Straightforward 2017

If you’re overwhelmed and stuck at the moment I tell you I’ve been there. In December I used to have no energy for writing year-in-reviews and usually postponed it till January. This year I had it in me already in October. I have some long stories about my journeys and and explanations of my truths, but this is not the topic today. I’ll leave it for laters.

Simplicity works best for me
Keeping it simple is actually very hard in all areas of life, also in writing. I have a two page draft in Estonian that I decided to discard and start again from zero. Too many things I wanted to say (since I haven’t written for a long time).

In 2017 I narrowed my priorities down to only 2 things: my children and food photography. Same time one year ago I was expecting my second child. My daughter Iris was born in February 2017. The fact that now she's a healthy 10 months old girl is a blessing.

Iris 3 days, 09.02.2017

Iris 3 days, 09.02.2017

Iris 7 months, 07.10.2017

Iris 7 months, 07.10.2017

Baby steps
If your life changes so much you can’t really make any plans. I was going to take it day by day and see how much work I can do if any. I had almost no savings and was not entitled to considerable benefits so I was hoping I can work.

Iris was only 1 month old when I took her to the studio for the first time. After that she’s been working with me week after week. As an average we had 2-3 shooting days per week, leaving 2-3 days for post production an running the studio. I would say that this is a normal routine even for someone without a baby. She has spent 12 hour days with me not cuddling, but watching me work. She’s extremely brave little girl. I’m so grateful to her that she helps me so much.

Iris has had 3 wonderful babysitters. Without them I couldn’t have done so much. Besides there are the grannies who also have supported us big time. My boys - both my husband and especially my 7 year old son Hannes have been really supportive as well.

For Hannes it was the first school year and big changes in his life, too. Never the less he’s been very mature about all this. Can’t thank him enough.

Hannes' first day at school, 01.09.2017

Hannes' first day at school, 01.09.2017

So what can I complain? Everything worked out fine.

“We should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best.”

The way I worked last year was very different from all previous years. Before giving birth I was joking with my husband that after the baby is born I might have only a few days in a month when I can actually go out and photograph, therefore my day should be much more expensive. I ought to make as much money in half or a quarter of the time. It’s hard to believe, but so it happened.

It’s much easier to say no if you have a good reason. I have gained so much from learning to say no. Everybody tells that, but it’s true. Saying yes to everything means saying no to important things.

As a result I’m in a happier place than I used to be. My life is crazier than ever, but I do less work work, I spend less hours in front of a computer, I work smarter, I work better. I have more discipline, I have more energy. My head is not going to explode any time soon. That’s a good thing.

I finally know what I’m good at. Being confident about your stuff is so liberating. I can cut all crap and the people who understand and appreciate that are my people. All it took to get there was to let everything else go. Luckily I had no choice. There are certain settings where I can fit with my colorful entourage (baby, babysitter, sometimes assistant) where I can create value for the client and meet the budget. Simple as that.

I’m not trying to win every assignment that comes my way. I’m not trying to convince people to hire me. I just do my best work and be really open and straightforward about everything.

I thought it would be a temporary thing and I will start doing everything again when the kids get older, but I understand now that I still have a very long way to go towards my best work and towards the person I want to be, so there is no way back. I’m also convinced that it’s my brain that makes best work, not  my camera or my butt (pardon my french).

“You are really not in business until you hire your first person.” Barbara Corcoran

This may or may not be true, but as I understand it, until you do everything yourself it may as well be a way of being. You don’t have to explain anything to anyone, you have no real sense of responsibility.

I used to be terrified of assistants, because they get to see what I do and where I fail. When being 9 months pregnant I had to choose either to stop working or to let someone help me. I chose Oskari @oskarieatstoomuch  I chose him over other people because I saw in his Instagram that he will do it anyway with or without me. He seemed to really like food photography so we could go straight to business. He’s a bit of a mystery man, doesn’t talk too much, but I feel I can count on him and I’m really grateful for that.

We’ve been doing things together for over a year. We are capable of taking bigger projects together than alone, our work is better. I see so many more opportunities for us in the future.

