Member Spotlight: Nicola Redfern

Nicola first discovered the joys of photography in her teens. But it wasn’t until she started a small business with her mother that she started to take it seriously. Today, she’s a proven professional, impressing clients across Australia and beyond.

“Karl Taylor Education has changed the way I look at my photography,” she says. “It really has made a massive difference.”

Nicola grew up in England, in and around London. Later she lived for a while in a small, remote Canadian village (population 3000) and also spent some time living in Australia.

It was while living back in the UK that she met her husband, whom she says she persuaded to return with her to Australia. Today, they live in Brisbane with their two young children, where Nicola juggles her budding career as a photographer with the joys (and occasional challenges!) of parenthood.

From hobby to profession

It was back in the early 1990s that Nicola first became intrigued by photography. Back then, she was having fun with Polaroids and disposable cameras, “hoping one of the many photos you took was actually usable.”

Fast forward to 2015 and Nicola was running a hamper business with her mother. To promote their wares, they needed images – and Nicola took charge of creating them.

Product photography by Nicola Redfern

© Nicola Redfern

It was her first encounter with product photography, and by her own admission, she still had a lot to learn. “My first photos were green because I couldn’t work out what white balance was.”

She was determined, however, and excited to improve her skills. “I’ve grown up around arty people all my life,” she says, “so my interest in styling, art direction and all of that came quite naturally.”

Committing to photography saw her take a role at a local portrait studio, where she worked primarily as a studio manager, with occasional forays into photography and retouching. “It was fun, though with the studio lights and white background permanently set up, there wasn’t too much room for creativity.”

Product photography by Nicola Redfern

© Nicola Redfern

Where she and her colleagues did get creative was in the stock images they produced between portrait sessions – crafting letters out of liquids, for example.

“That was when I first discovered Karl Taylor, and when I started taking it a bit more seriously and decided I was going to try to make it into a career.”

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck shortly after Nicola had returned to Australia with her family. To keep learning during lockdown, she enrolled in a state-subsidised photography course offered by TAFE (Technical and Further Education) Queensland.

She enjoyed the course, but found it lacked the focus on product and liquids photography she was after. “They actually said, if you’re interested in that kind of stuff, you should be subscribing to Karl Taylor Education!”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Nicola Redfern

© Nicola Redfern

Positive signs

Today, Nicola enjoys a growing roster of clients for her beautifully lit work. She specialises in product and liquids photography, but also does some beauty and real estate work – the latter often involving images and footage captured via drone.

Lately, she’s been encouraged by the fact that existing clients are recommending her to potential new ones, which means work often comes to her rather than the other way around. “It feels like a great step up.”

Product photography by Nicola Redfern

© Nicola Redfern

There are other positive signs, too. Nicola recently found out that one of her images had been pre-selected by OneEyeLand for a forthcoming book. She was also invited to feature on Production Paradise.

When not working with clients, Nicola likes to create stock imagery, which she has had some success selling via CreativeMarket. “It’s usually when I’ve got an idea in my head that I can’t get rid of and I go on a personal mission to shoot, say, strawberries.”

Product photography by Nicola Redfern

© Nicola Redfern

Playroom toys

Nicola’s home studio is in what she calls ‘the playroom’. Having a dedicated space is extremely helpful, she says. In the past, she had to set everything up to begin a shoot, and pack it all away when she was finished. Now, she can get to work whenever time allows.

Her current camera is a Canon R6. She loves it, but would like to switch it for a Sony before too long, mainly to improve her video capabilities.

She shoots almost exclusively with a 100m lens, though she also has a 50m, plus a wide-angle lens for real-estate work.

Nicola uses Godox lights, with her favourite being her AD600Pro. She also has a plug-in QS400 II, plus a few Canon Speedlites.

In terms of modifiers, she has the Godox version of a P70 reflector, but her favourite is her Octabox 150. For a recent birthday, she asked for an optical snoot , and was very happy to unwrap it!

For a shooting surface, Nicola likes to use a white IKEA Kallax unit because of the handy built-in storage space it offers. Her go-to setup involves placing a piece of white acrylic on top of the Kallax, clipping her background to the acrylic, then positioning a light underneath it.

Based on the results Nicola is achieving, it sounds like a pretty effective setup!

Product photography by Pete Harper

© Nicola Redfern

ONLINE PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

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Hooked on lighting

Nicola loves getting the lighting right in her photographs, and says she owes much of what she’s achieving today to the lessons she’s learned from Karl Taylor Education.

“In terms of lighting – understanding lighting and then applying that to what you’re doing – Karl’s teaching is uniquely helpful,” she says. “That’s what really hooked me in and kept me going.”

She finds the Lighting section especially helpful, and enjoys seeing Karl build his lighting setups in real time in live workshops. Karl’s meticulous and logical approach to lighting has helped Nicola to improve her own.

“The photos I take that are good don’t happen by chance – they happen because I chose to put that photo together in that way. And that’s thanks in large part to what I’ve learned from Karl.”

Product photography by Nicola Redfern

© Nicola Redfern

ONLINE PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

A Deeper Understanding of the Inverse Square Law

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Before, she says, she would take dozens (or even hundreds) of photos, and one of them would end up looking good. “Now, I plan one photo really well. That’s the difference between someone who’s an amateur trying to be a professional, and someone who has really learned the tools they need.”

When asked to name her favourite Karl Taylor Education class, Nicola admits it’s hard to choose. “There’s quite a few that have made me say, ‘Wow, that was amazing!’”

One that does stand out is A Deeper Understanding of the Inverse Square Law. “It’s not just about lighting the subject, but how the light moves around the subject. That was a big lightbulb moment for me.”

Nicola also mentions Still Life Stones With Coloured Gels as a recent favourite. “I love the way the lighting is really broken down in that one.”

Candle photography by Nicola Redfern

© Nicola Redfern

ONLINE PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

Still Life Stones With Coloured Gels

The subject may be simple, but the shots are beautiful. Learn how to make magic with coloured gels.
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Looking ahead

For the next few months, Nicola plans to take a temporary step back from client work to focus on building up her portfolio.

“I want to devote some time to producing the best work I’m capable of producing,” she says. “The goal is to put together an advertising portfolio that I’m really proud of and can use to start approaching agents.”

She also hopes to employ a virtual assistant to handle her social media accounts so that she can continue to build up her brand without using up time she would otherwise spend in the studio.

As part of this drive to keep advancing professionally, Nicola has been studying Karl’s Business of Photography classes to make sure she’s doing everything she can.

Product photography by Pete Harper

© Nicola Redfern

Something else Nicola is excited about is filmmaking and videography, which she’d like to continue exploring. “The filmmaking classes on Karl Taylor Education came out right when I was starting to get into that, so the timing was perfect.”

She’s also keen to keep making her way through the curated collection of classes and tests in LEVELS, our certification program – partly for the certificates, partly to refine her existing expertise, and partly to get out of her comfort zone.

“In the past, I would discount some of the classes because I didn’t think they were relevant to my interests,” she says. “But with LEVELS, I’m watching things I might otherwise skip – and realising how much valuable information is in there. So I’m pleased it’s pushing me outside of my usual focus.”

Glad to be of service, Nicola! And glad to have you as a member of Karl Taylor Education.

Check out Nicola's work at nicolaredfernphotography.com.au or on Instagram.

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