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Kodiak woman's photo hobby now her career

Posted: August 12, 2012 - 12:12am
In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, Kodiak, Alaska photographer Sylwia Ok shoots photos in her studio. The Poland-born Ok started taking photographs as an amateur 10 years ago when she moved to Florida. After she came to Kodiak, she turned her hobby into a profession. (AP Photo/Kodiak Daily Mirror, Nicole Klauss)  Nicole Klauss
Nicole Klauss
In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, Kodiak, Alaska photographer Sylwia Ok shoots photos in her studio. The Poland-born Ok started taking photographs as an amateur 10 years ago when she moved to Florida. After she came to Kodiak, she turned her hobby into a profession. (AP Photo/Kodiak Daily Mirror, Nicole Klauss)

KODIAK — When Sylwia Ok was choosing between art school and economics school, she chose to earn a master’s degree in computer science and econometrics. More than a decade later, she changed her mind.

Ok doesn’t consider her economics background a mistake because it’s that background that helped her start her own business, Sylwia Ok Photography.

Ok is a portrait and landscape photographer. She has always loved art, but picked up her first camera only 10 years ago. Ok grew up in Poland, and that’s when she moved to Florida. After the move, she started taking pictures.

“It started really slow, and just for fun,” she said. “The more I knew about photography, the more I knew I didn’t know about it. I had to learn more and more.”

Ok started taking pictures with a basic point-and-shoot camera as a weekend hobby. She quickly outgrew that camera and bought her first DSLR camera in 2004; she’s now on her third DSLR.

It wasn’t until Ok and her husband Seni, a Coast Guardsman, moved from Florida to Kodiak that she turned the hobby into a business. Ok felt like it was a good time because she had already earned a Professional Photographer Certificate from the New York Institute of Photography and had started working toward adding an artistic degree as an active photography student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Kodiak has proved to be the right place to get started.

Shortly after arriving, Ok was able to open a photography studio in her home.

“Before we moved here, I never had a chance to have a place with everything set up at once,” she said.

Ok has worked hard to get her name out to the Kodiak community. Using her computer science training she designed a website and business cards to promote her company; she also cofounded the Kodiak Camera Club.

“Everyone who has a camera can be a photographer,” Ok said. “The biggest challenge is to market yourself and find clientele. It’s not really difficult in Kodiak. Word of mouth is working really well here.”

Her favorite and most popular portraits are the newborn and first birthday sessions.

“Newborn sessions I absolutely love,” she said. “They’re not really difficult even though they’re lengthy. You pretty much work around the baby.”

For Ok, it’s important to make sure her subjects come across as natural as possible.

“I try to get the most emotions coming from the people I’m photographing,” she said. “I want to show them as they are, so it’s not a strict pose. I want to find a point that they look the best, and they look natural and happy.”

Ok offers different prices depending on session lengths and number of photographs. She also offers restoration work for old photos.

Samples of Ok’s work can be viewed at the Eider House Bed and Breakfast, Ton of Fun, or in the new “Kodiak Alaska’s Emerald Isle” book produced by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce.

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