Nico Schaerer

A black and white close up photograph of a male skier speeding down a mountain, leaving a trail of powdered snow in his wake. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 by Nico Schaerer.

Freelance photographer Nico Schaerer photographed Swiss siblings and professional skiers Mélanie and Loïc Meillard (shown here) for Switzerland Tourism. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 35mm, 1/2000 sec, f/8 and ISO 200. © Nico Schaerer

Freelance landscape, travel and commercial photographer Nico Schaerer has an impressive range of talents. A globetrotter who has worked in countries all over the world, Nico's list of clients includes Porsche, Red Bull, National Geographic Traveller and Audi.

Born in the countryside near Zurich, Switzerland, Nico's love for photography comes from his father. "He had a darkroom, so as a kid I joined him and learnt the whole process of taking a photo and developing the film," Nico says.

Nico went on to graduate from the St. Joost School of Art & Design, Breda, Netherlands, in 2002, and the first two years of his course were centred around shooting in analogue. "I had a Canon back then," he says.

That is also when Nico developed his taste for travel. "I bought a former army truck and changed everything inside – what they would call 'van life' today," he says. "I wanted a mobile platform where I could travel, work and live. I drove through Africa, Asia, visited India and more, for more than two years."

He lived in his truck for almost seven years altogether before he bought a motorbike to travel through Europe and beyond. "I shipped the bike to Buenos Aires in a box," he smiles. "I travelled the whole of South America with a camera by my side, constantly photographing."

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Nico Schaerer.
Location: Zurich, Switzerland

Specialist areas: Commercial, landscape, travel

Favourite kit:

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM
A black and white photograph of three people shot from behind, each about 30 metres apart, skiing down a mountain. In the background mountains stretch into the distance. Taken on a Canon EOS R by Nico Schaerer.

Shooting skiers in the mountains can be stressful as you don't want to interrupt their rhythm and need to be quick on your feet to change camera settings according to the conditions. Physical fitness is essential too, according to Nico, because you'll be carrying heavy equipment on long hikes. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 28mm, 1/640 sec, f/8 and ISO 100. © Nico Schaerer

Car light trails in evening light down the side of a large mountain. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III by Nico Schaerer.

"I really enjoy direct communication with the client, to understand what they want and to create something together," says Nico. For Audi, Nico drove and photographed the Grand Tour of Switzerland route in an Audi SQ5. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens at 30 sec, f/8 and ISO 100. © Nico Schaerer

The freelance life isn't always straightforward or easy. "I'd been away for 10 years, so when I got back to Switzerland, nobody was waiting for me; I had no network," says Nico. "My camera broke on my trip and my laptop wasn't working properly so I couldn't even tell people I was a photographer because I was a builder without a hammer."

Even though his portfolio was packed with beautiful photographs of Indian landscapes and portraits, everyone told Nico to come back when he had references. "I knew someone who worked at a big advertising agency," he recalls. "They invited me there and we built a connection. They asked me to be part of a huge European campaign for Coca Cola."

While Nico describes it as "a little gamble", he trusted his instincts and went with it, and that helped open more doors for him, enabling him to get back on his feet. "It wasn't easy but nothing ever is," he says.

Fluffy clouds captured against an orangery-purple sky. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III by Nico Schaerer.

"I like using mid-format cameras but the usability of Canon is unbeatable," says Nico. "Sometimes I'm under a lot of time pressure, so I have to be quick, and my Canon kit has never disappointed me." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/6.7 and ISO 2000. © Nico Schaerer

A mountain range in early morning light and bathed in a blue-tinged mist. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 by Nico Schaerer.

Nico isn't a fan of heavy editing or using too many filters on his images, and meeting the client's expectations is like a "ping-pong game," he says. "You shoot, send the images to the client, then wait for the final selection from the client, and then I tell them to give me 10 days to deliver the final edits as I have other ongoing projects too." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/14 and ISO 100. © Nico Schaerer

Nico's photography mantra is simple: "it's about composition and storytelling". He believes that people always want to put photographers in a box according to their genres, but he likes to keep things varied. "I think it's just a little boring to do the same thing every day," he explains. "I really enjoy that one day I'm hanging from a helicopter in the Swiss Alps and the next day I'm shooting with a Michelin Star chef in a cactus field in Mexico."

