I’m excited to have an awesome husband and wife team for August & Septembers Photogs on the Blog. Please help me welcome Chris & Jen Sawicki from Sawicki Studios as our featured photographers. Brilliant photographers and a super sweet couple.
Who are you? We are a husband and wife team. Chris specializes in High School Seniors and has a very unique and cinematic style. He is always experimenting with lighting techniques and post processing to make sure his images stand out dramatically. I (Jen!) specialize in baby & children portraits and prefer a very natural, fresh, detailed & clean look. We photograph weddings together (limited amount), and there we can incorporate both of our styles, giving brides and grooms the best of both worlds!
How did you get started in photography? I (Jen), like many people, have always loved photography. I have had a love of art my entire life including drawing, painting, dancing, singing, etc. I was always involved and excelling in that area. I always knew I would do something artistic, but wasn’t sure which direction to go. As I became a mother and grew as a person, I started focusing more on goals. For a long time, I didn’t have any! It started as a hobby which in most cases, photography does! In 2004, I decided to enroll in the New York Institute of Photography. Though I would have loved to go to school, I had 3 little ones at home, so this was the best option for me. I learned and I practiced. In 2006, I received a merit award from NYIP, and shorly after, received my certificate. I wasn’t going to start up my business yet, but friends and acquaintances were wanting me to take photographs for them, so the rest just fell into place! Chris was very interested in editing. When we purchased Photoshop, (I think it was CS2 at the time) he spent a lot of his time editing my images of our children and trying everything he could think of! If he saw an idea, he’d try it. He tries EVERYTHING! In spring of 2007, I began photographing weddings. I naturally wanted someone to help me with that, so he tagged along. The first wedding I did the majority of everything. The shooting, the posing, etc. He shot in “P” mode. After he realized “P” mode gave him no control, and made many of the images useless, he experimented with manual. Each wedding got better and better. In 2008, I suggested that maybe he take on Senior portraits. I wanted to offer this service, but really wanted to stick to doing only babies and children. He did some sessions for friends and such who were around the high school age (18 and early 20’s) and built a portfolio. It wasn’t long before actual high school students were wanting his services. He teamed up with a friends wife who is a hair stylist and make-up artist, and she helped with the sessions. Chris started using studio lighting at weddings and sessions which took his images to an entirely new level. His determination and experimental drive made his images even more out-of-the-box with each new session. The rockstar-like sessions also made a big impact. The stylist doing hair and make up, the music pumping, the camera and lights, the driving around to cool spots, etc. Each person who comes in for a session always comments on how much fun they had, which is just as important as the amazing images Chris produces.
Did you study photography or are you a natural born creative? answered above!
Tell me about your style? How did you develop it? How long did it take you to realize your style? answered above!
Do you specialize in a particular field? Weddings, Kids, Newborns, Black and White only? answered above!
What camera and lenses do you use? I use the Canon 5D Mark II, and Chris prefers the good ol Canon 5D. We have a range of lenses, and we decide which lens to use based on the type of session, the location, or really want we are trying to achieve with a particular shot (how fast and wide the aperture for example). It’s not uncommon to use several different lenses in one session. The ones we use the most are the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, the 24-70mm f/2.8L, 135mm f/2.0L, 16-35mm f/2.8L, 50mm f/1.4 and the 100mm f/2.8 macro. All Canon brands and mostly L’s.
What can you never leave home without? Chris- his cell phone! Me- my purse!
What are you working on right now? Chris is very busy with High School Senior sessions, and I am doing a lot of wedding album designs and business behind-the-scenes type stuff! I do everything, from the marketing pieces to the blog updates. We are also in the process of planning a relocation to North Carolina in a few years. We’ve been in Upstate NY our entire lives and feel like we really need a change!
Where is your fav locale to shoot? For Chris, there is a ton of spots. He is constantly scoping out cool and new locations. If there is a sunset, he makes sure he finds a great spot to incorporate it into the portraits. I prefer the studio really, with natural light.
Do you have a favorite prop or pose? I think for both of us, these things are always changing, so I don’t think there is anything in particular for either of us.
