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Interview with New Jersey Destination Photographer, Tori Sokalski Photography



Hi everyone! Welcome to our latest Interview with New Jersey Destination Photographer, Tori. We are thrilled to feature another talented photographer who will be sharing some amazing tips and advice for fellow photographers. As a designer specializing in websites and brands for photographers, I am passionate about supporting the photography community and showcasing the incredible work that these artists create. Today, I am excited to introduce you to Tori from Tori Sokalski Photography, who has graciously agreed to share her insights with us.

Throughout this interview, Tori will be sharing her thoughts on a variety of topics, ranging from her creative process to advice for aspiring photographers. We will also be discussing some of the challenges that photographers face in the industry. And how Tori has overcome these obstacles to build her successful business.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this fascinating Interview with New Jersey Destination Photographer, Tori! And when you’re done, be sure to check out her social media pages to show her some love and support.

Best regards, Sarah & Scott x

Firstly, Can you introduce a little yourself to our readers?

Hi! My name is Tori Sokalski and I am a freshly 21-year-old wedding photographer for the outrageous and unconventional. My whole life I haven’t been afraid to stand out, and I love incorporating my client’s quirks and individual styles into each session. While focusing on creating a sense of nostalgia and spontaneity- just like a photo your friend took on a whim. I picked up a camera before I could drive and the rest was history! Some other things about me: my life revolves around music. I’m a mega fan of Stevie nicks and Harry styles. Prefer an iced chai over coffee any day, I’m a huge film dork and vintage clothing is my jam! I refer to myself as “the definition of a Leo” and I’ve found that most people that come into contact with me for more than 3 minutes tend to agree.

What’s in the background while you edit?

Normally a movie or tv show, I love to rewatch the same shows over and over again just for some background noise (currently it’s glee, but also friends, how I met your mother, gossip girl, that 70s show, American horror story, and the office are in the mix as well) at night I will normally listen to some Hozier or Florence and the machine while I work!

Share your story – We’d love to know your story of how you got to where you are today?

Officially I’ve been in business for two years! Technically… I’m not too sure. As I mentioned before I picked up a camera in middle school because I always loved the idea of modelling for the camera (again… Leo) I started going out with my friends and doing photo swaps with them, and then once I got to high school I realized I preferred to be behind the camera most of the time calling the shots (have you picked up that I’m a Leo yet?) and decided to start working with others primarily as the photographer rather than the model. I remember making my Instagram account and posting a bunch of random photos for fun without paying much attention to it.

That fall I remember coming into school and out of nowhere people were coming up to me asking me to photograph them sometime. It was wild! I never thought something I just did to pass time could be something I was actually talented at. For the rest of high school, I would shoot everything, portraits, families, even sports! However, I always knew that if I was going to do this for real that I wanted to work with couples. I am a grade A hopeless romantic, and I just love the idea of being around people in love all of the time. Once I graduated high school I went to college for photography, and at the end of my freshman year, covid hit and I was sent home.

I was super depressed stuck in my parent’s house and decided to post that if anyone wanted to shoot that I would be around. BOOM. Out of nowhere, my business blew up – and the rest was history! I started shooting small covid ceremonies due to all the rescheduling and eventually worked my way up to the big leagues, shooting in London, Denver, Miami, and soon Aruba, Outer Banks, and even Canada! I dropped out of college my sophomore year after my business got too big to juggle both, and it was the greatest decision of my life.

What is your creative inspiration? When you’re feeling creative blocked what do you turn to relight your inspiration?

Movies and music! I always say that I want my photos to feel like something out of an old movie, I’ve so attached to the way film makes me feel, so whenever I’m feeling stuck I just think about my favorite shots from my favorite movies and inspiration usually strikes. I’m also heavily influenced by fashion, so a lot of times when I see outfits or scenes that I like from movies or from my favorite music artists I’m able to come up with an idea around that!

Who or what has influenced your work the most? Could be a person, a memory 0r an idea?

Have you ever seen the Lindsay Lohan version of the parent trap? For some reason the scene where they are in the bridal shop and the model with the big hat is dancing around with the girl is a CORE MEMORY of mine! Before I even realized I wanted to shoot weddings I feel like that scene and how it made me feel made such a profound impact on how I see things. I love how happy and carefree the model looked in her gown. And that vintage careless “hey get together and smile at the camera” is something that I personally want all of my images to convey. Whenever I’m stuck or trying to figure out how I want to create something I think back for that scene!

What are you most proud of in your business?

I’m really proud of how far I’ve gotten at my age and how well I’ve done doing things my way. In this business, it’s so easy to get caught up in other opinions and feel scared to take a leap of faith in your own, but I’ve done my best to tune out those voices in my head and follow my gut! I’m also really proud of myself for recognizing that school wasn’t the best place for me and leaving on my own terms. There’s such a stigma around needing a degree to be successful and I don’t think that could be more incorrect! I’m doing what I love the way I want to do it and that’s all that matters.

