Interview with Freelance News Photographer - Nick Stern

"I try to use the camera as an extension to myself and capture an image that shows how I feel about what I am observing."

Interview by Henry Gomez

Q1. In your own word please tell us what you do.

I’m a freelance news photographer. I also combine some creative work and street art with my work. 
I’ve been freelance for all but 3 months of my working life.
Q2. When I look at your work, I am utterly amazed by the way it pulls you in.
What thoughts most commonly run through your mind when you’re about to take a shot?
In the shot I want to convey emotion, so I try to use the camera as an extension to myself and capture an image that shows how I feel about what I am observing. This often means breaking the rules. I find it useful to be unencumbered by too much technical gear. I find shooting with a prime 28mm f2 give me the best way to get the images I want.
Q3. Have you considered turning your talent to any other areas?
I also do some street art in Los Angeles. Check out ‘‘ to see more.
Q4. Where was it you studied photography?
Where you a confident student?

I’m self-taught, I had a passion for photography from an early age and I’m very much a hands-on person. I tried to read every book I could find on photography and learn something from each book I read or photo I saw.

Q5. What courses would you recommend to an aspiring photographer?

Get out and take photos, nothing is better than learning from experience.
Learn from you photos that ‘don’t work’, look at them and consider why they don’t work. Also look at great photos think why they work so well.
Q6. After you finished studying, did you ever work as an apprentice?
If so, how did you go about doing this and is the opportunity the same today as it was when you were looking?
After learning what I could about photography I decided to quit my job as an engineer to pursue a career in photography. I started attending news events in London and meeting ‘ real’ news photographers. I was honest with them and told them I was new and didn’t know much, they were happy to give me advice… I would say to anyone who is fresh out of college, go out there and learn from others who have been doing the job. Don’t go out as though you know everything. Photographers love giving advice. Be honest tell them you new and ask for advice, they’ll give it.

Q7. Would you ever be willing to take on an apprentice and if so, what would you say is the best quality or skill you could teach them?
Sure I love to pass on my experience. I often mentor photographers, I also teach photography free in the park on Sundays to any one who wants to learn. The best skill I could teach them would be to learn the basics and break the rules, experiment.
Q8. It is a sad and common affair that many talented artists have to face. When an artist spends his or her youth studying and loving art at school and college but end up working in jobs (not careers) that they hold no passion for.
Have you ever come close to throwing in the towel and if so, what was it that kept you motivated and remain inspired and optimistic?
Once I started as a press photographer I have never lost my motivation. I’m a very positive person and constantly learning.
Q9. If you could have asked anyone for advice when you were starting out;
Who would you have liked to ask?
Robert Capa
What would you have liked to ask?
How do you conquer fear?
What would you answer be now if asked the same question?
I think I know the answer; fear never leaves you, it drives you…
Q10. In 2000 you started First News Ltd. Please tell us a little about it and why you went down this path?
Quite simply I was turning down too much work and I wanted to have my own staff reporters so we could offer a complete package to news outlets.
Obviously it was great running a dynamic agency that acquired a great reputation but above that was the knowledge that I gave a number of photographer a chance to do the job they love… and get paid to do it.
Q11. If your children wanted to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
Try to stand out from the crowd, make sure your work offers something different. Make mistakes and learn from them every knock back is a positive lesson or ‘nudge’ in the right direction. Galleries and agents know the market; use their knowledge and advice to get you in the right direction.
A gallery can’t make great pictures only the photographer can do that.
Q12. Working hard and pushing yourself is undoubtedly the most important thing an artist can do.  However as well as that, what would you say some of the other most important steps are that got you to this stage of your career?
It’s vital to have clear focus. It’s not good saying ‘I want to be a professional photographer. You should know EXACTLY the type of work you want to do, who you want to have a clients. Plan it out, write a goal or business plan then analysis how you can get there. Get mentored by people already there.
Q13. What are some useful tips on how to present your work when going for a job?
A photo editor or commissioning editor does not want to hear you writing about how you was once a boy scout or captain of the football team, they want to see you can take great images under any condition. They need to see you are flexible to a wide range of assignments and produce great results EVERY TIME. Don’t have weak photos in your portfolio just because you like them. Ask others to help you select images for your portfolio, this way you ensure that the images speak for themselves.
It’s also to ensure you are 100% positive to an editor. If an editor calls with an assignment the only answer should be something like: ‘great thanks I’ll get straight on it’ They don’t want to be troubled with the ‘problems’ you may have shooting the job. They need great pictures, not excuses.
Q15. What is your own favorite piece to date, and why?
Big Sky, Montana. USA. The beauty is breath taking. No image will ever do this area justice.
Q16. Share with us your proudest moment in your career so far?
Getting my first front page of a newspaper. The Sun in the UK. I felt “YES” I’m a real news photographer…even though they spelt my name wrong!
Nick’s website:

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