her Pip whilst I was pregnant as we didn’t know if she was a boy or girl (and she was the size of an apple pip) so it made sense to name my photography business Little Pip Photography. My career has spanned two decades in creative media marketing as the Marketing Director of both the Evening Standard and Bauer Media before I became a full time light chaser around six years ago when I left my marketing position to focus on my photography business. I now specialise in fine art children’s portraiture and this year I won the TNPS Outdoor Children’s Photographer of the Year award.
My childhood was spent with a fascination for fairytales, toadstools and animals, and as an adult, and now mother, this interest has always stayed with me. Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton and later William Blake played their part in both storytelling and illustration, leading to a love of all things vintage and whimsical.
More recently I’ve also moved into studio pet photography offering free sessions to the RSPCA and local rescues to help them to re-home their kittens. I also work in events and have enjoyed being part of the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain team for several years.
I have a Masters Degree in Literature and Culture and a BA Hons in English and Drama and I’m qualified with the Guild of Photographers. I run my own marketing consultancy Six Sells alongside my photography business and I continue to write in my spare time. I live in Surrey with my husband, two children, cat and Bertie Cheesecake my dog. All of my family are unwilling models, except the Mitzi the cat who loves a photo.
Photography is my passion, I see light wherever I am and I spend hours building sets in my head and location spotting for the best outdoor spots.
Your winning image is simply dreamy, can you tell us a bit about how it came to be?
That’s so kind, thank you. The image is taken in my local park in Surrey at around 6pm and features Keira and Mason who are two of my very favourite models. They’d travelled all the way from Luton to model for me which is always hugely appreciated. When I want to shoot specifically for myself I ask someone from my curated Little Pip Tribe to come along and I style the shoot to get the look that I’d pictured in my head. The dress is a handmade vintage wedding dress that I’ve featured in a series of photos.
Did you have any inspiration references for this shoot?
I’d previously met up with Evelina Eve for a 1 to 1 workshop and told her that this was one of my favourite places to shoot (I have favourite trees, I’m weird!) and we’d discussed angles and ways to shoot using the branches so this shot was a development of those ideas.
Tell us a little bit about your editing process
I hand edit every photo using techniques that I’ve learned over the years. I tend to edit in dark tones and I enjoy making the greens blend into the image. I use a lot of curve layers and the eyes are very important to me as a focus. I am obsessed with story telling and I incorporate vintage styling and props into every fine art image to create heirloom pieces that I hope can be passed from generation to generation.
What is your go-to photoshop action?
I don’t tend to use actions very often anymore – although I used them all when I started out! I have Portraiture to smooth skin if it’s needed and LSP do a great social media resize action.
What advice would you have for fine art photographers just starting out?
The biggest thing that helped my business was investing in 1 to 1 workshops with the photographers who most inspired me. Even if you just get one thing from the day then that moves you forward another step towards your goals.
I took a long time to establish my style and get to a point with my editing that I was happy with. I suppose the best thing that someone can say about your work is that they recognise it as yours before seeing who the photographer is – that’s the goal – to have a signature style.
Joining groups like Focus also gives you access to incredible tutorials and advice and the monthly competition is at a very high level so it pushes you to create great work. I have found the membership to be invaluable and my work has definitely improved.