SAM SZOSTAK - INTERVIEW
Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and how did you get into photography?
Hey, I'm Sam! I'm a travel and wedding photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. I recently graduated with a BA in Political Science. After I finished up university, I went on to do my post graduate in public relations - until I didn't. I dropped out of my post graduate program after 2 days. I had a gut wrenching feeling the entire time leading up to those difficult 2 days. Sitting in that classroom was sucking the life out of me, I knew this wasn't something I was passionate about, and I really didn't want to retire my camera to focus on school and a career in something I didn't even want. Fast forward 3 months and I've booked almost 10 wedding for the upcoming year, I've spent the past few months travelling and have no intention of stopping. I received my first DSLR when I was 15, took photography classes, and was a hobbyist until the age 21. I'm 22 now and I've started my own photography business, I get to take photos of people in love on a daily basis. It's pretty rad.
Please provide us with a list of the gear you use on a regular basis:
I shoot with a Canon 5D mark iii, a Canon 6D, a sigma 35 mm f1.4 lens, a 50mm f1.8 lens, on occasion a Canon speedlite 430ex ii, sometimes I take out my Canon A-1 and shoot film if I'm feeling pulled towards a certain subject or moment.
What does your post-production process look like?
You'll usually find me in the nook of a cafe with a cup of tea, drowning out the noise of the shop with a melancholic spotify playlist. Sometimes I love to let music guide my editing— it puts me in a creative mood. I edit all my photos in Lightroom and deliver them via Pixieset to maintain the photos’ original quality.
How has your photography style evolved over time?
This sounds so cheesy but oh man, through a lot of trial and error and learning about myself. I started off trying to make my photos look like other content creators on Instagram, or another photographers work. That was also a time in my life where I was sincerely unhappy with myself and where my work was headed. I realized this just wasn't going to fly, and it was hindering my creative process. I was finally able to let go and just let my creative process ebb and flow until it just came naturally. I strive for my work to be uniquely me, and to be able to tell my travel stories and my clients’ love stories as authentically and raw as possible. We are constantly growing, and with growth comes change to our work.
What are your favourite tools for capturing, editing, and enhancing your photographs?
I sure do love my trusty Canon 5D mark iii. Its been to about 6 different countries with me at this point. A trusted companion. I love to use the LXC presets for my travel photography, they speed up my workflow immensely because of how adaptable they are to any lighting situations.
What is your greatest piece of advice for emerging photographers?
Comparison does not have to be negative. When I fell into a creative slump (which I think every artist falls into every once in a while) I would scroll through instagram thinking "Why can't my work look like that?" and I'd be angry at myself and the way my photos look. I learned that it’s so much more valuable and productive to learn from others and build upon your skills that way. Instead - compare yourself to your old work to see just how far you've actually come, and how your creativity continues to unravel and better itself as time progresses. Your photography is always going to be a work in progress, thats the downfall to being an artist, we’re never satisfied with our own creations. But allow that to be motivation to manifest your work and let it flow to tell your stories as you envision them.
What type of photography do you most enjoy?
While I take a lot of pride in curating beautiful travel photos, I put a lot of focus on my couples and how I can better serve them. Photographing love is such an intimate thing and it’s a privilege that you get to witness as a couple’s photographer. Love is difficult to describe, but photographs are able to tell stories where words don't suffice, and I never take that lightly.
What are you discouraged about in your work/business? What encourages you?
The lack of structure the photography business has brought into my life. Some days are packed full of work, while others are quiet. On those empty days I feel discouraged but channel that energy into more productive habits, like marketing myself on different social media channels as a way to meet new clients, and update my website. There are tons of successful photographers in the business, and I'm a firm believer that theres room for a lot more— that definitely keeps me encouraged.
When was a time you thought you would/had failed? How did you overcome it?
When I received my first ever rejection email from a potential client, They had told me they had decided to work with another photographer for their wedding. I felt so discouraged in my work, and embarrassed that I wasn't good enough for them. I overcame those negative emotions by just feeling confident that my work IS good enough, and that I have plenty of other clients eagerly waiting for me to shoot their wedding. I felt humbled and grateful for my present clients for trusting me and my vision. There will always be someone who doesn't vibe with your work, but there will be 10 more who are in complete awe of what kind of pure magic you put out into the world.
What defines success for you as a photographer? If you never achieve that, will you still be satisfied with what you do?
Success to me is authenticity. I don't want my work to be similar to someone else's, I want it to be raw, uncanny, and wholeheartedly coming from my own creative heart and mind. I'm learning to ignore the trends in poses, in tones, in colours, in camera gear etc. and focus on what I believe will tell a story, with my own unique twist, that draws inspiration from my relationships, experiences, and travels— and not from a Pinterest board.
I think we're all capable of achieving this; it’s what will continue to drive us as artists.