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How Summerana Academy Changed the Game for This Novice Photographer

This is a guest post courtesy of Nicole Shieh of Always Sweet Photography

Summerana products used: sunflower digital background, actions, skills I learned from workshop videos.

Over a year ago, when the pandemic was just beginning, my photography journey also began. At first, I was so terrified by Photoshop that I only used Lightroom for minor photography edits. Around the end of March 2020, I was searching for some fun inspiration images on the internet and came across a beautiful image with sparkler overlays applied. Moreover, it offered a free download to try. That is exactly how I found Summerana for the first time. I immediately joined their facebook group, Summerana Photography Society, and very quickly after joined the Summerana Academy. Now, Photoshop is my best friend in editing.


We were lucky enough to ask Nicole some questions about her journey thus far as a photographer and here are her answers.

Summerana products used: Floral Newborn Macro Digital Background, everyday action

How did you get started in Photography?

I purchased a basic crop sensor DSLR camera with a kit lens in my 20s. I treated it as a regular camera, so it was set Auto mode all the time. I didn’t know any post-editing skills at all for years. I wasn’t really into it until my first child was born. I spent most of my time with her and took the camera to capture every moment. It was the moment I fell in love with photography because I could capture her special moments. A couple years later, my second child was born. I upgraded to a full frame camera with a premier lens. At this time, I started using Lightroom for better photos. One and a half years ago, I started learning Photoshop when I tried a Summerana free product. Now, I am obsessed with how Photoshop can help in photography.

What was the inspiration behind your business name?

When I took photos of my children, I fell in love with their sweet smiles. I always want them to have sweet life. Also, I want to capture the sweet moments of my clients so that they can always cherish these moments. This is the inspiration of my business name.

What three words would you use to describe your photography style?

With help from Summerana, I am proud to say creative, fine art, and fun are words that describe my photography style.

Summerana products used: actions, elephant overlay, balloon overlay, Fall color digital background & skills I have learned from Summerana workshop videos.

Who are your favorite subjects to photograph?

My two girls are my favorite subjects, for sure. I love their every moment, whether they’re crying, smiling, or arguing. They are also my inspiration when I photograph something new.

Tell us about your experience with Summerana Academy. What has it done for you and your business?

I am very grateful for the experiences with Summerana Academy. I tried the free product accidentally while browsing the internet a little over a year ago. The Summerana free product opened up my understanding of photography. Soon, I joined the Summerana free trial membership, curiously trying everything in the Summerana library, especially watching tutorials. It was pretty hard for me at the beginning because I had zero knowledge about Photoshop (most amazing photos are edited in Photoshop). Also, English is not my first language. I needed to watch the tutorials over and over again, even rewinding and replaying parts several times. During the free Summerana membership period, I was able to make my first composite photo. Although it took me hours to finish, I was super excited about it. Later, I made a second, a third, and then more composite photos. The more I practiced, the less time it took. In addition, I was able to better understand Summerana tutorials and follow what the instructors were talking about. I had a very solid study during the free Summerana membership period. Because of my satisfaction with the Summerana Academy, I paid for the full membership. It’s worthy in all ways. I never had a doubt about Summerana Academy and I will keep continue to maintain my membership.

It’s been one and a half years since I first used Summerana products and learned skills from the Summerana tutorials. It has enhanced my photography style, skill, quality, and posing. I am not afraid of shooting in new environments. I’m also adding newborns and maternity shoots to my business now that I can edit beautiful skin and add magic touch to the photos so my clients will cherish them.  Offering composite photos is now included in my business offerings as well. Creating more stunning products for my clients will lead to more business. Being a Summerana member has been a game-changer for my business.

What are your favorite Summerana products?

All of them. I have used all of the Summerana products, including overlays, digital backgrounds, actions, brushes, presets, and all other products. In addition, the skills I have learned from Summerana tutorials and apply that knowledge when I edit my photos. There are so many amazing instructors who make the Summerana tutorials. I learn skills from different types of professional artists and hone my own style. There are different modules and tutorials from beginning levels to advanced editing and composite making. The tutorials even cover the marketing and business aspects. This is why I love Summerana. It covers everything I need. Also, Summerana Magazine is amazing, has a lot of content and incredible examples of photography.

Summerana products used: skin action, eye action, smile action, light overlay, animal overlays, beach digital backgrounds

Can you share more about your vision behind your dragon composite?

The dragon composite was made by accident. I took my girl out for a spring session. When it was done, she played with an umbrella for fun. I simply captured her fun moments. A few days later, Summerana released the dragon overlays which reminded me to check out her photos. The idea just came up for the composite. She didn’t really like the dragons (she likes unicorns, fairies, and other girly things). But she was really happy to see her fun poses with the dragon. This is why I love compositing photos. Making photos more interesting and creative.

Summerana products used: fine art & painterly action, light overlay, glitter overlay, dragon overlay, umbrella overlay. Summerana tutorials watched for inspiration: MODULE 7: Composite Editing – Advanced / Categories / Editing Workshops by Rachel Leah Photography / Bike to Motorcycle – iPhone composite editing workshop

If you could give any advice to a photographer who is just starting out, what advice would you give them?

Practice makes photography easier and helps me perfect my shots. I practice using the gears, software, shooting photos, editing, etc. Don’t be shy to share your photos and ask for critical critique if you join any photography group. By the way, Summerana Photography Society (the Summerana Facebook group) is my favorite group. I post my edited and composited photos there to ask for critical critique. The group members are very friendly and advise me so I can improve on my photos. I also participate in the weekly Top Photographers challenge and submit to the monthly magazine selection. The more I participate, the better I master photo skills. If you have a budget, join a good photography education resource to enhance your photography skills in all ways.

Finally, where do you see your photography business in 5 years?

Business wise, I would like to see more growth, taking on more clients and generating more profitable revenue. Personally, I hope to see myself finding more clarity, producing more fine artwork and taking on more challenges, as well as receiving awards or having something of mine published.

Summerana products used: dreamy digital background, grass overlay, fine art & painterly action

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