Sana Nodelman – Building Visual Style

With a love of experiencing the world, Sana has traveled from Kazakhstan to the US, with many destinations in between. She has grown in many ways, including in her photography. See a glimpse into her life below.

Say hello to Sana:


Where are you from? Where have you been?

Originally I’m from Kazakhstan in Central Asia. I love to travel a lot and my last trip ended with me staying. I’ve been to all of the countries close to my home country. I’ve traveled all around Europe, Turkey, the Emirates, Maldives and a couple of states in American. The states I’ve been to are Nevada, New York and lovely California. I really wanted to visit England. I even got the visa, which was pretty hard. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it at that time. I am also looking forward to traveling to South America and India. 

What’s your favorite place in the world?

I have two favorite places in the world. Paris is my first love, and Los Angeles is my constant one. I remember the first day I came to Hollywood. I was walking by Hollywood and Vine streets and saw a big sign on the Redburry Hotel which read, “Home is where the heart is.” That was when I realized I was finally home.


What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?

I wish I could respond to this question, but I can’t. All of my ideas just come to me randomly. I’m trying to produce the best I can and realize them as soon as possible. I don’t keep these ideas for very long on a bucket list or I will just lose all interest in them and let them go.

How would you describe your visual style?

If I’m being honest and not just acting cool, I would have to say I don’t have a visual style yet. I’m not trying to find myself in photography, but to build my style. When I’m talking to my friends and different photographers, and we discuss approaches and styles, I always say that I don’t have my “photography style” yet. My visuals come to me only when I’m at the location and I see the prepared model. All of my visuals depend on natural lighting. That is my favorite thing about photography. 

Tell us about your other artistic talents in music and writing.

I wouldn’t consider myself very talented, only hard working. I wouldn’t have anything if I hadn’t worked for it. Writing came to me absolutely randomly. It was the middle of summer on my grandpa’s birthday. I was sitting on a balcony, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee, and thoughts just started popping up in my head. I really felt that I should write it down. This is how my journey started. I have written one collection of poems, but I have not had them translated into English yet. I also love writing while I am traveling when I am on my own, cleaning out my inner shelves. Music is my passion even more than photography. I have been singing my whole life since I was four years old. I had never played any instrument until recently. I have started learning to play guitar and piano. Singing sets me free and takes away all of my stress and anger. 

How do you find your inspiration?

Most of the time, I don’t even realize where my inspiration is coming from.

Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?

It was such a magical moment the first time I held a camera in my hands. I knew I wanted to make it my living as it brought me much happiness. 

What types of photography do you do?

Mostly, I do personal photo shoots. Sometimes, it’s boudoir. Sometimes, it’s just photos for portfolios: portraits and head shots. I’ve done a couple of weddings too. My favorite is fashion photography. I also like to practice with my own personal ideas, but I cannot attach them to any specific type of photography. It’s always a mix and nothing in particular.

What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?

There was no moment when I actually decided. This whole sense is still coming to me, through every shoot and every person I capture. 

What is the strangest situation you’ve ever faced as a photographer?

Maybe being nine months pregnant and shooting in the desert at 106F. It was a photoshoot of a completely naked girl with small, googly eyes stuck all over her body.



What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?

Probably that weird period in my life when I first came to the States. I had no money and did not speak English at all.

What are your favorite three photos you’ve taken?

This is one of my favorite shoots that I have ever done. I call it ACID WALKER. I have to thank Kristina Shnayder for the idea and inspiration! Kristina is a new designer from Russia. Her designs are inspired by Russian folklore. She takes great pride in making every piece. Every crown is unique, one of a kind, and completely hand made. That is the best way to show off your individual style. It is quality fit for royalty. She makes very elegant, sophisticated, and tasteful designs.


Model: Yulia Pozdeeva. Crowns / Costume Designer: Kristina Shnayder. Location: Downtown LA

MISS ASIA. We were just sitting at the studio doing nothing. Saida suggested that I shoot some photos. I had no plans at all. We just created this very simple idea. It was in 2013 and it was one of my last shoots in Kazakhstan. It’s a very old photoshoot compared to the others, but I still love it.


Model: Saida Adilova (Miss Asia, Moscow 2013). Location: Yan Ray Studio, Eat Models Agency, Almaty, KZ.

CHASING SUN. I love this shot so much because I had no sun reflector and no additional lighting. I only had a 50mm 1.8 Canon lens and brown glass from my glasses. This is how this picture came out. It has not been edited with Photoshop. It’s all absolutely natural light. I’m proud of this one!