Today, Nico tries to focus more on the creative side of photography. "My personal projects are where I have space to experiment with creativity," he says. "My business partner, who's a travel writer, and I have a website where we sell fine art prints, and that's a space I want to grow for myself, to go back to my roots, and just be an artist."

How has learning to shoot on analogue impacted your workflow today?

Even today, it's still an important process to me – to focus on what you're taking pictures of. With digital cameras, you just click, click, click. But when you have film inside, it's only 36 images. You have to be really aware and ask yourself, "Do I really need this shot or not?", whereas now, you just click and end up with thousands of images, wondering which one you like best. It's given me more perspective.

You travel a lot. Does it get exhausting?

When I started travelling, I wasn't under time pressure, but some days were still tiring. But in general, it was really nice to meet new people and just go with the flow. I was working a lot as a photographer back then and my workflow would go on to set the basis of the values I live with even today.

What are the biggest challenges in being freelance?

Time management. You could get an email from a client saying, "We need 30 images by tomorrow afternoon," but it's already 5pm, and you have a shoot planned for the next day, so when are you going to do it? I travel a lot and have two kids, so it can be a big task to keep it together and not lose the quality you want to deliver. Another challenge is finding clients who share your values and vision because some clients might think that anyone can take a photo. You need to find someone who shares your ideas and views.

What advice would you give to someone looking to go freelance?

Be patient. Be brave. It's not going to be an easy path. You have to be really committed. Don't think, "I'll travel the world and it'll be easy." You need to be a businessperson and a photographer at the same time, but don't give up. Some photographers try it for a year and give up, but that's not how it works. This path is only for the ones who really, really want it.

One thing I know

Nico Schaerer

"I've never focused on getting awards and things like that. What makes me happy is that every day, I can earn money with my camera in my hands and have a beautiful day in beautiful parts of the world. What other people think of me is not that important. It's more what I feel when I do it. Quality is not a stamp that someone gives you; it's more about the reaction your images evoke in others."

Instagram: @nicoschaerer

Website: /

Nico Schaerer's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Nico Schaerer's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

A camera featuring advanced focusing and metering which captures moments and tracks them the instant they happen, even in difficult lighting. "This camera performs well in all conditions, and I love it," says Nico.


Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM

A versatile high-quality 35mm lens that's ideal for street, travel and close-up photography. Nico says: "Small but nice, I recently discovered this lens for myself and often use it as a macro when I'm travelling or for reportage."

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

The ultimate portrait lens for next generation imaging. "My all-time favourite," says Nico. "The lens performs in all situations, especially in low-light conditions. I use this lens for portraits, landscapes and architecture."

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

An ultra-wide angle zoom lens with 5-stops of Image Stabilisation is ideal for when innovative angles can make all the difference. "A wide-angle wonder," says Nico. "Initially, I was sceptical because I have always used fixed lenses, but this lens has converted me."

Canon RF 70-200mm F4L IS USM

A compact, lightweight telephoto zoom with 5-stops of Image Stabilisation to ensure great handheld results, closer focusing down to 0.6m and super-fast autofocus. "Very often used for sports and portraits, I have also started using this lens for architectural photography," says Nico.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

A consummate low-light performer with its incredible f/1.2 maximum aperture, enabling fine creative control over focusing and depth of field. "It's always good to have this lens with you," says Nico. "It's an absolute top lens and is very useful, especially in low-light conditions."

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

Part of Canon's prestigious L-series, featuring an Image Stabilizer with angle and shift detection that is highly effective at close focusing distances. "I love this lens to dive into another world of details, and I often used it for food and product photography," says Nico.


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