Nicole Franzen is a food & lifestyle photographer living in Brooklyn, New York. Passionate about food and photography from a young age, she now runs La Buena Vida, a blog that features her cooking, travel, and love for the finer things in life. Posting recipes comprised of the freshest ingredients and unique pairings, Nicole inspires her readers towards gourmet yet attainable cooking.

Self-taught both as a cook and a photographer, Nicole is proof that excellence can be achieved with dedication and perseverance. Her story is one to encourage people to pursue what you love wholeheartedly, to take risks, and to make the most of the opportunities that come your way.

All images below were shot on an iPhone using VSCO Cam™.

Which do you enjoy more, cooking a meal at home or going out to eat?

I thoroughly enjoy both. While I tend to cook at home 98 percent of the time, I do enjoy a good meal out. That could be anything from going to an outdoor food market, a local favorite or a delicious meal in a fine restaurant. I tend to skip most restaurants that cook the same food I do at home. I tend to always feel gipped, leaving and asking myself why I just spent $14 on a salad I could have made 10 times better at home. I truly love cooking and the whole process. It makes you really appreciate what you eat.

Who or what experience has been the most influential in helping you develop your cooking skills?

To be honest, my passion for food and cooking started really young. While many kids were at ballet or music lessons, I was at home glued to the food network. My mother was a super hard working single parent and couldn't afford to send me to all those extra curricular activities. Although, I don't think that would have strayed me too far anyways. My love for food was prominent. I got my first restaurant job at fourteen and started learning the ropes. Up to this day, my passion has not faded in the least. I've learned from many amazing chefs along the way.

Since graduating high school in Taos, New Mexico, you've lived in St. John in the US Virgin Islands, Argentina, and now New York City. Do you see yourself moving anytime soon? If so, where would you like to be next?

I've been very fortunate to have lived in so many diverse places. When I was seventeen, I had no intention or desire to go to college. Instead, I wanted to travel, work seasonally in restaurants and live my life. My love for Latin cultures was always strong. I worked really hard and saved money to go to Argentina, where I settled in Buenos Aires. I learned all about taking the time to relax and enjoy life. My desires for life had changed, and I had a new outlook. I came to New York City in hopes to pursue my dreams and have a full grasp of everything you could ever want. Like many say, after living here for a while, it can become hard to picture yourself anywhere else. I do, however, picture a house with a garden, surrounded by trees, and the ocean nearby. Nature is really important to me, whether it be somewhere not too far from the city or a whole new country, I'm not certain.

In relation to food, what do you love most about living in Brooklyn?

Brooklyn's food scene is amazing. I love it here. The food is fun, delicious, approachable and accesible. People are young, inspired and innovative. It's growing and evolving everyday. I love being a part of it. 

As a self-taught photographer, what advice would you give to novice food and lifestyle photographers?

Passion will take you far. If you love anything enough, you will make your dreams a reality. Practice, lots of practice, and the constant itch to get better is necessary. Always focus on improving, growing and trying new things. Give yourself a pat on the back when you do accomplish your goals or have a breakthrough. I have to remind myself of that as my eagerness can sometimes get the best of me. A little competitiveness is necessary in order to drive you sometimes. Take a minute to think about a shot before you capture it; what are you trying to say? Patience and a calm approach are best. Rushing gets you nowhere.  

Can you please share with our readers 3 quick tips to styling and photographing food?

1. Less is more. Use smaller portions of food and less props. Keep it simple.
2. Natural light is your best friend. Place your plate near a window, and you will be amazed. Avoid shooting in dark places and using a flash on food.
3. Create layers. Reserve some of the ingredients such as fresh herbs, ground pepper, and cheese to layer in and create intrigue.

In what ways is VSCO Cam an asset to your photographic toolkit?

I love the VSCO app; it's one of the few apps out there that I actually like the filters. They are subtle and don't distract from the image itself, enhancing without taking away. The filters have a great variety, and I've become a big fan. People make magic with this app. Next, I want to start applying them to my professional photos. 


Favorite places to shop:

J.Crew, Madewell, ABC Home, Brook Farm General Store, Anthropologie, Canvas