More than most other art forms, photography is intensely personal. Especially when photographing people, it is said that the product belongs more to the subject than the artist. It is those subjects who spark photographer Nicole Gee’s passion. Since the late 1980s, Nicole has been developing her eye for great images. Her artistry began when she trained under John Hershey, a talented commercial photographer in San Francisco. “I love people,” she says. “And I get great joy from capturing images that show a person the way a loved one might see them.” With Gee, her artistry is selfless. She believes her gift is God-given, and she uses it to create a uniquely special product, taking great joy in delivering that to the person to whom it belongs.
To know Nicole Gee is to experience true grace in action. Her loving spirit is contagious and spills over into everyone and everything she photographs. “You have to have fun with it,” she says. “That’s when a person’s true personality comes out. That’s when you catch the twinkle in their eye, the natural tilt of their head, their genuine smile.” She makes her sessions fun and engaging by taking the skill of photography and turning it into her unique style of art. For Gee, it is a cooperative art—a shared endeavor full of meaning and significance. “There’s no better way to remember a time in your life than a photo. The setting, the expression; all of it says something, and it is my job to interpret that message and make it into something that will be cherished.”
There are certain milestones in our lives that deserve professional attention: Newborns (from the sweet little fingers and toes, chubby little legs and arms), senior graduation, engagement and weddings, family life, up to and including the wisdom in the wrinkled face of a beloved grandparent.
Catching those moments begins with an innate ability to “see” the right shot, but isn’t complete without the technical skill and training necessary to create a quality image. “I began in commercial photography, but my real passion grew from creating great images of my children as they grew. When my oldest, Dan, was about to graduate, I took him to his favorite places. We went to the Mission District for his favorite burrito and stopped to capture some images there, then we breezed over to North Beach, China Town, and the Bay Bridge for more camera fun. I put it all into an album, and we ended up treasuring it so much, my husband encouraged me to do the same for other families. That is how Nicole Gee Photography was born.”
For the first few years, Gee focused on photographing high school seniors. “For most people, graduation sneaks up, and our precious babies are ready to leave before we are ready to let go,” she says. “Don’t settle for a photographer who spends five minutes with your child. This is a pivotal moment when your child is in transition–almost an adult, but not quite. They are so full of hope and joy. Don’t settle for the yearbook photographer. Do it right.” “Right” for Gee, isn’t just a senior portrait. Gee offers family sessions free of charge for every senior session booked. She knows, firsthand, what a bittersweet time it is when a child prepares to leave home, so she gets the family together in a relaxed session that highlights their relationships: mother and son, father and daughter, siblings hugging and teasing. Gee knows those opportunities don’t come back; you have to seize the moments while you can. After all, what’s the first thing you grab when your home is on fire? The pictures! Memories of the people we love are the most valuable things we have.
Gee’s gift for loving the people she photographs uniquely qualifies her for her latest passion, “lifestyle photography.” Imagine a photographer coming to your home for a few hours on a Saturday morning, catching those mundane moments that one day end up meaning everything; kids in their pjs, reading stories, having breakfast and doing whatever your family does during this season in your lives. Leave the house the way it is, spend your morning as you always do, and let someone document it all. The enduring value of those images is immeasurable.
Photos are art. They are worthy of displaying when done correctly. In the digital age, we are swimming with images to the point of saturation (do we really need to preserve the memory of yesterday’s dinner?). Wouldn’t you prefer one great image to a thousand that are just “meh”? Somehow, we have fallen into a society that is all about quantity rather than quality. We want more, we want it immediately, and we want it for less. As a result, we’ve gotten used to mediocrity. We keep hundreds of photos on our phones or computers rather than a few exceptional ones on our walls. A good photo is valuable—it will be remembered, and passed on for generations.
It goes without saying that Gee believes it is well worth it to invest in professional artistic photography. “Your payoff is the relief that a moment in time will remain forever and the satisfaction that you or a loved one has been immortalized in a way that brings back that feeling of emotional connection. Think about the love between a husband and wife, the beginning weeks of a new life, the moment before a graduate leaves home, the twilight years of a parent… in my mind, there are few things more important to remember.”
Gee specializes in capturing all of life’s transitional moments. She begins with an initial consultation where she and a client discuss ideas and formulate a plan. Whether it be a grad session, a social media profile pic or a business portrait, Gee offers it all. She even photographs pets. After the consultation, a session is planned. This typically takes one to two hours with time for fun and outfit changes. After two weeks, she meets with you again and helps choose the images you love. Nicole Gee Photography is a full service photography studio and all her images are artfully retouched.
There is a trend since the digital age to hire a photographer and expect to receive the digital files as part of the service. Gee believes this is a disservice. She feels instead that art needs to be enjoyed every day, not left on a cd that sits in your desk drawer. “Put them on your walls,” she says. “Put them in a photo album or in a memory box. This is the best kind of art—meaningful and personal. It should be displayed.”
During the most meaningful events in life, when you want to freeze the moment and savor the experience, it’s a wise choice to invest in professional photography. Gee recommends making sure the photographer is certified with Professional Photographers of America. “The process of certification is hard,” she says. “The applicant must take a 90 minute test and submit 20 images to be judges for lighting, posing, and more. It is a strenuous process.” It is also a good idea to check a photographer’s website. “Does her style fit with yours? Does she have a variety of examples? Look ahead of time at what you’ll be getting, and see if you like it.”
Gee also suggests you keep in mind that you’ll be spending time with this person. “Are they friendly and professional on the phone? Do you feel like you’ll get along well?” There is more to it than owning a great camera – you need to know lighting, posing, color, composition, etc. Nicole should know. If you look up nicolegeephotography.com and read her recommendations/kudos/compliments, you’ll see the words “comfortable,” “creative,” “patient,” and “fun” appear over and over again. And if you look at the photos, you’ll see that indefinable quality; that mixture of precise lighting, professional poses and genuine fun that produces the kind of photo you can’t wait to put on the wall.
After all, it is not just a photo, it is a work of art.