Nicci: Interview with an Autistic Boudoir Photographer
Nicci Wiedman is a talented and hardworking boudoir photographer with her business Nicci Marie Photography.
She thrives on following her passion for boudoir photography and increasing her skills.
Nicci shares her wisdom and inspiration with us from Indianapolis, Indiana.
How did you think of the idea for your business?
One day, I took some intimate self portraits to send to my husband. Even though I took them for him, they made me feel really confident. I saw myself from a different angle (literally) and it was a lightbulb moment. Like, “um hello, who is this?! … that’s what my butt looks like?!” I could finally see myself the way he saw me.
At that moment, I decided that I wanted to be a boudoir photographer. I dabbled in family and senior photography, but boudoir had my heart. Women know their kids are adorable. But we struggle to see that same beauty in ourselves.
When I first had the idea, I started to research other photographers in my area. There were some wedding photographers who would add-on a boudoir session before the wedding. It was very conservative: lacy lingerie over slender bodies with stockings, pearls, and high heels. No one was taking pictures the way I wanted to. At the time, there were very few photographers in my area who even focused on boudoir solely. But from what I could tell, those photographers were getting regular bookings, so that was my proof of concept. If your competitors are doing well, that’s a good thing.
When I first started my business, I was overconfident. I quickly realized that I didn’t know how much work it would take. I was always disappointed in my work, so I worked tirelessly to improve it. I have never really been at a place where I feel really comfortable with my work, but I think that’s healthy. Discomfort is the sweet spot of growth. I don’t ever want to be too comfortable. As soon as you get comfortable, the table will shift, and you’ll be behind everyone else. Like right now, everything is moving to video, and a lot of photographers, myself included, are in a confusing place.
How did you fund your business in the very beginning?
This business started as a side gig to the Etsy store I started in 2013. I kept my costs low by only buying items for the business after I earned the money.
How long have you been running your business?
I photographed my first client in January 2019.
Did you have any previous experience in your field before you started your business?
I had very little experience. I didn’t have the time to start a business. I didn’t have any photography knowledge. I could have made a million excuses NOT to start another business. I’m stubborn. I just wanted to do it. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it.
Now that your business has been running successfully, is there anything you wish would have done differently in the beginning?
Hell yes. But, I try not to spend too much time thinking about stuff like that. I always like to think of mistakes as learning experiences. If something bad happens, I change lanes in my brain to be more constructive and less destructive. “This didn’t work out, so how can I make sure this NEVER happens again?”
When your business was merely an idea, what steps did you take to make it a reality?
My husband had a camera from a class he took in college, and I used that to start experimenting. My pictures were horrible, but I had support from my friends and family. They would say, “You could become a photographer!” And then I would reply, “No, I can’t, I’m not good enough!”
I became obsessed with increasing my photography skills because I wanted to take photos just like this other portrait photographer I idolized. I watched hours and hours of YouTube videos about lighting and equipment. I learned to shoot in manual mode. I followed other photographers whose work I liked.
Once I decided that I truly wanted to be a photographer, I stopped saying “I can’t.”
How has being autistic helped you succeed with your business?
In so many ways, being autistic has helped me. I can obsess over photography and pore over information endlessly.
Photography is always in the back of my mind. I’m truly obsessed. A lot of my friends are photographers because that’s what I love to talk about. I’ve pulled the car over to take a photo of a sunset or a rainbow more than once!
My imagination. I love putting all the little pieces together. Which piece of lingerie looks good with her hair and eyes? Which set has the best lighting right now? But I also really like to skip the obvious answers for more eccentric ideas.
I’ve always felt like an outcast, so I don’t waste time worrying about what other people will think. I’ve never been constrained by social norms. I do what feels right to me. Growing up, nobody really knew what autism was, especially for girls. I had to develop coping mechanisms all on my own. My camera is one of my favorite coping mechanisms.
I think it’s really important to focus on the benefits. Most of the content about ASD is about social awkwardness and not social creativity.
Has being autistic created challenges for you? If so, what helped you overcome or cope with the difficulties?
For me, the challenging parts are verbal communication. I am pretty good with the written word, so blogging and social media is a way that I can connect.
But in person, especially those first few photo sessions, I was SO nervous. Hands shaking, sweaty pits, big-ball-of-anxiety-nervous. I felt so awkward. Once I realized that my social anxiety was holding me back from taking the photos that I really wanted, I started to get better. Now, I still get a little nervous, but it doesn’t hold me back like it used to. Push yourself. Do the uncomfortable thing.
Would I be a photographer if I weren’t autistic? I’m not really sure. Does it affect the way I edit, the way I’m drawn to certain colors or shapes, lines, or shadows? Definitely.
What advice would you give a fellow autistic person who is thinking of starting their own business?
If your brain is feeling muddy, just DO something. Stop thinking about it, and sign up for a class, or call someone, or buy the domain. Just start somewhere. Starting is hard. Once you have some momentum, it gets easier.
Give yourself permission to obsess. Don’t hide your talents from the world.
Invest in education.
You will take lots of bad photos before you take a good one. Failure is just an event, not a characteristic.
Be your own best friend. Have compassion for yourself.
Find your people. If your family isn’t supportive, make friends in the field.