A business leader by day and a photographer by night, Sven gives us a look into how his passion for photography has led him to where he is today. Check out his story below.
Say hello to Sven:
Where are you from? Where have you been?
I was born in Germany and lived there till I was 24, when I decided to move to the United States. My parents were avid travelers, so we frequently traveled all across the globe to see new countries and experience new cultures.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
Kauai, which is one of the less busy Hawaiian islands. Not only is the landscape absolutely stunning, but the vibe can’t be beat. Everyone embraces the Aloha spirit and people focus on who you are as a person rather than what you own.
What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?
I’m a beach and watersports fanatic, so I want to get more into beach and water photography, especially including people to capture the beach and water spirit.
How would you describe your visual style?
It depends, my style tends to change based on the subject and the mood we are going for.
Do you get photographer’s block? If so, how do you overcome that?
I think everyone does reach a point where they get tired of taking pictures and feel uninspired. The best way for me to overcome this is to just leave the camera in the closet for a while and focus on experiencing things not through a lens, but with all my senses till inspiration hits me again.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?
It’s a funny story. I always liked taking pictures but never had anything by a point-and-shoot camera and didn’t really consider doing this professionally. One day when I was 17, I was out with a friend of mine taking pictures and he had a whole professional setup with prime lenses and zoom lenses. Once we developed the pictures, we compared them and he just gave me all his equipment, telling me that I deserved to shoot with better equipment.
What types of photography do you do?
I mostly focus on travel and fashion photography, but also do a lot of commercial work, such as executive portraits and advertising.
What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?
I have seen a lot of really bad customer service in this industry and decided that I could take better pictures than my competition while at the same time providing a better customer experience.
What is the strangest situation you’ve ever faced as a photographer?
One of my recent editorials was shot in Baltimore and we set up in different locations around the city when in one location this guy starts standing behind me and taking pictures trying to get the same shots I was.
What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?
It wasn’t so much a setback as it was a disappointment. I was taking part in a fairly big local competition and there were numerous gallery shows surrounding it. During the show the night before the ceremony, one of the judges came up to me and told me that I was the winner and that I should prepare a short speech. When it came to the ceremony, the moderator called my name to come on stage and as I was making my way down, I was called back and the moderator was told another name. As I later found out, two of my competitors with a lot of local connections caught wind of me being the winner and lobbied the organizers to change the vote. It was a strange after-party with all the judges coming to me and apologizing and telling me that I should have been the winner.
Of the photos you’ve taken, which three are your favorite?
1. It’s my first photo that made it real splash – it was taken in the early morning at Key Bridge in Washington DC. As soon as I took it, I knew that this was my best picture thus far and it has sold numerous times over the years with people recognizing me for that one picture.
2. My cover photo of Vicky Beeching for DIVA Magazine – this was the first time I was approached by a major magazine to shoot their cover and of a celebrity nonetheless.
3. My Absinthe editorial with Maya Guttfreund – for the first time I felt that I had the perfect team together and that we would create something amazing.
Photography is competitive. How do you stand out?
Quality, consistency, and customer service.
What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?
Learn about lighting.
What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?
Listen and improvise. I have worked with a lot of models over the years and what separates the good from the bad is their ability to listen to what you want to achieve and improvise on their expressions and poses.
What was your most memorable photoshoot?
My pictures of the Kalalau Trail on the island Kauai. It’s claimed to be one of the hardest trails in the world and of course I lugged a bunch of equipment around, rested every half a mile, took in the mood and figured out how I could get the best pictures. I will never forget the feeling I had while hiking and taking pictures.
If you could photograph anyone anywhere in the world, who and where would it be?
Gisele Bündchen on Kalalau Beach. I’m a huge beach bum – give me sand and some waves and I’m in my element. Unfortunately, I have never done a professional shoot with a model on a beach, so if I could pick, I would choose the perfect model and the perfect beach.
Who was the most unforgettable model you’ve ever met?
Vicky Beeching. She is such a great person with so many wonderful stories that you just have to like her.
Who do you want to give a shoutout to?
My favorite MUA and hair stylist – Teresa Foss Del Rosso. We always have a great time, good laughs, and stunning pictures.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?
Be yourself. Don’t copy others, learn from them and find your own style.
What’s a deal breaker for you when deciding to do a shoot?
I like to shoot with people who have a good spirit. When I encounter someone who acts like they are a gift to mankind or who feel the need to put other people down, I won’t shoot with them.
How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?
I like to build rapport with the team before the shoot by just talking to each other and joking around. You generally get a pretty good sense of someone’s personality when you just try to understand where a person is coming from and where they want to go.
What do you think is the biggest thing holding you back in your photography?
Time. After college, I worked full-time as a photographer, but felt that I needed to put my degree to good use and work in business. I love my job, but it also takes up a lot of time.
What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?
Learn about lighting, buy better lenses.
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?
Be yourself, be honest, learn how to run a business.
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring models?
Be yourself, be honest, learn how to run a business.
What kind of gear do you have?
I shoot with Nikon cameras and Profoto lights. My favorite setup is my Nikon D800 with my Sigma 150mm f/2.8.
What’s one lighting tip you’d like to share with other photographers?
Take a look at the shadow around the nose.
What is your most life-changing event?
Having a child. Aside from not getting much sleep anymore, your perspective on life changes because you want to ensure that your child will become they can be.
What has photography done for you as a person? How has it changed you?
Photography has made me see things more clearly. I can’t even look at a person or a scene without envisioning how to make it look its best.
Who’s your biggest hero in your life?
My mum. My dad was working remotely, so we only ever saw some a few days a months and she ran the entire household, went to work every day, and raised a difficult kid.
What will you be doing five years from now?
There are two options – I will either sit in a board room thinking about my next photography trip or I will become a professional beach bum.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Went swimming in 15-20 feet waves.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?
I have driven or flown cars, motorcycles, boats, and planes, so the next thing on my bucket list is flying a helicopter.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Sven, here’s some contact information:
Sven, thank you for sharing your work and story with us – we greatly appreciate it.
If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Also, remember to download the FStop app for iPhone here!