Nicole McConville is a lifestyle photographer who offers a variety of services including headshots, portraits, food and beverage, fashion, business branding and identity, weddings and elopements. Her work is often described as “having a quiet sensibility and a unifying theme of connection.”
photos by: Nicole McConville Photography
How did you get started?
I’ve been taking photos for many years, particularly during my travel. But I truly fell in love with photography about five years ago. I was experiencing some fundamental changes in my life that made me feel very unsettled (imagine a shaken snow globe), and photography felt like a peaceful and grounding source of deep knowing. It was while attending an instant photography retreat in Marrakesh, Morocco when I felt “called” to photography. The nature of instant photography demands that you slow down, observe your environment, and truly take care in each and every image. There was something magical in that experience that demonstrated to me how impactful images as a means of storytelling can be.
My business began with portraiture and boudoir but quickly expanded to other areas. Once I realized that the central core of my work was about connection, it was easy to see how I could embrace so many other opportunities, including business branding, weddings, elopements, and more.
Is it your full-time gig? Yes. I started my business about three years ago, and have been focused 100% full time on photography for a couple years.
What is your morning practice? I need unrushed morning time. There’s no springing into my day! I prefer to have a full half hour in bed after I wake. I also believe in having a nice full breakfast every day, usually something I make myself, enjoyed with a double cup of hot chai as I check in on my emails and social media. Once I’m ready to officially begin my workday I light a candle and / or incense to help me shift into a focused mindset. Because I often work from home I find that even the smallest of rituals can bring a necessary sense of intention. And after many years of being called to develop a meditation practice I am finally delving in, trying to find my way into something that will work (and stick!) for me.
I truly fell in love with photography about five years ago. I was experiencing some fundamental changes in my life that made me feel very unsettled (imagine a shaken snow globe), and photography felt like a peaceful and grounding source of deep knowing.
Favorite tools, materials, or gadgets? I currently use the Fuji X mirrorless camera system. I love the compact, lightweight portability and the accessibility of adding in new prime lenses to my kit. Beyond that I am NOT a tech-head. I like to see what magic can be achieved simply observing and harnessing beautiful light and shadows. And I often find that the best tools and materials are those readily at hand.
Biggest lesson learned so far? Don’t let fear control your life. For way too long I was afraid … of change, risk, vulnerability. What I know now is that those things bring forth a vibrant world of possibility. Those things invite LIFE. Sure, we all need to have a sense of self-protection, common sense, and logic. But when fear comes in it has a way of taking up as much space as you will allow it, paralyzing our ability to make good decisions, follow our intuition, and seek the path we truly want. I still feel fear, of course, but I have gained better skills in seeing it for what it is and pushing it to the periphery.
What is your daily routine? It changes everyday.
How do you deal with the ebbs and flows of creativity? I think it’s absolutely essential to prioritize personal work. When I’m able I try to schedule at least one personal shoot a month. This guarantees that I have made room to PLAY, welcoming in a spirit of experimentation without a need to tailor my work to a client’s needs. I have found that some of these shoot result in the most exciting creative breakthroughs and exciting work. I will always share the results of these sessions as an artifact of the experience.
How do you share your work? I often share select favorites through Instagram, Facebook, and my own blog/portfolio site. I relish in the immediacy of these channels and the way I’m able to get feedback on my work while also shining a bright light on my clients.
What’s hardest for you about sharing your work? I actually LOVE to share my work and think it’s an integral part of my process. If there is any challenge in that I think it’s the internal butterflies that are let loose when I share something that has particular personal significance to me. I want others to care as much about my work and my clients as I do.
What makes it easier? While I know that some creatives have a tempestuous relationship with social media, I have found it to be a critical channel to share my work. Instagram, in particular, has proven to be an incredibly supportive and encouraging community for me. I’m always excited to share new work with my community there because I think they understand the motivations behind my work. Receiving feedback there has helped to fuel me in incredibly valuable ways. It’s also become one of the most important methods I have for connecting with potential clients. You have to share what you do and the passion and intention behind it for “your people” to find you.
I don’t ever want to lose sight of the magic that is always within grasp. It simply needs to be sought out.
I don’t ever want to lose sight of the magic that is always within grasp. It simply needs to be sought out.
