Meet Nailah Howze, aka @CloudNaiii — an evolving lifestyle + creative photographer currently based in the Bay Area. Driven by her passion and genuine love of seeing others accomplish their goals, she captures people in their natural elements and makes it look as if they belong on billboards. Her powerful images go far beyond of the quality of her camera and fancy equipment, though... The way she nurtures her craft with dedication and enthusiasm is the reason why she's able to inspire so many who are introduced to her work. This week, Nailah took some time out of her busy schedule (she's a BOSS working full-time in the Air Force admist slaying shoots!) to FaceTime with me and share stories about her journey and the vision behind her photography.
Tell me about yourself.
I'm 21 years old. I'm from Long Beach, California, raised in Carson, California, but I lived in North Carolina for 7 years. I'm a military brat so I move a lot... I lived in Korea before I lived in the Bay Area and that's what got me really started in photography. I was doing a lot of video blogs out there and posting like small snippets; so originally I bought my camera to do video and ended up doing photography.
About how old were you when you started?
I've always had cameras since I was little... That's what I asked for every year, for every single birthday. I'd be like, "Mom, just get me a camera... Just get me a camera." But I didn't get what I really needed, with all the fancy equipment, until I was able to save for it. I bought my camera in November 2015 and ever since then I've just been going hard with it; since the day I bought the camera. I was dreaming about the camera like on some weird stuff... Literally dreaming about it!
What kind of camera do you use?
I have a Canon 6D. Usually I don't say that in interviews only because people ask me that question a thousand times a day... And I like to tell people it's really not the camera; it's about how you operate the camera. I've seen people shoot on cameras way lower than mine, on downgraded versions, and kill it... And I've seen people shoot on cameras way better than me and pictures don't come out as good because they don't know how to operate it. If you hit me up thinking the camera is gonna make the photos come out hella clean, you're wrong... Do your research before buying any camera!
What are your career aspirations?
I really don't like to put myself in a box. There are a lot of different things I wanna dip and dabble into... But overall, I wanna have my own marketing agency. I've always been big on marketing and branding people and photography was the perfect way to bring in my creative visions as well as help other girls brand and market themselves. Somehow I'm going to tie all of that into something in the future, whether I end up working for a magazine, having my own agency, or working for a network doing their marketing and creative direction... I'm not sure exactly where I wanna take it yet.
What do you want to achieve with your work?
I'm not gonna sit here and say there's some deep message behind every photo — because there's not. It's not always about that. My favorite type of photography to do is candid photos of people who aren't really paying attention and I just have my camera out, snapping... That means more to me because I know it's a genuine moment; it's a rare moment and a you can't take that same picture twice type of thing. My work is about being authentic and real, and focusing on the clarity. Not doing over-editing of the skin and making you look like a whole new person... Just bringing out the best qualities of you without having to alter features on you to make you look different.
What's a valuable lesson you feel that you've learned so far?
Professionalism will take you a long way. You're going to have people coming at you all types of ways when you work in any type of business and you really just gotta stay professional. Keep pushing positivity. At times there are gonna be so many bombs dropped in so many random ways... And you just have to ask yourself, "Is me reacting to this situation gonna help my brand in any way? Is this gonna solve anything?" I've learned to let things go... Like you could be cussing me out and I'll still give you blessings and wish you luck in the future. Even if I don't necessarily mean it, I'm still going to be nice. The biggest lesson I've learned is to swallow my pride, let things go, and move on to bigger and better things... And to out-do that person! Whoever just tried to come at you foul, you gotta out-do em now!
What's some advice you'd give a younger version of yourself?
Honestly, the younger version of me was always worried about what every body else thought — constantly. When I lived in North Carolina, I lived in an interesting area to say the least... And I was always pretty artsy. I always dressed different and people would constantly have something to say so I was constantly trying to change how I did things because of what someone else was saying... But now I realize that I should have just kept things the way they were. Why was I trippin' off those people? I was sooo worried about what they had to say and now they don't even matter to me! Just stay true to yourself no matter what anybody says. I'd rather someone hate me for me being me than love me for being someone who I'm not at all.
Keep up with Nailah's work by following her below and to inquire about a photo shoot, contact her through her website!
[these things take time.] the poetry book available on amazon.com.