Interview with Reka Csulak of Three Pod Studio from Finland

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Reka Csulak

Reka Csulak, the founder of Three Pod Studio, is a skilled food and product photographer situated in Espoo. With over 5 years of global experience, she has worked with renowned brands and provided mentorship to aspiring creators.

Interview With The 2023 European Photography Winner of the Year – Reka Csulak

1Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?

My name is Reka Csulak, the founder of Three Pod Studio. I am a creative food and product photographer based in Espoo with 5+ years of international experience in shooting for leading brands and mentoring talented creators.

The reason why I got into photography was my love for food. I wanted to illustrate my food blog with better visuals, so I got myself an entry-level DSLR in 2018 and then started the learning curve of mastering my new gear and various software for post-production.

I challenged my vision from the very beginning by entering social media challenges and professional competitions and it did not take long until my vision, style and technical execution got recognised. These achievements confirmed my idea to turn my passion into a profession.

2Where did you study photography?
Most of the time I self-studied photography through trial and error in the early stages and then I systematically started to invest in my education and seek portfolio-building opportunities. I’m proud to hold the certificate of the prominent Le Cordon Bleu institute of London via completing their food photography & styling course. I still join courses as a student on advanced topics while I help other creatives as a mentor to get closer to their goals via 1-on-1 educational sessions.
3Do you remember your first shot? What was it?

The first food photograph I took for other reasons than preserving memories on my phone's camera roll was taken of gingerbread cookies I finely decorated with royal icing to illustrate my blog post at Christmas of 2016.

When it comes to more professional gear, I photographed a traditional Hungarian braided bread right after buying my first DSRL.

4What equipment do you use?
I have two Canon DSLR cameras with multiple lenses to cover all scenarios. My studio is well-equipped with all the necessary strobes, modifiers and stands that are required for commercial work and I curate my own prop collection with 600+ unique items including handmade backdrops with my own design that cannot be found elsewhere.
5What do you hope to achieve?
I would like to make an honest living that brings stability and peace to my personal life. I aim to achieve this by creating award-worthy concepts for my clients and supplying them with the type of visuals that brings them closer to their marketing and sales goals, and by delivering professional practices to my mentees so they can master their own craft.
6What compliment inspired/touched you the most?
The indicator of a project’s success is the client’s feedback so meeting or over-exceeding their expectations is always rewarding. On the other hand, when a competitor, your mentor or professional idol praises your work, that can be extremely inspiring too.
7What inspires your unique storytelling?
I like to create a concept that helps to deliver a message in a way that no words or commentary are necessary for the viewer to understand it clearly.
8What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
Motion, harmony and impact.
9Congratulations! As the winner of the European Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?
Thankfully this year is no different from the last one in that sense that my work ranked high again with 2 Platinum Wins and 1 Honourable Mention in the Commercial Photography category. These titles are given by a prominent jury of industry professionals, so it is truly a milestone in one’s career. I feel truly proud of the achievement and the legacy that is getting created as moving forward in my creative journey.
10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 European Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
I submitted these entries because they nicely represent the wide spectrum of custom content production work I do and represent the unique vision and creation style that sets my work apart from other submissions.
11How has winning an award developed your career?
If I think about professional development, the prominent jury has made a strong statement by selecting my work, which will serve as a straightforward and credible reference to my present and future clients + mentees. Winning, personally also makes me trust my own vision and creative decisions even more as an artist.
12Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.

In general, I am inspired by individual works of art more likely than their author, but as a beginner, my first and biggest inspiration was the work of a Hungarian photographer and food stylist, Lőrinc Szendeff.

I would also like to mention a Finnish photographer, Mika Levälampi whose exceptional portrait and product photos I got familiar with later on. I really appreciate that we can share our experiences in the industry without gatekeeping or feeling intimidated by another professional from the same market.

13What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?

"The best camera for photography is the one in your hand."

The equipment you use rarely limits your vision, creativity and style. Professionals often debate what’s the best brand but the public rarely cares about these technicalities and they are visible only in the metadata anyways.

14What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?

If photography is your hobby, then make sure to enjoy the creation process and experiment a lot – this is how you will master your gear and learn what’s possible with it.

If you want to become a full-time photographer, invest your time to learn how to do business, marketing and sales while building a portfolio that will catch the attention of your ideal client. Keep it as a side hustle until you find yourself in a situation where you must turn down projects because of a lack of free time. Until then, your 9-5 or part-time job will provide you with regular income. Get a clear picture of your full-time business costs when setting your prices in order to keep it profitable.

15What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

When you are working on a client project, you often translate someone else’s idea into photos, therefore you have less room to work along with your own creative concepts. It is highly important to give yourself the opportunity to unlock your full creative potential by dedicating time to personal projects. Pretend that nobody will see the outcome.

It does not matter how your photo will perform on social media, or what people have to say – these playful sessions are there for you to fully being able to express yourself without limits.

16How do you stay in that space of being receptive to new information and knowledge?
Try to identify the technological innovations that potentially will change the industry forever, and add the necessary skills to keep up with the demand for these. When it comes to trends, be more selective, pay attention only to those which genuinely resonate with you and create something that radiates your unique vision and personal style - this way you can stay credible.
17Anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Thank you for this amazing opportunity to allow me to explain my creative process and what photography means to me!

Winning Entries

Popped to Perfection | 2023

Popped to Perfect | Reka Csulak

Zoomed in and buttery close so you can see the salt crystals and kernel textures on this captivating macro ... (Read more at European Photography Awards)

Send Noods! | 2023

Send Noods! | Reka Csulak

Ramen = a symphony of flavours and sensations awaits in this artful bowl of .. (Read more at European Photography Awards)

Reka Csulak

Reka Csulak, the founder of Three Pod Studio, is a skilled food and product photographer situated in Espoo. With over 5 years of global experience, she has worked with renowned brands and provided mentorship to aspiring creators.

Read more about this interview with Daniel Ceng from Hong Kong S.A.R., China, the Category Winner of the 2023 European Photography Awards.