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Community Highlights: Meet Nicole Lashar of Nicole Leanne Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Lashar. 

Hi Nicole, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
I started my business back in 2012 with a starter “kit” camera my parents bought me as a gift the year before. I remember vividly walking up to the business registration desk at the clerk’s office to register my business. I was excited but completely unsure of what it meant to run a business. There was no grand opening, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t celebrate at all. 

I began photographing portrait and lifestyle sessions before stepping foot into the wedding industry a couple of years later. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to assist, second shoot, and associate shoot to learn the ins and outs of wedding photography. I absolutely loved the excitement and significance of weddings, but never actually anticipated it becoming my career. I was supposed to be a teacher. So, in 2016, I graduated from college and began teaching. I taught art, film and digital photography, and graphic design. It was the career I had always dreamed of. 

As I was trying to balance teaching full-time and managing my photography business, I became immensely overwhelmed and my body was extremely fatigued. I absolutely loved my students and I loved photographing, but I knew that I couldn’t give my all to both, all of the time. My mental and physical health continued to suffer but the more I captured weddings the more I realized that I could teach, create, and help others outside of the classroom. I could teach and mentor other photographers and my passion to help and create could be directed toward my couples. That realization gave me the freedom to evaluate my career, mental health, and future goals. So, in 2020, as weddings were being consistently canceled or postponed, I went full-time with my business. To an outsider, it wasn’t a smart business move, yet it was one of the best decisions I ever made. 

Looking back, if it weren’t for my family and friends who encouraged me, my husband (then boyfriend) for endlessly believing in me, and those first clients who didn’t cringe at my poor editing skills, I’m not sure I would have ever considered running my photography business. They gave me the confidence to pursue my passion wholeheartedly. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I don’t believe any entrepreneur has a flawless journey while running a business. It’s the struggles that propel us forward and help us reinvent ourselves and our business – the setbacks, the declined business, the financial mistakes, the difficult clients, and the late nights. The biggest struggle that I encountered was self-doubt. I didn’t believe I could pursue my passion and make it a full-time business. I felt constrained by my physical limitations and saw all the other talented photographers around me, and felt that I couldn’t compete. After overworking myself for years, balancing two jobs, and ignoring my body’s cry for rest and recovery, I was exhausted. My body ached all over, and I had severe pain in my hands making it challenging to even hold a camera. After photographing a wedding, I would be in bed all day, taking days to fully recover. A full-time business didn’t seem sustainable, but when I did decide to go full-time with my business, it gave me the opportunity to truly take care of myself. With time, support, and reprioritizing my health, my doubt started to subside. I took the leap before knowing that I was fully capable, which I think a lot of business owners have to do, but it was worth it. Today, my health problems are nearly completely gone and a distant memory. The imposter syndrome I had from constant comparing is gone too. Sure, I still have to remind myself not to compare, but it isn’t debilitating. It never stops me from creating, which it did in the past. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Nicole Leanne Photography?
My quick elevator pitch is that I document expressive and timeless weddings in Metro Detroit for couples who value experience, integrity, and authenticity. Yet, that’s just a part of my business and passion, but it really captures the heart and soul of what I try to do. Though my primary focus is weddings, specifically in or around Detroit, I also photograph branding and lifestyle sessions for families who are looking for the same documentary feel to their photographs. My clients value raw imagery, expressing their individuality, and feeling comfortable in their photographs. I strive to help my clients feel confident and comfortable while I’m capturing their emotions and telling their stories. 

As you scroll through social media, you’ll see thousands of beautiful photographs. I don’t believe my images stand out in the sea of warm, inviting photographs filled with love. However, I do believe that the experience I offer my clients is unique and that’s what sets me apart from all the other talented photographers in the industry. More than a perfectly posed photograph, my main objective is to make my clients feel comfortable. I do that through open communication, getting to know them personally, timely responses, and defining their desires for their photographs before we even meet. Then when I’m documenting them, I guide them through the entire process, supporting them and encouraging them as we go while incorporating their personalities into the session. I’m proud that I’ve created a business that is less concerned with profits, metrics, and what’s trendy and more focused on each individual, and cultivating an experience that puts them at ease and truly reflects who they are. 

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
When building a successful business, it’s vital for entrepreneurs to be hard-working. Oftentimes though that leads to overworking and burnout, as I’ve witnessed in so many entrepreneurs, including myself. However, I don’t feel that my work ethic caused my success, nor my creative talent. I believe that my passion to help others elevated my business beyond where hard work and talent would have taken me. I care deeply about my clients, from planning their session or wedding, to making them feel at ease in front of the camera, to selecting photographs for their heirloom albums; I want to serve and help them every step of the way. 

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