What is some good advice that you received when you were just starting out that you can share with other photogs that are just starting in the business? Know about BUSINESS!! Seems obvious, but so many people start out with just the art part of it, and no business knowledge! No matter how amazing you are at photography, you can not get anywhere if you don’t know how to sell it! In the beginning, everyone thought because our work was good and we seemed busy, that we actually were- and we weren’t! Also, don’t go out and buy every action, every template, every background, and every prop you see. I did that and still have a hard time resisting! We went into major debt buying a bunch of stuff we didn’t need and that didn’t help us get anywhere with the business.
How do you get your clients to relax and have fun with their portraits? Chris is funny. He has a very easy time cracking jokes and breaking the ice. He always makes people feel at ease! Since I work with children and I have them, I know how to relate to them. Many times parents get stressed out when the children are acting “silly” or not staying still, so I reassure them that it’s normal and OK and I want them to be them!
Do you travel out-of-state to do photography? We certainly would! We do destination weddings and would travel for sessions.
What do you enjoy photographing the most? For Chris, it’s basically anyone (seniors, bands, etc) with landscape incorporated in the background. For me, I have been finding that I love photographing newborns!
Anything else you would like to share? Hints, tips or everyday wisdom? Experiment! Chris got to where he is by trying out EVERYTHING! Different lighting, different techniques, etc.
What motivates you to do what you do? When clients really appreciate our work and express how much they love their portraits. When a client cries because they love their portraits so much, it makes us feel so incredible and reminds us of why we do what we do.
Do you believe that “A picture is worth 1,000 words”? Tell me why or why not… Absolutely! I believe that even if you don’t know the story, you can easily figure it out, or even create your own from looking at an image.
Where is your next shoot? Well, for Chris, they are all typically similar. They start out in the studio. The building has a ton of cool spots within it, then he will take them to a few different locations- weather permitting. Especially if there is a sunset!
Now for some fun stuff!
What do you do outside of the photography world? Do you have a Side Business? Nothing really! We eat, sleep and breathe our photography business! But we are focused on trying to get that balance between the business and our personal, family life.
What is your favorite food? Steak for Chris, for me I guess I would have to say pizza!
Have you ever eaten a crayon? I’m not even joking, when I was a child, I didn’t EAT them persay, but I loved to bite them! I had a round cookie tin full of crayons, and each one had no wrapper and bite marks all over them!
Do you wash your car or let the car wash do it? Car wash!
How about your music? What’s on your iPod right now? I am so eclectic with music. I love hard, modern rock (since I was 2!), but I also have a lot of music I can dance to on my iPod like “I know you want me” by Pitbull! lol Chris likes Guns & Roses, Metallica, Black Label Society and Megadeth. But I do catch him listening to my music sometimes!
What is your favorite outfit to shoot in? Do you prefer jeans? Do you have a shirt with your name on it? Chris wears a black button-down shirt (with or without a design, stripes, etc) and either black or khacki pants, or jeans. He brings a change of shoes because he often ends up walking into water. (and yes, he drags the lights with him even then!) I wear either jeans, jean capris with a black shirt, or black pants or capris and with any color shirt. We are both very simple in our attire! No, we don’t have any shirts with our names on them!!
What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t shooting? We love going to restaurants and watching movies and science documentaries! All of our kids will be in school this year, so we are hoping to get out more!
Who do you admire? (Photog or not) I completely admire Ashley Skjaveland and Patti Schmidt. I absolutely love their style of fresh, clean and beautiful images. I do, however, have a long list of others as well! Chris’ admiration lies with Joey L and David Hill. As you can see, the ones we admire are closest to the styles we are ourselves! We both admire Jerry Ghionis and Kevin Jairaj for wedding photography. Again, the lists are even longer, but these are at the top of our list!
If you could be on a tv show, what would it be? I am truly stumped on this question! We really don’t watch much TV! However, it may be an MTV TrueLife episode. Like “TrueLife- I am a workaholic”
What is your guilty pleasure? Chocolate? Soaps? Football? Chocolate for me- for sure! For Chris, it’s doing some crazy stuff with photoshop! He likes to mess with his friends that way!
Tell me about your two favorite images! Well, our favorites are always changing! With each new session, and each new wedding, we get a new set of favorites! The Senior image (by Chris of course!) shows what types of images he loves.
The child image is one of my favorites- of one of my favorite clients as she has been coming to me for portraits since I started my business. I love how children get to know you so well that they are like family. This particular session, she kept taking my hand and saying “Jennifer, let’s go over here”!. This is why I love what I do!