Nicole Hayward, a senior at the University of Mississippi, is proving that blondes have more fun when they run their own businesses. The college junior is using her passion for photography to earn money.
“I have always been very artistic, even from a young age,” said Hayward, an Oxford native and general studies major with three minors — art, digital media studies, and journalism.
“Since I am an art minor, I have the opportunity to engage in lots of different kinds of art, like drawing, ceramics, sculpture and graphic design,” she said. “I love exploring different areas of art and experimenting with what I enjoy.”
Though Hayward enjoys working in different mediums, she is most passionate about photography. She launched her business Hey Blondie Pics in 2018.
“I have always had a passion for taking pictures,” said Hayward. “Ever since high school, I have had a nice camera that I used for friends’ birthday parties and high school football games. All of my friends constantly asked me to take pictures for them.”
Hayward has been doing recreational photography since 2014. However, in 2018, she decided to turn her passion into a profession.
“In September of 2018, one of my friends asked me to take some pictures of her and her boyfriend so they would have some cute pictures to post on Instagram for their anniversary,” said Hayward. “They loved the pictures, and even said they looked like an engagement shoot, and that I should get into professional photography. From there, I continued to practice and do shoots for my friends and gain more experience.”
“Nicole is such a talented photographer,” said Mary Chatman, a senior at the University of Mississippi and one of Hayward’s clients. “Her shoots are always very casual and fun, and the pictures always turn out amazing.”
Chatman, one of Hayward’s close friends, was instrumental in encouraging Hayward to launch her photography business.
“I think the more fun and relaxed a photography session is, the better the pictures turn out,” said Chatman. “Nicole always makes sure her clients are having fun with a shoot and that they are comfortable.”
On her Instagram account @heyblondiepics , Hayward publishes select shots from shoots as a look book for potential clients. On Facebook, she has a more extensive gallery of photos from her shoots.
“My friends and family have been incredibly helpful in terms of spreading the word about my photography business,” said Hayward. “They are constantly sharing my shoots on social media and recommending me to anyone that asks.”
Because Hayward is a college student, many of her clients are college students or recent graduates. She understands that most students cannot spend hundreds of dollars for a photography session.
“I try to be super affordable for my market, which is mostly college students,” said Hayward. “As I gain more experience, I slowly increase my prices, as I feel my photography experience reflects an increase in skill. As of now, my rates are set at $50/hr for a solo session, and $35/hr and a half per person for a session.
“I don’t make very much money because I try to be as affordable as possible for college students, while at the same time, I am really just using each photo session I do as a learning experience to really fine tune my craft,” said Hayward. “I’m all about increasing my skill level right now.”
Hayward said she saves the money she earns whenever possible. “Whatever is not saved is just what I use for spending money for fun things like shopping or going out to eat,” she said. “I would not say the money has a big impact on my life. The money is not why I started HeyBlondiePics. It is more the experience, so I am very happy with where I am at right now.”
Hayward began her business shooting senior graduation sessions for her sorority sisters. She has since done several graduation photo sessions and engagement sessions and headshots. She hopes to expand her portfolio and will be shooting two weddings this spring.
“I am having a lot of fun doing engagement sessions right now,” said Hayward. “Engagement shoots are something I have not had a lot of experience doing until the last couple of months.”
Hayward has had the opportunity to work with many of her close friends and do shoots with them.
“My favorite shoot is an engagement session I did a couple of weeks ago for one of my close family friends,” said Hayward. “It was so fun, lighthearted, and easygoing, which made the whole shoot turn out beautifully. Something I love about my line of work is being able to do what I am passionate about and create wonderful memories with close friends.”
Hayward has done shoots at several Oxford locations. She said most of her graduation sessions are shot on campus at various locations, such as the Walk of Champions, the Phi Mu Fountain, and at the Vaught Hemingway stadium. Other locations include the Square, Rowan Oak, and special locations like fields and back roads.
“Most of the time, I ask what kind of vibe the client wants, and then I am able to offer up locations based on that,” said Hayward. “A lot of people will pick certain pictures from my @heyblondiepics social media accounts and ask me to recreate them.”
Hayward turned something she loved into a source of income, and she encourages every college student to do the same. For people interested in advancing their photography skills, Hayward insists the camera you shoot with makes a difference.
“I currently use a Canon Rebel T7i, which I really enjoy,” said Hayward. “I have had this camera for two years, and it has definitely helped me grow as a photographer. I look forward to upgrading to a higher grade professional camera as I continue to grow my business. I think the camera makes a difference because different cameras and lenses are suited for different kinds of photography.”