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From Wollongong to the world – how a former TAFE NSW student became the best in the business

TAFE NSW Wollongong West

From Wollongong to the world – how a former TAFE NSW student became the best in the business

9 October 2019


Wollongong photographer Nerida Brain has credited TAFE NSW for equipping her with the foundational skills that she has built on to be recognised as one of the world’s best photographers.

Last month, Ms Brain was notified that she had won gold at the International Photography Awards in New York.  

“When I saw my name as the winner for the Newborns and Baby International Photographer of the Year I had to read it again. I was in shock,” she said.

“It’s one of the biggest photography awards in the world and I’m just a girl from the Gong.”

She admits she knew very little about photography before enrolling at TAFE NSW Wollongong West with a goal to become a landscape photographer.

She had only purchased her first digital SLR camera five months before enrolling in Certificate IV in Photography.

Two years, and a Diploma of Photography and Photo Imaging later, she graduated with honours as an accomplished portrait photographer. Landscapes were no longer on her radar.

After five years building on the photography and business skills she learned at TAFE NSW, she built her brand Nerida Louise Photography into an award-winning Illawarra business.

Always striving to be better, she entered business awards as well as national and international photography awards, claiming several golds, silvers and honourable mentions. But last month’s win is the pinnacle of the career that she loves.

“The moment I took that image I knew that it was going to be special.” She said she was proud of the fact that she only enters images she gives to her clients as part of her work. “The photos I enter are not shot for an award and I think that makes it even more special.”

“I didn’t expect this award. I entered hoping to receive some useful feedback and learn how to move forward,” she said. Moving forward for Ms Brain could mean a return to TAFE NSW but this time as a teacher.

“I started at TAFE NSW knowing basically nothing about photography. My teachers gave me so many skills and so much hands-on experience to build on; not just in imagery but also in how to start my own business, about branding and websites, all that handy background information.

“The teachers shared their broad industry experience with us covering commercial photography, digital, darkroom, Photoshop, fine art, film and lighting. Their experience was diverse and their feedback was equally diverse, something I found extremely valuable.”

“I’m working on my teaching qualifications and hope one day I can teach others and offer them the same inspiration and support I received to be in a career I love,” she said.

TAFE NSW offers more than 1,200 courses, diplomas and degrees across the state and online through TAFE Digital. For more information phone 13 16 01 or visit


Media contact: Adam Wright, TAFE NSW Media Officer, 4421 9895, mobile 0466 375 552.