Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new CNSM Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law.
In 2016 Nicola Levine received a life-altering diagnosis that eventually helped catapult her career into the bustling photography business that it is today. “Given the circumstances, I realized how crucial it was for me to do something I truly loved, have control over my schedule, and be able to stay home with my kids,” Nicola recalls. So control she took, spending time and resources to learn the craft of professional photography from mentors, books, workshops, classes and, eventually, experience. And as all great businesses experience shifts in focus, Nicola’s trajectory is moving at a fast pace towards the specialty of brand photography. “While my love for working with families and high school seniors remains… I have found great fulfillment in supporting fellow women as they take the leap to start or grow their business.”
Get to know this Canadian-born Riverwoods mom of two teens, more details about how Nicola Levine Photography began and where it’s going, photography tips, how she balances work/life and favorite places to dine, of course! Welcome, Nicola!
Hi Nicola! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What city do you live in now? What brought you here?
Hi, I’m Nicola Levine. I was born and raised in London, ON Canada. I came to Chicago area after high school when my father was transferred for work. I spent time in Champaign, IL during college and then lived in Chicago where I met my husband. We moved to Riverwoods shortly after our oldest daughter was born and have been here for the last 14 years.
Tell us about your children and please do brag way!
I’m a proud mom of two girls, aged 13 and 14! They truly have their unique personalities and interests, and it’s such a joy to support them as they grow and pursue their activities. One of my daughters is an artist. She’s got a real talent for drawing and has a true passion for music. I love how she’s always creating and writing her own stories.
My other daughter is our social butterfly. She’s such an extrovert and absolutely adores spending time hanging out with her friends. We are thrilled with her determination and focus in developing her tennis skills. She has set her sights on making the high school tennis team. It is a great joy to see her passion for the sport.
And you? What’s something that you’re proud of about yourself?
Swimming has been a huge part of my life. Throughout high school and college I had the opportunity to compete as a swimmer. I was able to participate at the national level in Division I NCAA Championships and Canadian Olympic trials. While my competitive days are behind me, it is a sport that will always be important to me and I still get in the pool several times a week.
What are your favorite North Shore places, spaces and eats to frequent?
I am a huge fan of That Little French Guy! Whenever I’m in Highland Park, you can bet I’ll make a beeline for their treats like a chocolate chip cookie, croissant, or chocolate mousse tart. When it comes to satisfying my sushi cravings, Blufish Sushi is the place to go. Highwood has some great spots too! Miramar and Froggy’s French Café are among our favorites there. And I can’t forget Bobby’s Deerfield – it’s become a staple for us.
What gets you through a tough day (ie. lots of coffee, yoga, meditation, wine, a good book, etc)?
My mornings usually start off with a workout – swimming being my favorite way to stay in shape. At the end of the day I like to unwind by enjoying something chocolate or sweet and escaping into a good book – almost always a romance novel. Oh, and I’ll rarely say no to a glass of wine ❤️
We love a good mantra and I bet we can guess what yours’ is…
“Just keep swimming”
Please introduce Nicola Levine Photography. How did you get into photography and decide to start a business around it?
I started my career as a speech-language pathologist. I took time away from that profession when my first daughter was born. Just as I was preparing to return to work, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Given the circumstances, I realized how crucial it was for me to do something I truly loved, have control over my schedule, and be able to stay home with my kids. At that point, photography, which had been a hobby, emerged as the perfect fit. I poured all my energy and passion into starting my photography business in 2016. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of capturing beautiful moments for families and high school seniors all over the North Shore. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I’ve cherished every step of this journey.
In the past couple of years I have expanded my business to include personal branding photography. I’m grateful for the opportunity to combine my love for photography, support other women entrepreneurs and have the flexibility to be there for my family.
What is your busy season?
The fall months are my busy season. This is when most families want to have their family portraits. I have already started scheduling those fall sessions. Get in touch if you are interested!
We have to ask… what are a few tips you can share with us about how we can take our own excellent photos? Do you have any workshops coming up that we can attend?
While I do not have any workshops, I often share educational material in my blog articles. Here is one that might be of interest: “Tips For Improving The Composition Of Your Smartphone Pictures: [CLICK HERE]
For those of us who are reluctant to spend money on photography sessions either for our families or professional endeavors, why do you think it’s important to invest in professional photography?
Most of us carry camera phones these days, and they serve their purpose for capturing day-to-day stories. However, when you’re seeking images of exceptional quality, something worth preserving, displaying proudly in your home, or using for your business promotions, turning to a professional is the way to go. Professional photographers are masters of lighting, ensuring each shot is beautifully illuminated. They have an eye and knowledge of composition to create a strong image. A professional photographer understands posing techniques designed to flatter the variety of body shapes and sizes, making you feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera. In addition, a professional photographer has the post-processing skills to touch-up your images. Another significant advantage of using a professional photographer is the high resolution of the images they are able to create. This means your images will have the resolution needed for quality printing so they can be enlarged and displayed in the walls of your home, or for advertising materials to grow your small business.
What training have you gone through to become a professional photographer?
I’ve taken classes at Chicago Photography Classes. My first mentor, Amy Tripple, was instrumental in helping me launch my business in 2016. Since then I regularly complete Online Masterminds and courses.
You started out as a portrait and family photographer. Why are you pivoting to specialize in brand photography?
While my love for working with families and high school seniors remains, as a former speech-language pathologist turned photographer, I have found great fulfillment in supporting fellow women as they take the leap to start a new business, switch careers or refresh their look to grow their businesses. Branding photography offers me the exciting opportunity not only to capture the narrative of other entrepreneurs’ brands but also to collaborate and network with like-minded women. I am excited by the growing number of entrepreneurs I have met, as it is fostering an environment of encouragement and support. We have been able to celebrate each other’s achievements, share knowledge and experiences, and offer guidance through the challenges that come with running a business and balancing family life. This growing network is a valuable resource, allowing me to evolve both professionally and personally.
Nicola Levine Photography Branding session with Ellie of Chicago North Shore Moms
What is brand photography?
Brand photography empowers you to build lasting personal connections with your audience. High-quality professional images that showcase the real you attract new clients because they make you relatable, someone people can’t wait to work with and tell their friends about. It’s an investment that shows people you’re serious about your business and that they can trust the products and services you offer. After a branding session, you will have a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind visuals at your fingertips to consistently share your brand’s story in fresh, creative ways across all of your marketing platforms, from website to social media to online advertising.
What’s next for you, Nicola?
I plan to continue to build and expand the branding aspect of my business. I want to establish strong partnerships with women business owners in complementary fields so we can offer a holistic branding experience to clients. Integrating my branding photography with graphic designers, social media marketers and web designers will offer a comprehensive and united branding service to our clients.
Give us your dets!
About our Meet of Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here! Contact Mary directly here: [email protected].