By Judy Tacyn
Sylwia Ok, of Sylwia Ok Photography, recently earned a Master of Photography degree from the Professional Photographers of America, and was recognized for superior image making and photographic service. Additionally, she received second place in the Grand Imaging Awards in the children category for her photograph titled “Sleeping Softly” at the association’s annual convention, Imaging USA, held January 20-22 in Atlanta.
Ok has been interested in art and design longer than she can remember, but her professional career didn’t begin in photography.
Ok earned a master’s degree in computer science and econometrics and has worked in various fields. The last job she held before opening her photography studio was as a project manager for Verizon, where she oversaw and coordinated fiber optic projects in Tampa, Florida. When planning a family, Ok realized she wanted to start a business that would allow her to work from home and create her own schedule.
“The idea of becoming a photographer came about 10 years ago,” said Ok. “It has been my dream to get my second degree in an artistic field for personal fulfillment. Then, one day, I decided to enroll in a photography program online with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.”
Around the same time, Ok’s husband, an active duty U.S. Coast Guard member, received orders to Kodiak, Alaska, and the couple moved there in summer of 2011. A month-long road trip from Florida to Alaska through 18 states, four Canadian provinces and 12 national parks further deepened her love of photography.
“Kodiak turned out to be a dream place for photographers to live and that’s where my business started. At the end of 2011, I opened my first studio, and within a year, I was able to successfully establish both portrait and fine art landscape work with the local community,” said Ok. “Then it was time for us to move again, and this time we moved from Alaska to Pasadena, Maryland. We were fortunate to find a house that had a perfect layout so I could convert the whole lower level into a dream boutique studio.”
Ok specializes in maternity, newborn and baby custom portraiture.
“Custom photography is ultimately about creating full client experience. Each session and portrait is carefully designed with the client and photographic product in mind,” Ok said. “With my professional expertise and experience, I help my clients to decorate their home with beautiful photographic art pieces.”
Each portrait session includes planning and style consultation, a portrait session, ordering appointment at the client’s home, master retouching of the chosen portraits, product delivery and complimentary art installation. Handcrafted custom-designed albums, wall portraits printed on canvas, metal print or acrylic are just some of the most popular options clients can choose from.
“Anne Geddes has been my biggest inspiration ever since I saw her work in 2000,” said Ok. “I was mesmerized by the beauty of her newborn portraits and I remember saying, ‘I wish I could do this for a living,’” said Ok. Fast forward a few years, and a friend of Ok had a baby and asked whether she would photograph her son.
“I will never forget the excitement of photographing her 8-day-old baby, even though I was a total beginner with posing, wrapping and handling the baby,” said Ok. “It was obvious I had a lot to learn but in that instant, I knew that was the niche I would love to pursue one day. I attended online and in-person workshops to improve my skills. Even now, eight years later, I still feel that my style is evolving and I have room to improve as a photographer and an artist. Ironically, I was already an experienced newborn photographer when I had my baby in 2016, and if she was my first model to photograph, I would most likely pick a different niche as she was the most challenging little one I have ever in my studio.”
Ok feels photographing newborns and babies is challenging but one of the most rewarding niches in the industry.
“There is nothing more magical than creating portraits of the baby that just arrived in this world a few days earlier and documenting his or her major milestones within a first year of the life,” said Ok. “Of course, there are some newborn sessions that are more challenging than others, especially when the baby goes through the first growth spurts or has a colic. Patience, flexibility and listening to baby’s cues are the keys and definitely help during those moments.
“The business side of photography has also a lot of challenges,” she added. “It’s constant work to market to find the right clients, through networking with other businesses and professionals, website optimization, referrals and social media presence.”
The challenges, however, simply cannot compete with the rewarding experience of documenting a client’s major life milestones to create beautiful pieces that they proudly display in their home.
“Handing over beautiful albums and wall portraits to my clients and seeing their smile and tears of joy while viewing their portraits is the most gratifying part of my career,” said Ok. “I am constantly working to improve my skills through workshops and print competitions while consistently providing amazing customer experience justifying their reason to come back to my studio, year after year, for more. I think that is the best reward a photographer can receive.”
The Oks will make their final move this summer to Sarasota, Florida, once her husband retires after 27 years of military service, enabling Ok to take on the challenge of reopening her business for the last time.