An Interview with Photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Architect: Barnes Vanse

As anyone who owns an e-commerce store, or appreciates interior design and architecture will tell you, photography is not for the faint of heart. I attempted to take my own rug photos once, and quickly realized that a good photographer is worth his or her weight in gold.

One particularly talented photographer based in the greater DC area is Stacy Zarin-Goldberg: a multi-talented lady with boundless energy (by all accounts) and an extensive resume that spans portraiture, interior photography, and food photography. We were lucky enough to sit down with her and learn how she got where she is, what makes a shot work, and how she navigates this business. Read on, and when you have a photography project ready for shooting, reach out!

 

Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Q: When did you know that photography was your calling?

I have always been into art. I took art classes at the Corcoran on the weekends, and in high school I supplemented with classes at a local college.  Clearly, art school was where I was headed.
Originally, I enrolled at Pratt Institute of Art in NYC to be a communications design major. I arrived in the city a week before classes started, looked at my schedule and realized there were no photo classes. Horrified, I ran to the bursar's office to ask why, and was told only photo majors take photo freshman year. "Well clearly there has been a huge mistake" I explained, "I am indeed a photo major and this error needs to be fixed immediately." So, I changed my major and all my classes three days before school started. I caused quite the scene and never looked back. The thought of going the whole year without one photo class is what did it: that's how I knew. Needless to say, my parents were quite shocked when they received the revised bill a month later. 
Q: Your portfolio includes an impressive breadth of food photography, interiors, architecture, and portraiture.
I can't even take a good selfie on my iPhone. If you had to pass on one tip to novices like me for each subject, what would it be? 
  • For Food: Lighting! Food photography is all about making food look appetizing (even when its not) . Picture a giant bowl of chill... without the right lighting, it would just look like a bowl of brown mush. But the biggest tip for food photography I have....the best food stylist in all the land Lisa Cherkasky!
Food photography for the Washington Post
  • For Interiors/architecture:  Tripod!!!! Interiors and architecture is very technical. There's a lot involved and sometimes it takes a number of exposures just to get one shot, so the camera cannot move!
Design: Zoe Feldman Design
  • For Portraits: Most people are very uncomfortable behind the camera. Before you even start shooting, you've got to loosen people up. Bring on charm. Spend a little extra time setting up your gear so they can relax a tad. For the first 5 mins, explain you are just setting up your lighting and these are just tests. if the subject doesn't feel stressed, they immediately relax. I guarantee you, half of those "test" shots are perfect and usually the one.

Carmel Greer shot by Stacy Zarin GoldbergArchitect Carmel Greer

 

Q: When you aren't photographing or editing a recent shoot, what do you love to do?
Haha, you think I have free time! I've got two munchkins and a puppy who keeps me on my toes. But on the rare occasion I have a sec, I love the water. Boats, the dock, anything with a shore.
Q: For the designers in our audience: what can they do in preparation for an interiors shoot to make the day, and the pictures, a smashing success? 
So much! This merits a much longer conversation. 
Design by Lauren Liess, Cabinetry by UKB
Cliff notes version: 
  1. Get the house prepped prior to the shoot. This may involve getting the house cleaned, and bringing props over the day before.
  2. Scout! Let's chat about the project beforehand, send me pictures, sometimes we even need to walk the location before the shoot to plan out the best shots.
  3. Shot list- Have a list ready of the areas you want to shoot, this way we won't forget any important shots, and we can plan out the day.
  4. That extra oomph! Sometimes its the right prop, sometimes its a certain time the sun comes through the window, sometimes its florals and greenery... every shot should have an extra oomph! My favorite "oomph" shots... include puppies :)
Seriously, this is like the cliff-notes version of a much larger conversation!
Q: We'll have to have you back to dig into that ideal prep list! For now, can you share a favorite picture that you captured recently? What made it memorable to you? 
This is hard--there's so many!
Recently, I was assigned a "self portrait in quarantine"  by the Washingtonian Mag. I set up one light in my kitchen and told my kids to act normal...but normal in our house at the time was anything but.  My kids were dressed in halloween costumes, I was in my pjs with my gray roots three inches too long. Their toys were everywhere, there's a sink full of dirty dishes and wine bottles all over the counter. They were "flying" in the air and at one point my son hit his knee on a toy and was crying... It was a very real moment.
Q: Any advice for someone just starting their creative business?
It call comes down to ambition, thick skin, big balls, AND CONTRACTS!
  • Ambition: From day one, I hustled. I still hustle.  I treated each job like I was shooting a portrait of Madonna for the cover for Vogue. This mindset and hustle led to more and bigger assignments. 
  • Thick skin: Things will happen in this industry that will sting and you'll need thick skin to survive. All the times I didn't get a contract or job I really wanted, or times I pitched an idea and they ran with my idea, but with a different photographer.
  • Big balls: Stick up for yourself, know your worth, don't be a doormat. stick to your guns, morals and ethics
  • Contracts: Never, ever ever do anything without a contract! Ever ever ever... it's not fun taking people to court about being stiffed for a job that you never had them sign a contract for. 

Design: @house_1924, shot for Country Home Magazine

Thank you so much, Stacy, for sharing your wisdom, spark, and talent! You can see more of Stacy's work and contact her through her website,  http://www.stacyzaringoldberg.com/

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