Model: Remi Noir. Location: El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA.

Photography is competitive. How do you stand out?

I’m not worrying about the competition. I’m just doing my thing the best way I can. If I learn something new, I strive to apply it to my experience and grow. 

What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?

Shoot what you really feel like shooting.

What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?

This is actually a great question – BE CONFIDENT! Confidence is the key.

What was your most memorable photoshoot and why?

One of the most memorable shoots was at the beach at sunset. She was a weird (in a good way) girl, absolutely naked, but covered from head to toe in gold glitter. She was dancing in the sun, playing with the light rays and swimming in the sand. 



What’s the funniest story you have from being a photographer?

I was shooting a friend of mine, Mariam. We were at her loft and wanted to create something. She offered to get naked and apply industrial paint to her body. The paint was left over from construction at her place. The paint was really for industrial use and not at all for bodies! You should have seen how she was shaving this off! She was trying to wash everything out for a whole hour, and it did not come off. She had to take a shower several times. Her hair was literally crying and begging to be left alone. Here are some pics from that shoot:



If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be?

I would definitely photograph Beyonce Knowles. Why? She is my inspiration in every way. She is such a strong woman. Her look makes me want to grow professionally. She has been an amazing example for me since I was 17. I would love to meet her in real life and just listen to her voice and watch her work, or even better, have her pose for my photos!

What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?

For me, being a great photographer means being an inspiration for the people you shoot. It is bringing them up, getting them to feel free and natural, feeding them with good and positive energy, and letting them truly be themselves. It also means giving my best and sharing everything I have at this particular moment, filling them with inner confidence and letting them receive all of the light that I have.

How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?

This is really hard to do! You not only have to be a photographer, but also a comforting person! They HAVE TO feel relaxed. I’m always trying to take note of their personality and figure out who they are. I try to find the right words that they want to hear about themselves and bring the best out of them.

What do you think is the biggest thing holding you back in your photography?


How do you express yourself through your photography?

I love to shoot my personal ideas. I also love watching people try to show their best. I love finding new sides of myself through the people I meet on shoots and through sharing our experiences.

What’s the most inspiring photo you’ve ever seen?

There are too many of those to mention.

What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?

Don’t copy anyone. Do your own thing from the beginning. There are a lot of opportunities to find who you are in photography. There are many different ways and approaches to produce your best work. Also, find new ways of using settings and preparing for the shoot. 

What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?

  1. I’m going to repeat myself, but it’s the most important one: Do not copy!
  2. Pay attention to details. It’s all about the details!
  3. Try to set the best lighting and camera settings that you can.

What are 3 tips you have for aspiring models?

  1. Pose at home in front of the mirror to feel more confident about the shoot.
  2. Take care of your skin. It’s one of the most important parts of your body.
  3. Be yourself as you are: no fake lips or boobs, no fake hair, no fake lashes. Don’t have any of that, just be you.

What’s one lighting tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

Use colored glass filters when there is no sun and no sun reflector.

What’s one post-processing tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

Choose and edit your photos right after the shoot.

What is your most life-changing event?

Coming to United States, getting pregnant, being pregnant, and being a mom.

What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?

Why would I want to share something that no one knows about me? That is probably why no one knows it! 

Who’s your biggest hero in your life?

My mom is my biggest hero.

What’s one of your biggest fears?

Being fired.

What will you be doing five years from now?

Only God knows! I am trying to plan something, but I don’t want to build unrealistic expectations because I don’t want to be disappointed. I’m really learning to not expect anything and just receive what comes to me. I am trying to do the best in the here and now. It’s how I’m creating my future. 

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

The first is being completely broke for seven days in Paris in 2013. I had $0. It was great experience and challenging at the same time. Second is coming to the States and being absolutely broke. Again, I had $0. I asked my friend to buy me a little cup of coffee when I first landed in JFK. These were two weird occasions in my life when I had no money and didn’t ask people to help me. I was too proud of my stupid self. I couldn’t ask for help of any kind. Years later, I look back at myself and think that it’s one of the most important things in life. Learn how to ask your friends for help. Learn how to connect with people. 

What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?

  1. Sing in front of more than 50,000 people.
  2. Go to Burning Man.

For anyone that wants to get in touch with Sana, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile


Facebook: Profile

Instagram: @sana.nodelman and @whoizzzthatgirl

Tumblr: Page

500px: Profile

Sana, thanks for taking the time to chat with us – we greatly appreciate it!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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