UNL student owns and operates photography business

Nate Olsen has been hooked on photography ever since elementary school.

During family vacations, his parents would buy disposable cameras and he would constantly take pictures of the vacation.

“I would go through two or three disposable film cameras on our vacation,” the 22-year-old UNL senior said.

A photography business

Combining his passion for photography with an entrepreneurial mindset, a photography business, Creative Olsen, was founded in 2013.

He started with senior pictures in his hometown of Gretna, Nebraska, and now he takes pictures for essentially anything.

“It’s pretty much just a photography business, but I don’t like to say that because it’s not just a photography business, it’s a photography experience,” he said.

He said his work is very personalized and he bases everything on the individual he is shooting.

“The idea is I have to think how I’m going to capture it, but that’s based off of who they are and what they do,” he said.


Working with just two cameras and lenses––no studio or storefront––Olsen relies on word of mouth and Facebook advertisements to reach customers.

With a lot of his business occurring in Gretna or Omaha, he is always busy and on the move, working an estimated 50 to 60 hours a week in his busy season. He described himself as being constantly on his email and considers his office to be wherever his laptop is.

“He puts a ton of not only time, but heart into it and I think people see that,” said Brad Stauffer, a neighbor of Olsen’s in Gretna whom Olsen considers to be a mentor.

Working for the Cornhuskers

Creative Olsen wasn’t his first foray into the photography world. Before creating his own business, Olsen worked as an assistant athletic photographer for UNL’s athletic department.

Because he was photographing sports games for a Big Ten school, his work was ultimately used by companies like Getty Images and ESPN.

He said he learned a lot about photography and running a business in his time with the Cornhuskers and took what he learned and applied it to his own business.

Balancing work and school

Olsen’s major is in advertising and public relations.

While this doesn’t directly relate to running a photography business, he said it has helped him learn how to build a brand.

Olsen is minoring in business and he is putting that to good use.

His first work experience came in fifth grade when his grandfather paid him $30 a day to pick up sticks in his yard in Council Bluffs and he hasn’t stopped since.

“I’ve always been working,” he said. “It’s built into me and now I’m working even when I’m not supposed to be.”

All of the work, the 50-hour weeks with photography combined with other work at H&H Lawn and Landscape and school, leaves him with little free time.

Even with years of experience, he said he still struggles to balance it all. His social life takes a hit and he can become less motivated for school.

“There’s 86,400 seconds in a day,” he said. “I use every single one of them.”

What the future holds

With Olsen’s academic career coming to an end (he plans to graduate in December), he has begun to look to the future.

He said he doesn’t have a specific plan right now, but he has a general idea of what he wants to do, though that is constantly changing.

“The best way to say it is I want to make an impact, specifically on Gretna and Omaha,” he said. “I don’t know what that is yet. It’s going to be something along the lines of entrepreneurship, venture capitalist, investing.”

While Olsen’s future plan doesn’t revolve around Creative Olsen, he still plans to continue working with it on the side, though at a reduced level, as his creative outlet.

Stauffer said he sees Olsen as an entrepreneur and thinks he will be successful in whatever he does, in part because of his work ethic.

“I don’t know if it will be in photography or marketing or something totally different, but some people have that entrepreneurial spirit where they like to start from scratch and build something and make it work and be in charge of it and it just sure seems like him.”

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