We caught up with Nathan Hands, 28, who works full-time at Transport for London in Commercial Management. He's also an avid Instagrammer, who's building a following around his "moody" urban photography. Check his channel and be sure to follow him! @naypenrai
Tell us about you, your background and how you came to start on social media?
My names Nathan, I’m 28 and I go by the handle of naypenrai on my social media accounts. I’m from North Wales (Prestatyn) originally. I’ve been around a bit, and have had stints in Chester, Liverpool and Essex. I studied Business Management at University and have a PGC in Project Management. I was working on Marquees following a two year stint in Thailand doing the TEFL thing when I thought I’d try and land a job in the City and somehow got onto a graduate scheme on Crossrail. I spent a year and a half there and now I work on Crossrail 2. It was when I moved to London that I started taking pictures, originally of myself but I’ve decided I’m better behind the camera than in front of it.
He’ll love this but my mate @jamesbamz_ got me into it at first. He’s helped me connect with some great people and has guided me in terms of a structured feed (which I’m actually really bad at because I just want to try different things).
I was using my Samsung S7 Edge for a long time and I upgraded to a Canon 700d in March 2017, the awesome photographer Alex Cockwill helped me get to grips with what was my first DSLR and it was all a learning curve form there. Since then I’ve worked with some great brands and have upgraded my camera again and bought some more lenses. It’s been a crazy ride this year!
Tell us about what you do on your social channels?
I tend to take pictures of anything that takes my eye to be honest. But I’m predominately an urban/architecture photographer. What I really want to do is more portraiture, and I’ve actually just set up a little home-studio and have began working with a modelling agency. So that’s really great as I feel like I’m working toward my goals and learning a lot.
My content is definitely moody and I’d like to think it’s atmospheric. Most notably it’s always changing, which I think is symptomatic of me trying to find my own identity as a photographer but I’m nearly there I think.
When I first started out I used to compromise my style and feed just so I could work with brands and get paid but it’s different now, money isn’t the goal it’s just a byproduct. Now I want to create content that I feel stoked about creating and not just something I’ve been paid to do which may make me compromise on my style and approach to things.
What social channel have you grown your following on?
I’m 100% Instagram at the moment. @naypenrai
I’d love to explore other channels but in between working a full time job and finding time to shoot and edit, it’s a bit much to be managing social accounts on multiple fronts. I love 500px, and I’ve had some great opportunities come from that. One of my images was an editors choice, which then went on to be published in the UK's best selling photography magazine and I’ve also been asked to collab on a book. So that’s a great platform.
How often do you post and update your audience? What content works best for you?
I try to keep my story updated daily. I’m quite bad at putting myself out there but I want to try and connect with people a bit more so I’m making those steps to engage and connect with my audience. I want to offer advice and support to others who are just starting out. It’s the dopest feeling.
When did you first start seeing you were building a following?
It was late 2016 and some of the pictures I was taking were starting to get a lot of likes. When I bought my camera my engagement suffered because all of a sudden I was showing my audience something completely different and not necessarily something they followed me for. But I think that’s netted off now. My challenge this year is to use Instagram to demonstrate maybe one or two particular aspects of photography that I love to do. It’s hard to succeed when you’re trying to do everything.
What are your ambitions with your social channels? Where do you want to take it?
I don’t think that aiming for x amount of followers or x amount of likes is healthy, to be honest. I just want to be the best that I can possibly be and if my social accounts benefit from that, then that’s a lovely feeling I think.
If you could work with any brand in the world, who would you choose and why?
Doc Martens would be sweet. I’ve worked with awesome Whiskey brands like Haig which was sick, too. Working directly with Canon is a dream of mine.
I think there are some opportunities out there that I think I’d love, but I don’t even know exist…does that make sense? Like the “known unknowns”? I find out about stuff my peers have done and I’m always like “you can do that?!”.
Anything that involves travel…that would be so cool because I love being out of my comfort zone.
Predominately I want to work with people, so anything that involves portraiture would be ideal.
Who’s an influencer you admire most and why?
@harisnukem by a considerable distance. Some of his live streams are worth their weight in gold in terms of not just photography advice but just general outlooks as well. He should do a podcast.
How do you think the Influencer Marketing industry will change in the next year?
Seems like it’s headed toward pay to play to be honest. Which is sad. I’ve posted sponsored posts before so I was guaranteed to turn up on a feed but felt awful about it afterwards. I’d rather people wanted to come to my page because they’re wondering if I’ve posted anything lately. Shouldn’t that be everyone’s goal? Rather than shoving yourself in everyone’s faces?
It seems as though if you’re not already big on IG, then it’ll be a challenge to get noticed. But if you just want to be you and your goal is to make awesome content, then success will come anyway.
What relationship do you have with your followers? How do you engage with them?
I’m pretty bad at this to be honest. I think for two reasons 1) I used to follow way too many feature/hub accounts so I’d never see what my followers were up to, I’ve now unfollowed all of them so I’m seeing awesome accounts that I haven’t seen for a while again. It’s so much better. And so much more varied in terms of the content I see on my feed.
2) I’m quite camera shy, so I’m not someone that likes to video myself talking to the camera or whatever.
I talk to people when I get DMs, especially if they want advice on photography or whatever else. I feel very proud that people look to me for that kind of advice, it’s reassuring because I’m very critical of my work.
How would you say you’re different to other influencers in your space? What do you look for that others don’t?
I just look for whatever catches my eye. Everyone has a different eye which is unique to them. I’ve only been taking photographs since March so I think I’m still finding my feet in terms of an aesthetic. It will definitely be moody though!
What do you enjoy least about social media?
Good question – probably how it influences the behaviour of those who use it and present false images of themselves.
What’s the best thing about Social Media?
The best thing is meeting and genuinely connecting with people.
Tell us one thing people might not know about you?
I played a drinking game (the cereal box game) and snapped my femur and my lung collapsed. My left leg is stuck together with a titanium pin.
Can you give any advice to people looking to start their own Instagram, YouTube etc? How can they stand out from the crowd?
Just be yourself and create dope content. Don’t chase numbers.
Where can people follow you?
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