We were lucky enough to interview Daniel and Julia Szewzyk of Pastell Studio. Located in Austria, this husband and wife team work together to streamline the photography process, making it more effective and pleasant for their clients. Daniel takes the photos while Julia assists with posing and decor. Their company was born out of love for photography, exclusivity and a vintage style. They aim to offer a full experience, not just a photoshoot!
If we asked your family who Daniel and Julia are, what would they say?
They would probably say that we are two very different people. Julia is very emotional, creative, and spirited. She keeps everything well-organized. Daniel is quieter, has lots of patience to work with clients, and is very judicious.
How did your storytelling begin?
My husband is a photographer (photography was his big passion even in childhood) and I love the post-production part of the process. As our first child was born, like most moms I wanted to have as many photos of my daughter as possible. I am a perfectionist. So, I started to read a lot of photography-related material, and I was watching as many editing tutorials as possible. Also, I was impressed by Summerana Academy because it gave me so much knowledge in such a short period. The most important thing I have done, though is that I stopped comparing our work to other photographers’ work. I began listening to my heart and we started creating and showing photography as we felt it.
I have always been obsessed with vintage pieces because I feel like they have their own soul. There is so much history in them and they have so much to tell us. As I began pinning old children’s illustrations on Pinterest, it all came together like a puzzle. I am constantly looking for vintage clothes, toys and furniture. When I find something precious, I literally can’t sleep at night because I’m thinking over every detail of how to create the image I see in my head.
What inspires you to create?
Our biggest inspirations are our children and vintage children illustrations/storytelling books. First, I find some inspiring illustration, then I start searching for appropriate vintage clothes, furniture and/or toys. If I can, then I’ll make it myself (clothing design is my second biggest passion after photography). Finally, we present that old illustration the way I imagine it.
If you could give new artists any advice about photography, editing or even the business side of the industry, what would it be?
Never compare yourself and your work to the work of other photographers. This was our biggest mistake in the beginning.
It’s fine to look for inspiration in others’ art, but you need to understand that you will never be the same and that’s the beauty of it. The main challenge is to find something appealing and unique to your soul, something really special that will make your work different and will inspire others.
Trying to copy other successful photographers because they have a lot of clients and admirers is the wrong way to go about it if you want to be successful in this industry.
You are a dream-team. You work together to tell stories and create memories for families that can be passed down from generation to generation. Is it hard to work with your significant other? Are there any tips and tricks to making it a successful collaboration?
Yes, we are definitely a dream-team. I have Master’s degree in International Economics and would never have had the chance to live a more fulfilling life without my husband. He was the first person to open up the world of photography to me. I think the secret is that we are both good in different areas and we complement each other. My husband has the patience to work with clients and has the technical skills. I am great with the creative part, the planning and the post-processing.
If you had an unlimited budget and you could go anywhere in the world, what would your dream session look like?
We are already planning it! It will not be too far away from us, probably about a 4-5 hour drive from Vienna. There is a museum type of alpine hut. It’s original, built in the 16th century and located in the Bucheben district in the Rauris National Park area. Everything there is full of history; there are many collectors items like a butter centrifuge, butter kettle, cheese press, etc. There is dark wood paneling in the rooms that is blackened by smoke from the rustic fireplace. Also, the cozy “Kuhstall-Stüberl” or parlor where people cook and invite visitors to a get-together in the evening. Just like in the past, the food is chilled and kept fresh in the original earth cellar. That unique place is normally fully booked far in advance, so we were booked it for April 2022. We just can’t wait to spend an unforgettable time with our kids in that storytelling hut. The wonderful mountain view is breathtaking and the fresh mountain air is something we are looking forward to. I have a feeling this will be a unique experience, and it would be nice to relax for a bit but also create some wonderful storytelling images.
Daniel, if we open your camera bag, what would we find there?
At the moment you would not find a wide range of gear in my bag.
My must-haves are the Sony A7RIII camera and the Sigma Art 35 mm lens. All of our best images are made using this equipment.
Julia, tell us a little more about your post-processing. How long does it take for you to create one portrait? What software do you use?
Post-processing is my favorite part. Normally one photo takes me 20 to 30 minutes to edit because I pay attention to every little detail. I spend an especially long time working on dodging and burning since it’s the technique that gives our images the best painterly look.
My favorite software that help me to quicken my workflow are: Nik Collections, Exposure X6 and Summerana actions. Of course, some photos are completely hand-edited .
If you could have dinner with one artist that has impacted your photography today, who would it be and why?
It would be one of the resident instructors of Summerana Academy, Lucas Rodrigues Dutra. His work is very inspiring and he also finds his inspiration in vintage children illustrations, so his vision of storytelling art is very close to ours.
Tell us some wise words you live by.
„For changes to be of any true value, they’ve got to be lasting and consistent. Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards… If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve… Whatever happens, take responsibility… The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.” – Tony Robbins