We want to send love to all our clients. This year we did some big gigs for Wolt, Kotryna Eesti, Eesti Leivatööstus, Leibur, Mulieres, Rimi Eesti, Bonava Eesti, Ernerst & Young, La Ecwador, Newton, Brandbook, Port Artur and many more.

Being a commercial photographer there's always a danger that by the end of year even the images you once were happy about look too commercial and not deep enough. That's when the strength of fitting to brands' needs becomes a weakness for your own style. The only way to fix that is to find clients who are more like you and of course shoot more personal stuff. The ongoing struggle.

I’ve also had some great help from @virkvispel in Tartu and in some other projects. Kaare is a great food stylist as well as photographer with an eye for detail. I would really like to have a Christmas party with the two of them if not this year maybe next year. One of my new year resolutions will definitely be - more social life!

“You must create an environment that resonates with your reasons and facilitates your becoming.”

I've had a studio for 2 years. I share the space and the kitchen with pastry chefs Kertu Lukas and Kristi Jalakas @suhkruingel They are actually my real life best friends and still are after the two years working side by side. Ha-ha! They both are also very good food stylists. Kristi having graduated as a fashion designer being really effective also with props, flowers and all kinds of crafts.

So even when work in locations keeps me away from the studio for weeks, it's really nice to be back, smell the freshly baked cakes in the air and feel that I've created something from nothing.

Thinking back about the good times we're both actually already aiming for the future. The bakers need more fridges, I want to leave my set and equipment standing ready for the next day, sometimes blocking the in and out traffic. So we have decided to go our separate ways in 2018. I've decided to move out and still looking for the ideal spot.

Yesterday was my final shoot day this year, some editing yet to finish and there will start my long holiday! Really, really long. Sorry guys, I'll take my kids to a warmer place and won't be back until January 25th.

My loves 02.11.2017, photo credits: Iris Kivisalu

My loves 02.11.2017, photo credits: Iris Kivisalu

So, from now on for the coming month I'll work only as a studio manager. Drop me a line and Oskari is happy to help you out in urgent matters. Also let me know about your plans for February, because I already have two big projects waiting when I get back.

Happy Holidays!


Best twelve 2017





Chef's recommendations for Rimi Estonia

Publisher: Brandbook
AD: Johannes Naan
Client: Rimi Eesti
Food stylist: Kristina Efert


Who's the coolest of them all?

Client: Kidz One clothing store
Brands: Mayoral, Name IT, Coccodrillo, Primigi
Style: Kairit Parker
Models: Elsa, Jesse, Liisbet, Taaniel
Location: KUMU

Summer 2017 in Tallink restaurants

Restaurant photography is probably what I do most often. These are usually 1-3 hour sessions for 5 to 10 dishes, sometimes more and longer. I bring my own lighting equipment to the restaurant so it can as well be completely dark.  

Restaurant SUME in Tallink City
Chef Heidi Pinnak

Restaurant Regatta in Pirita SPA Hotel
Chef Kristjan Kelder

Estonian Culinary Route

Client: Estonian Culinary Route / Eesti Toidutee

Objective: Table full of typical Estonian food

Food stylist: Kertu Lukas

Prop stylist: Katrin Press

Hand models: Kristjan, Linda, Hannes, Kertu

Dinner with friends

Client: Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs

Objective: Illustrate dining experience in Estonian restaurant in winter.

Location: Umami Resto

Chef: Janno Lepik

Models: Kristel, Olari, Laidi

Assistant: Oskari Värä

Dining in Estonia at Umami Resto

Umami Resto in Tallinn is famous for its large garden where you can enjoy delicious and colorful meals as well as refreshing drinks under apple trees.

Client: Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs

Objective: Illustrate dining experience in Estonian restaurant outdoors in summer.

Location: Umami Resto

Chef: Janno Lepik

Models: Kairit, Märt, Inna, Oskari

Make-up: Reelika Selirand

Assistant: Oskari Värä

Lifestyle images for new homes in Tallinn

Client: Bonava Eesti