Photographers Who Inspire | April Nienhuis

by Liz LaBianca
Please welcome Tulsa photographer, April Nienhuis.  In addition to her photography business, April is also a mentor at Clickin Moms, the Assistant Editor of the CMblog, and is available for custom mentoring sessions. April’s generosity and advice in this Photographers Who Inspire interview is great example of the resources available to Clickin Moms members.  If you’re not already a member, be sure to join today.

Who was your original inspiration when you started your business? Who inspires you now?
Andrea Murphy ( is and was one of my biggest inspirations.  I second shoot weddings for her and not only is she a wonderful photographer but she’s also a fantastic business woman.  She’s always generous with her knowledge and encourages me in business.  Other photographers I love are Jerry Ghionis, Bobbi + Mike, Elizabeth Messina, pretty much all the photographers in CMpro, and so many others.

What was the hardest part of starting your own business? What do you wish you would have known?
Pricing.  I spent so much time stressing over pricing only to realize a year later that I was charging way too little.  I wish I had asked someone for guidance with my pricing and held off on business for another year or two so that I could better develop my skills.

Tell us about your favorite lens and why it is #1 in your camera bag over your other lenses.
The Canon 100L is my absolute favorite lens.  Not only is it a great macro lens but it’s also beautiful for portraits.  The quality, color, and contrast is superior to many of the other L lenses I’ve used.  It doesn’t get near the praise it deserves.

Manual Focus or Auto Focus
Auto Focus.  I’m currently trying out the Canon 24mm tilt-shift and it does not auto focus which poses difficult for someone with poor eye sight like myself.

Photoshop or Lightroom – or both. How long does it take for you to get your proofs to your clients?

Both.  I cull and do the majority of editing in Lightroom both I almost always pull my images into Photoshop to do minor tweaks and any clonging or healing.  While I guarantee that my clients will see their proofs two weeks after their shoot I try to get them done within one.

With the demand for digital images on the rise – Do you sell your Jpegs?
I do but they are significantly more than the cost of prints.  I fully understand the desire to have digital copies but they don’t compare to having a print hanging on your wall or sitting on your desk that will warm your heart every time you walk by.

How many photos do you typically take in a full session? How many do you edit and do you ever show your un-edits to clients?
Depending on the type of session I may take anywhere from 75-150.  I promise 18-24 images but usually end up with around 25.  If there’s an amazing picture or I can tell the client is super anxious I may show them a shot on the LCD screen but they’ll never see anything unedited on the computer.

How do you handle Family and close friends who want to hire you? Do you offer any discounts?
Family rarely asks me for shoots so when they do it’s free.  And I have 2 or 3 friends that will receive free shoots too.  I’m thankful I have family and friends that respect my work and understand the time that goes into creating a quality image.

How do you break the ice in the beginning of the session and get families to loosen up?
I just try to chat or play with them, depending on their age of course.  In order to get natural smiles or laughs I generally fall back on having them do something silly or awkward and then acknowledging the act.  It always makes them laugh.

Do you have any tricks or tips that you want to share with us?
No tricks other than chatting with them.  I do generally assume that the first handful of images are going to be lousy while the client gets comfortable with the camera so I’ll often come back to those first few poses later on in the session.

We have all had the hard clients – Can you share a story of a difficult shoot and how you handled it?
I don’t believe I’ve ever had a majorly difficult client situation.  Although, I once photographed a family of 9 and a sibling dispute was only inevitable.  When the tears started flowing because one child didn’t want to stand next to another then we just took a break, let everyone breath, and I photographed mom and dad for a bit.  When I was done with mom and dad everyone was happy again and ready for a few more family pictures.

If you weren’t a photographer – What would be your dream profession?
I have two children with severe food allergies and I know how difficult it is to figure out how to both care for and feed a child with food issues.  I would love to be able to find a way to help other parents who are in the same situation and to bring awareness to those who aren’t.

You just won the jackpot ..what is in your dream camera bag?
Canon EOS-1D X

Canon 16-35 f/2.8L

Canon 24 tilt-shift

Canon 35L

Canon 100L

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS

And in addition to my Canon 580ex II speedlite, I’d love to have an assortment of artificial lighting.

Have you ever taken a Workshop? Which one and was it worth it?
No.  I wish I had known about workshops when I was first getting started in photography.  I think they can be a great resource when you find quality workshops that suit your style of learning.  My wishlist includes attending both a Jerry Ghionis and Bobbi + Mike workshop sometime in the near future.

Name one person who you would love to photograph.
I think it would be fascinating to be the President’s photographer.

What was your original gear and when did you start upgrading your equipment?
When I originally started photography in the summer of 2006 my gear was the Nikon D50 and kit lens.  After a couple months I added the Nikon 50 f/1.8 but when I started second shooting weddings in April 2008 I switched to Canon and purchased the original 5D along with the 50 f/1.4 and the 85 f/1.8.

Seeing so many photographers burn out and quit their business – how do you avoid falling into that trap?
I don’t.  I’ve actually fallen into that trap and have put a serious halt on my business.  Managing a business takes a lot of work and is difficult when you have small children at home like I do.  I’ve realized that while I have my duties at home of taking care of my family and homeschooling my children I can still take on a handful of clients throughout a month.  I don’t need to take on multiple clients per week.  It’s important for each person to find their balance and not to feel pressured to accept as many clients or run a business like someone else.

What has been your proudest moment in your business?
I always love it when a mother gets happy tears from their images or that I captured their child perfectly but I think one of my proudest moments was when Andrea, the woman I second shoot for, told me that one of her brides wrote my name in her contract.  It meant a lot to me that it was that important to the bride that I would be there to help photograph the most important day of her life.

What would we be surprised to find out about you?
I’m actually quite shy.  Photography challenges me in ways other than creativity :)

What is on your Bucket list?
One of my goals is to enter an image(s) into the WPPI and/or PPA print competition.  Viewing the competition images at WPPI this year was greatly inspirational and motivating.  I would also love to photograph the weather some day.  I wanted to be a storm chaser as a child and my fascination for severe weather has not faded.  Once my kids are grown maybe I’ll get the chance.

April Nienhuis is a self taught photographer based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She lives with her husband of 10 years and their 3 beautiful children. Her passion is the now; to capture memories before they fade away: photographing newborns before they turn into children, photographing children before they turn into teenagers, and photographing teenagers before they get married and start having sweet babies of their own. Life doesn’t stand still, but with photographs we can easily look back at ones journey.

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