“Don’t let fear control your life. For way too long I was afraid … of change, risk, vulnerability. What I know now is that those things bring forth a vibrant world of possibility. Those things invite LIFE.”
Best advice received? Someone I consider a mentor is fond of saying, “Do the work.” It’s such an incredibly simple prompt on the surface, but it’s one of the best personal mantras I have ever had. How do you improve your skills? Do the work. How will you reach your intended audience/clients? Do the work. How do you move past fear and doubt? Do the work. I have found this to be true over and over again. Action is key.
What do you do when life gets hard (to make it less hard)? I don’t consider myself an “outdoorsy” person, but without fail if I feel out of sorts or overwhelmed time spent outside surrounded by LIFE (flora and fauna) I almost immediately feel a sense of balance and grounding. Being reminded of the scale and interconnectivity of things provides a real perspective that takes me out of a place of worry and into a deeper sense of knowing. Living in Asheville, we are surrounded by forests, mountains, lakes, streams, waterfalls, and more within a short drive and hike. I don’t ever want to lose sight of the magic that is always within grasp. It simply needs to be sought out.
What books do you turn to for inspiration? I recently discovered Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work. While these books may initially come across as impulse gift books they are packed with impactful truths and inspiration. I like to turn to them every now and then for reminders. They are great gifts to pass along to creatively minded friends who need a gentle nudge to help prioritize their passions.
What makes you laugh out loud? My dog. I have a sweet elderly canine companion who has served as one of the best teachers in my life. Through his actions he teaches me endless lessons about presence, gratitude, and play. Watching the way he interacts with the world and his seemingly endless sense of curiosity and eagerness has brought me to laughter and a sense of childlike wonder countless times.
Five interesting facts about you?
- 1. I used to be painfully shy. This was an almost debilitating veil on how I viewed and experienced the world. Fortunately, this part of my nature has evolved into embracing my introvert tendencies while learning how to seek out and celebrate interaction with others. I am endlessly fascinated by people and now welcome the beautiful sense of possibilities through connection.
- 2. I am an avid traveler. I’ve been to 19 countries so far and am excited to add more to that list.
- 3. I was once in an all-accordion band with a rotating cast of about eight people. We only played shows a few times, but it was still a truly lovely experience. Music—and particularly playing with others—is an act of magic. I learned how to play the accordion over a couple years of dedicated lessons. It worked a very different part of my brain and brought me an entirely new sense of accomplishment. While I very rarely play anymore, I still have a deeply rooted love and appreciation for the accordion as an instrument that does not get enough credit.
- 4. I think eggs are the perfect food, and I could eat them every single day. Sometimes I do!
- 5. I’ve had some variation of the same hairdo (black hair with a blunt cut and straight bangs) for twenty years. Sometimes I let it grow long, and then I just cut it into a short bob again. It’s a huge signature of my personal style.
If you had a tattoo on your forehead what would it say? Be grateful.
How do you take risks in your art? While I think it’s important to have a consistent style I believe strongly in pushing yourself to prevent getting stuck in patterns and habits. I am always striving to try new things, whether that is coaching and posing when working with people or trying new shooting and editing techniques. Because I am often doing work that is tailored to my clients’ specific needs and preferences I am forced to seek out ways of achieving unique results that have that WOW factor. I believe taking risks often results in that sense of impact. If I feel the stir of excitement at something new, so will my clients.
What’s the next step/level/leap for you in your work? I am looking forward to growing and expanding my business branding and identity work. I thrive collaborating with businesses and creatives to create a visual bank that showcases their unique story. This usually includes headshots/portraits, product photography, location imagery, and evocative atmospherics they can use to communicate through their various channels. I’ve truly enjoyed working with clients in my local community and welcome with great anticipation the exciting possibilities of working with clients across the country.
Your advice? Treat yourself and those around you with kindness and compassion. Listen to and heed your intuition, as it is almost always right. Don’t hold on so tight; beautiful things can happen when you learn to let go. Remember that you have the power to change your course at any time. Be bold but be smart. Action is the antidote to fear. Do good work and share it. Nourish community.
“How do you improve your skills? Do the work. How will you reach your intended audience/clients? Do the work. How do you move past fear and doubt? Do the work. I have found this to be true over and over again. Action is key.”