Nick Onken, Lifestyle Photographer

The first two things come to mind when I think of Nick Onken: digital lifestyle photographer to the world and Pencils of Promise.

2014 Pencils of Promise Ghana 200th

image courtesy of Pencils of Promise

I met Nick years ago just as Pencils of Promise was getting off the ground. Hands down, his images put PoP on the map of fastest growing nonprofits today.

Since that time, I’ve watched Nick grow as a beautiful photographer and individual with a trademark style.

His creative eye, spirit for life, and arm candy attracted me instantly. Aside from all his great attributes and bracelets (I feel like I’m his wing woman here!), what inspires me most about Nick is

he doesn’t stop creating.


Nick is a hustler behind the lens. You’ll follow him on Instagram (one of my favorite accounts) jet setting all around the world, giving us glimpses to what we may imagine as fantasies but to him is a job. Shooting great photos. Even Usher requested Nick to join in as his personal photographer for their family vacation.  Nick dedicates a majority of his philanthropic work to Pencils of Promise. The list just keeps going. You can find his published photography book on Amazon and his voice on a new podcast series he hosts. In his free time? He’s mentoring young photographers trying to break into the business or making us swoon when shares photos of his adorable nephews.  Nick Onken is more than just lifestyle photography, he is a brand genius that is on a roll.

Currently Nick. ShopTalk Radio is a podcast series that hosts rad people (rising stars you’ve heard about before) doing cool stuff.  It helps that his globe-trotting skills play a huge part in his people-trotting journey. Everything bleeds and blends together when you love what you do.  It’s meant to be an inspiration platform for those listening in.  

Check out a few of his recent talks 

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“What’s on your desk today, Nick?”

  • Nick’s studio in NY is the first level of his apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
  • He even takes the time to print his work out routine on his letterhead.
  • His everyday style, working or chilling, is a bit of rock and roll but comfortable.
  • He collects vintage cameras so he’s got respect for the old and new.
  • Nick contributes to a greener life by riding his bike as much as he can.
  • He’s really into the color red.

What time do you start your day? Well, every day/week is different depending on if I’m traveling or not. When I’m home, I’ve been getting up on the earlier side around 7:30 to give me some morning time before the employees come in. I like to get a workout/podcast in before the day gets started.

“The hustle doesn’t happen unless you get out of bed. Vision is key for my drive as well.”


What has been your most favorite shoot location so far? Depends on what I’m shooting, but in terms of travel, I love South East Asia. There’s so much going on there culturally that’s unique, and every country is visually different than the next.


Who are your favorite artists and photographers you follow? I love Banksy. In terms of art, his style is my jam. With other photographers, I love Mario Testino, Peggy Sirota, Bruce Weber, Dewey Nicks and a few others. I love photographers that shoot natural light and transcend time.

what's on Nick's coffee table?

what’s on Nick’s coffee table?

Do you listen to other podcasts? I love Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness, Michael Hyatt’s podcast, and Jonathan Fields Good Life Project

Any tips on building your personal brand online? Well isn’t that the question of the decade. Ha! I’d say professional photos are huge in connecting you with your audience. Studies show that images of ourselves in our brand connect people with us in a different way. I think it’s about bringing in as many dimensions as possible. I did a shoot with Lewis Howes for his brand, and it took his brand to the next level.

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

Is NYC home, for good? For the time being. I’m not sure where I’ll end up down the line. I love it here for now. Until I get hitched I don’t plan on leaving. Even then it will depend on my lovely lady adventure partner and what we want for our lives at that time.

Describe what you would do on a first date. Depends on the person and the season. Summer time, a walk on the high line, some delicious craft cocktails, and a foodie restaurant could be in order.

Ladies, he’s single. Leave your name and number in the comments if you want an intro.

What music is #nowplaying when you’re having a bad day? That changes frequently. I usually listen to whatever I’m in the mood for. I’ve been jamming out to some vintage soul funk lately through the Beatsmusic app.

What’s your favorite restaurant currently? Favorite restaurant in NYC currently is Kin Shop. Everything on the menu is delicious.

What are you doing next? I love tshirts and tanks. I’ve always wanted to design my own, and now I’m doing that. Even if it remains just a side passion project, that’s ok with me. It’s fun, and I love making them the way I want them. 

“Create what you wish existed in the world right?”

emblazoned on his wall in his studio


Photos by me taken with Nikon D40

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