Interview: Meet Sports Photographer Nicole Sweet

Nicole Sweet is a San Francisco based up and coming sports photographer. She shares her passion for photography, her experiences in photography school, and she fills us in on the wonder of capturing athletes on film.

What sparked your interest in photography?

"Looking back, I have always had the desire to do photography. A few years ago I found a photograph of myself and my brother. I was about five and I had posed my three year old brother on top of a turned over laundry basket. I was holding a play camera and a Burt doll, prompting my brother to smile for the camera. I think the passion has always been there.”

How did you decide to turn your interest in photography into a career?

”I decided to turn photography into a career because I realized that taking photos was the only thing that I really wanted to do. I’ve done jobs from waitressing to office work, and I found myself always trying to work my scheduled jobs around photo gigs that would pop up.”

What is it like to study photography? How have you combined what you learned in photography school with your real life experiences working with others?

”Majoring in photography was so much fun. I would spend the majority of my days working in the dark room. But school did not prepare me for turning my passion into a career. Every time I am shooting around other photographers I am always asking them questions about what they do and how they have become successful. The working photographers have been my real teachers.”

What is the most important thing you learned in your photography classes?

”To be an individual, and to pursue your dream even if nobody believes in you.”

Tell me about struggling to turn your passion into a career.

”Everyday is a struggle. I am hustling daily to promote my photography, in order to get more business. I am forever trying to learn more about my craft. It is crucial to be passionate about whatever you choose to do, especially when it comes to art, because it takes a lot of sacrifice. I never really believed the whole “starving artist” notion, until I started living it. It makes living meagerly a lot easier when you are doing what you want to be doing.”

You are best known for your sports photography. How did you get your start in this field of photography?

“I started shooting surfing in Hawaii. I fell in love with the action and knowing that I have one chance to catch the perfect photo. When I moved to the Bay area, standing on the beach, in the warm sun, taking pictures was not an option anymore. With all of the sports team around Oakland and San Francisco, I decided to check out other sports. I started shooting any sporting event I was permitted to shoot, from youth sports to professional, and built up my portfolio from there.”

What is the most exciting thing about photographing athletes in action?

“I can’t single out one aspect that is the most exciting. A part that I really love is the fact that I am shooting people that are living their dream also. In the photos, the athletes’ faces are so expressive. You can see that they love what they are doing, and that excites me.”

Describe your typical day at work.

“There really is no typical day. Being a freelance artist is very unpredictable. The only thing that happens everyday is the constant thoughts of how I’m going to make enough money to survive.”

What do you love the most about your job?

“The fact that it doesn’t feel like a job. When I am working, I am doing what I want to be doing. I love being a photographer. There is nothing else that I would rather be doing. It’s the only job I’ve ever had that I will show up an hour early, work all day, and still have a smile on my face at the end of the day.”