Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BEHIND THE LENS: Sylvia Cook, Seattle, Washington USA

This week we zip on back to the U.S.A. and visit with Sylvia Cook from Seattle, Washington.  Seeing the images from Sylvia's inspiration website makes me want to 'Eat-Stay and Plug' into the internet and get a one-way ticket to Italy.  Her photos are full of life, vibrant and smoking hot - they make you want to jump right in and take part in the life she has captured.  Her wonderful images of babies and high school seniors make you realize how fleeting life is, from babies in one blink of an eye to teenagers ready to take on the world in the next.

We met Sylvia through our interview with Claire Penn.  We love the way we have been criss-crossing the pond to meet all of these fabulous photographers who inspire each other from miles away.  Without further ado, please welcome Sylvia!

Your Name: Sylvia Cook
Your studio/business name: Sylvia Cook Photography
Location: Seattle Washington
Website: http://sylviacookphotography.showitsite.com
Blog: http://photographybysylviacook.blogspot.com/
Twitter/Facebook: http://twitter.com/slcook52 and http://www.facebook.com/SylviaCookPhotography
Other: Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/slcook52
Red Bubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/sylviacook
Personal blog Inspirations: http://sylviacook-inspirations.blogspot.com/
Getty Images: http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?assettype=image&family=creative&artist=Sylvia+Cook+Photography

Your Style

In 50 words or less, how would your clients describe your photography? Artistic and colorful. (though I do like to throw in a vintage look every once in awhile)

Are you self-taught or classroom trained? I started my college career majoring in art, but after 2 years realized I’d have a better chance of being steadily employed in another profession, therefore the change to Nursing. I have kept up with art in some form throughout the years though, with photography now being the primary focus.

How many years have you been a professional photographer? This is my third year with the portrait photography part of the business, but I first started a couple years ago selling fine art images online at various sites.

Where do you want to take your photography business in 5 years? Hopefully doing more of the same, but more full time than what I do now. I also enjoy designing templates (cards and albums) so I can see doing more of that.

Is there a photographer who inspires your style? Who would that be? So SO many people! I love working with textures, so Jessica Drossin and Gina Kolstrud. Then there’s Shana Rae of Florabella fame for her gorgeous florals, Isabelle La France, Claire Penn, Colleen Mooney from my Flickr days, Lars Basinski for his AMAZING light filled images, and Beth Jansen for her children’s portraiture. For local inspiration, Michelle Moore for her senior portrait work, and Georgianna Lane for her truly gorgeous nature and floral images….I could go on all day!

Favorite location to take photos? For portrait work, I’m really loving the urban/grungy looks followed a close second by a natural field with tall grasses/wildflowers. Those are hard to come by where I live!

Favorite vacation spot? I spent 3 weeks in northern Italy a few years ago, and I would go back in a heartbeat!

 Your Business

What was the pivotal moment when you decided to become a photographer? Not really any one moment. I have been taking photos for a long time, but the portrait work has been more recent. I wanted the challenge and change of pace to shoot people in addition to nature and flowers.

What’s the best marketing tip that has worked for you? Oh I have gotten probably 75% of my business from word of mouth, so I would say networking!

What’s the most surprising thing a customer has asked you? Not sure I can think of anything!

Favorite print lab? Mostly WHCC

Your Gear

Are you Canon or Nikon (or – other): Canon

If you could only have one lens on a photo shoot, what would it be? Oh that’s a tough one! I love my 70-200f4 L lens for some outdoor work, but if I could only bring one with me, it would be my 50mm 1.4. (I’d love the 50mm 1.2!!)

What brand bag do you carry your camera in? I rarely have my camera in a bag, but I do have my lenses in just a nice bag from Adorama.

What gear would we find in your camera bag? Canon 7D, 50mm1.4, 70-200f4 L, Sigma 105mm, 85mm 1.8, Tamron 28-75 2.8, and of course extra batteries, cards, a flash etc. Oh and a new lens baby!

Are you a natural light fan or strobe fan? Natural light

Are you PC or Mac? PC

Your Tips and Tricks

What post processing tools do you use? I start in the Canon DPP program to open, then take into ACR & Photoshop. I do love to add textures to some of my images if they are appropriate.

Do you shoot in Raw or Jpeg? Raw for photo sessions, sometimes JPEG for other stuff.

Best advice you would give your 20-year old self? “Don’t sleep so much, you have work to do!”

Best advice you would give a new photographer? Especially for portrait photographers, take the time to establish your business model beforehand instead of after. Don’t give your images away! People do NOT value free!

What site do you use for your photography and why? I currently have a Showit site. When I started out, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to keep up a website and a blog. I for one, go to look at people’s blogs rather than the website. I’ve customized mine so many times, and I think I have all the necessary info on there.

What Else Should We Know?

What was your worst photography experience? Ha, well with a demanding client of course! We had a great session that she flipped over. But the requests for more behind the scenes work (in the form of recrops/template work/card designs/album designs and a billion emails back and forth kept coming for months on end) left me pulling my hair out. Never did get an order from that one, despite it being my most time consuming session EVER!

What would surprise people most about you, whether it is photography related or not? Maybe that I’m a nurse and have practiced in the critical care field forever!

Tell us something else you’d like us to know: There is not a form of photography that I don’t like and love to surf the web looking at. I’ve been into macros, travel, nature, and landscape and portrait photography. I really admire street photographers, and think that would be fun too! You can probably tell from the images on this post that I’ve dappled in a lot of different areas!

And Just Because we want to know you, kindly fill in the blanks – thanks!

Three things I can’t live without…. my family, my camera, my computer!

I wish I had more….. Time in the day, days in the week.

The best thing about being a photographer is… seeing the world in a completely different way because of looking through the lens.

The most important lesson I ever learned was…. see above about the worst experience

My favorite time of day is… either early morning when I hear all the birds making noise in the yard, or just before sunset!

Click this forward!


  1. Hey this is my Mom!! She is a wonderful photographer! What a fun interview! :)

  2. How great to see Sylvia's work featured here – I just love it and am lucky to have one of her Italian images in my collection!

  3. Nice interview with Sylvia. I love the tulip trail!!

  4. A fantastic interview and I always love seeing Sylvia's beautiful work :)

  5. Thanks to all of the above, I love each of you and admire all your skills as well!!!

  6. I have been a fan of Sylvia's for a few weeks now and find her to be so inspirational. Great interview!


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