My name is Reka Csulak, the founder of Three Pod Studio from Finland. I am serving my local and international clients as a food & product photographer, food stylist, recipe developer, and blogger. I am also helping other photographers' journeys as a creative educator.
My creative journey started about 6 years ago. Shortly after I started to live an expat life, I began to write a food blog called the Holy Whisk in 2016, which helped me to connect with other foodies and creators around the globe, keeping my family heritage alive and bringing the joy of Hungarian home cooking and baking to everyone's kitchen. I did not have the ambition to turn blogging into a future business, it was more like a "stem cell" that showed me the best way how to transform and utilise my skills and creativity. About a year and a half into blogging, I decided to increase the quality of the photos that illustrate my blog posts and recipes, and this is how I got my hands on my first professional camera.
I started to learn how to use the gear, control the light and get the most out of my RAW images in post-processing. I really enjoyed the newly added skillset, sharing the results along with my recipes, learning advanced techniques and expressing my creativity with ultimate freedom. The quality of my work shortly got recognised not just by my audience but by industry-leading professionals as well. At that point, I was certain that photography is the exact passion I definitely want to turn into a profession, ever since I keep combining the two universal languages that speak to everyone without words: food and visual art.
I self-studied photography in the initial months and learnt everything through my experiments or via free resources.
When I was ready to invest in my photography education, I completed the Food Photography & Styling course organised by the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in London, which provided me with an actual certification in this complex genre that I became so obsessed with. I also completed thematic courses and participated in tailored consultation sessions organised by professionals who were at a more advanced level in their journey to target and improve specific skills.
Ever since I keep learning new techniques, training my eyes by reviewing and studying others' work and of course, keep experimenting with my gear and my vision.
The subjects of my first purposeful food photograph were my finely decorated gingerbread cookies at Christmas of 2016, to be used as an illustration for my first blog post. This was taken with my mobile phone and then it got post-processed.
The first shot with my professional gear was a challah bake -which is a traditional celebratory braided bread we eat during the holidays in Hungary. I remember how happy I was with the results as I managed to get a sharp focus on the details and also add bokeh to the background.
At the moment I use two professional Canon DSLR cameras with multiple lenses to cover the whole focal-length spectrum.
I have all sorts of studio gear including artificial lighting and modifiers. What is an unusual add-on compared to other genres is that I also own a decent collection of props for food, drink and product photography including many handmade backdrops with my own design.
In addition to making an honest and stable living out of my profession, my goal is to produce my clients the type of unique and exceptional visual content which truly support their marketing and sales goals.
It is also important to me to provide my students with the necessary knowledge and confidence that enables their full potential, while moving them closer to their ambitions and dreams.
I truly appreciate all the kind words that any viewer feels to express related to my work, but the biggest compliment you can ever get comes from your direct competitors and from your professional idols. Nothing feels better to hear a compliment from a person that earned your utmost respect with their talent and by being successful in business for many years.
Related to this I would like to mention also, that I truly believe that every scene has room for talent, and each market has enough opportunities for similar businesses. Because of this principle, I maintain a good relationship with other professionals and even with my direct competitors instead of keeping a good distance from each other. I respect their talent together with their achievements and consider them my colleagues instead of my enemies. Even if clients are changing photographers sometimes and one of us gaining while the other is losing business, the core respect and support towards my fellow creators are staying unchanged at the highest level.
There are many ways of positive feedback that professionals can get, but one of the best is to be recognised by the prestigious jury of the European Photography Awards. Winning is a great achievement, for which I proudly take all credit as the solopreneur behind Three Pod Studio.
It is an honour to see myself in this position, and have the opportunity to find my creations at the centre of attention!
I'm really proud to say, that I have multiple platinum and gold-ranked entries on the 2022 Winners' list.
I carefully picked these images as I wanted to be represented by the type of imagery that clearly highlights my photography style, showing a wide spectrum of my skillset and the unique vision that sets my creations apart from other submissions.
Winning an award is a strong statement given by a group of professionals to a creator like me.
It works as a great reference, raises awareness and establishes others' trust in my skills. These things are on their own good enough boosters to develop one's career, but all together are something that all photographers wish to achieve in their field!
I would like to mention the first person, whose work was a great source of inspiration, and I believe had an important influence on my own vision at a very early stage of my creative journey.
Discovering the work of a Hungarian photographer and food stylist, Lőrinc Szendeff helped me understand how to bring the beauty out of simple things and use them to create highly impactful visuals. He established an exceptional style and set a unique tone in his food and product photography which I truly admire and respect. His unique selection of handmade backgrounds and carefully curated props also make his work unforgettable.
"The best camera for photography is the one in your hand."
I heard this from many successful photographers, and I cannot agree more. This statement applies not only to cameras but other aspects of our creative journeys too.
As a beginner, you feel sometimes that you cannot move forward without buying the best cameras, enrolling to that expensive course or getting your first paid client. As a result, you can easily find yourself stuck in analysis paralysis which can then take the joy away from doing what you enjoy the most. I was there too, but there is a way out!
Don't worry about what others have, what they do, or what they achieved, focus on YOU instead! Start out by creating for your own joy, master your gear before blasting money on a new one, learn from free resources and never stop practicing. You will gain the experience and confidence needed for the next step.
There are photography genres where there is a good flow of information about technical knowledge and especially business.
When it comes to commercial photography, I found myself in the most secretive field ever, and what turned out to be the biggest game changer was finding mentors. This way I had the chance to openly talk about anything or ask those rookie questions. It is also important to listen to my mentor's own experience, as they are a few years ahead of you, so you can hear stories of professional problem solving, tough negotiations and practices that will be extremely useful for you at some point in the future.
So, the advice I would give creative souls with an ambition to become photographers is to find their own support group, guru or mentor. The sooner, the better. This way they can always know where to turn for advice and clarification and never feel lost and confused for too long when in doubt.
The recipe to success is most definitely keeping alive the joy of spontaneous creation.
When photography is a hobby, every project is full of joy, you can express your vision as you like. You cannot wait to finish your 9-5 job, get home and hold the camera in your hands again.
When you turn your passion into a profession, you also need to adjust as being a full-time photographer requires us to wear many -if not all- hats for the sake of running a successful business. You are concentrating on pitching, booking the next projects, completing the ongoing productions, being an admin, accountant, marketing expert, salesperson and many more to ensure that you can keep making a living out of doing what you love the most.
All in this, never forget to block some time for personal projects and create something just for yourself, without pressure. Just like when this was only a hobby and you were dreaming about standing where you are now. The joy of spontaneous creation will remind you where you started from, why you are doing it, and will keep the spark in your eyes for the future!
I always keep an eye on the market, follow closely what my potential and present clients set as a goal and what they achieve, what is the direction of development. I keep evaluating what new skills are needed to provide better service to my clients and be fully aware of what are their favoured type of content and style at present, so I can improve their experience. I also check the occasional trends.
When there is something new and beneficial, I adapt it, but in a way that comes from the heart and reflects who I am and what I represent as a solopreneur. This way I can stay credible. If there is a trend that everyone else is utilising, but it does not resonate with my values, I simply do not force development in that direction.
Beautiful simplicity and perfect balance in one image with an extraordinary representation…
(Read more at European Photography Awards)
Reka Csulak, the sole mind behind Three Pod Studio trails after her dreams as a food & product photographer.