What aspects of your business do you love the most?

I love the styling and planning aspect of sessions. When people come to me with a bigger concept or idea to take their session or wedding day out of the box I LOVE it. Any opportunity I can get to help style or put together something magic for them is super fulfilling. I also love that I have the power to make people feel beautiful behind the camera and seeing how they open up from start to finish.

We’re all about showing up with authenticity, and being honest, what do you find hard or struggle within your business?

I think my biggest struggle is when it comes to the post-production aspect. I tend to get really overwhelmed and burnt out with my editing and keeping everything together. It can be super mentally exhausting to show up for all these other people and by the time you get to yourself, it’s really hard to be present and aware of what you need. I’ve also had problems with trying to be a people pleaser which I’m actively working on! It’s really important to me that my work stays fun, so when I get the feeling that I don’t want to be doing something I don’t take on that job and I only do as much as I feel comfortable. When I start feeling uninspired and bored with the work I’m putting out I take a step back and think about how I can change that.

If you could go back in time and give a beginner photographer any pieces of advice what would it be?

It’s ok to ask for help. I think people pride themselves in being “self-taught” (guilty as charged) but something I’ve learned is that it is so incredibly important to have other people in this industry to lean on for help! Whether that’s assisting and second shooting, or doing mentorship etc. There is always more to be learned and I think going into this industry with a closed-off mindset about what other people have to show you just do more harm than good. Also listening to what others have to say, can sometimes teach you what NOT to do as well. Which is also extremely beneficial.

What are you currently doing to market your business and what are you finding is working well? Is there anything you struggle with in terms of marketing?

I find that when I post what I’m up to/into personally I get a lot of positive feedback! I post a lot of ootds and weekly inspiration that I’ve saved and people love it. I’ve found by doing that and posting a bunch of random Harry styles content and other nerdy things I’m into that it brings me the most connections and potential clients! It’s important to others that they feel connected to their photographer so I find when I share about myself as authentically as possible I have the best outcome. I could probably do a better job at marketing myself but I try not to pressure myself when it comes to social media etc so when I don’t feel like posting, I don’t. Keeps it stress-free for me! Also helps to have an amazing website 😉

Gear list – What’s currently in your photography gear?

I shoot with a canon 5d mark iv and my 50mm 1.2 and my sigma 35mm 1.4. For film I shoot on a Contax tvs and I normally use porta 400!

What are your favourite sessions and why? These can be fav location, favourite people to work with, or a favourite activity

I love couples sessions obviously but I’m also really passionate about motherhood and maternity sessions! I don’t shoot families anymore but I am super drawn to pregnancy and motherhood itself so I love working with women and capturing them in such an important time in their life. Other than that anything that’s normally super outrageous, 70 inspired clothes, a fun location, etc. Just delicious.

What’s your process from start to finish in working with clients?

From the second someone inquires with me I immediately think about how I would feel about this person and potential client outside of the business aspect. Would I want to be their friend? Do we have anything in common??? That’s really important to me! I don’t like to just show up and work to work. I like working with people that I know are choosing me for a reason. After someone books with me for a regular session we plan a time, location, concept etc. Then I normally help style them and we make a Pinterest board etc.

Photography bucket list? Session type, location, things you want to do with clients?

My dream is to shoot in Washington state and someday greece!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Invest in a good external hard drive and BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS. Also show up as yourself and don’t associate yourself with bad people just because they have a well-known name!

Top 5 tips for newbie’s in the industry?

  1. Don’t jump into shooting weddings just because you can. Don’t take on shooting someone else’s most important day just because they asked. If you have never shot a wedding before you shouldn’t take one on until you’ve assisted, and second shot a handful of times. Trust me! Patience is key
  2. Social media is fake
  3. Learn how to shoot manually
  4. There’s enough clientele for everyone! Just because you didn’t book that wedding doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. It just means it wasn’t the right fit. Most of the time if I don’t book a wedding I’ll always get an even better offer from someone else right after
  5. Don’t stretch yourself too thin! It’s ok to want to be well-rounded but I think you can also be too well-rounded to the point where your purpose gets lost. Even if you like to dabble in all kinds of photography. I think it’s a good idea to market yourself as one big thing and then take on little jobs on the side. I market myself as a wedding photographer, but it doesn’t mean I don’t shoot maternity and branding and engagements too.

What’s next for your business? What honest goals are you aiming for currently?

My biggest goal right now is to travel as much as I can and to eventually book mainly destination weddings. Would love to shoot more elopement’s and eventually I think it would be cool to speak at retreats/events about branding and showing up as yourself in your business.

Massive thank you to our guest Tori from Tori Sokalski Photography!

Interview with New Jersey Destination Photographer



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