Rafael Kostrzewa is an experienced freelance headshot photographer and founder of Rafael Photography. Rafael has been working in Dublin as a freelance photographer since 2010, and with international clients across Ireland, Germany, Poland and the UK, Rafal combined his expert knowledge of photography with his passion for people to form Rafael Photography.
As part of our Member Series, we caught up with Rafael to understand his background, his decision to set up Rafael Photography, and why he felt Iconic was the right fit for him. The Masonry, a rare restored warehouse, is one of our most unique locations and is located within The Liberties, a vibrant and dynamic location. With plenty of breakout space and bursting with creatives and like-minded individuals, Rafael felt as though The Masonry would allow for himself and his business to thrive.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and grew up in Poland, and I came to Ireland in early 2006. My hobbies include photography, video, travel and sailing. I am an extrovert – a smile is my most frequent expression and I believe being kind and helpful makes the world a better place. I started my own photography business in the middle of the financial crisis in 2010. Quickly I realised that I didn’t want to be a family or wedding photographer because I wanted to create something more than capturing memories, I wanted to create and deliver something more exciting, the future!
I was always fascinated by human portraits as well as interested in psychology so I decided to focus on acting and business portraits – I knew that if I did my job right, the models and actors who hired me would get casted and get jobs themselves, and this was really important to me as I wanted to help other people.
At the same time, I’ve seen hundreds of websites and other visual content based on stock photography which feels so wrong – as there were very little or no real people and real stories, so that’s when I discovered my niche.
When did you first get into photography?
I was 16 years old when I entered a dark room for the first time. I had a Russian SLR camera, the brand Zenit, at that time. After a while, I realised that the entire film process took too long, especially because I was really interested in painting at the time and Jackson Pollock was a massive influence for me. Compared to painting, working in the darkroom felt like an idea for retirement. I was waiting for the digital era.
What set you on the road to where you are now in your career?
Back in 2011, I discovered Peter Hurley – New York based headshot photographer, also known at the headshot “evangelist”. I started watching everything that was available on YouTube and I was fascinated by his style of work and most importantly his way of working with his models. I got my hands on my first digital camera in about 2005, and since then, I’ve been a big YouTube student. I did a certified Adobe Premiere Pro course in FilmBase and I also have a Digital Marketing Diploma from Irish Times training, but aside from that, everything from photoshop to shooting techniques, you name it, I got everything I know from online sources.
What has been your favourite project to date?
There were many milestones in my career but there’s one that’s quite interesting. I remember when I saw and listened to Christy Moore for the first time, I said “Oh my God, what a personality and strength – I would love to see him in front of my camera!”. Fast forward a couple of years and I received an email inviting me to take pictures for Christy’s new album “Magic Nights”. My dream came true and I met Christy Moore and I got to work with him.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
When I started my business, I was an SME orientated photography service and this was around 2011 during the economic crisis. I would go from door to door, knocking on local business’s doors asking if they wanted my services and the most common answer I got was “sorry we don’t have the budget”. After two hours of calling from business to business, my confidence was knocked, but I got chatting to a friend of mine who had just come straight from flight attendant training, and she said just don’t take anything personally, don’t take the word ‘no’ personally. Visualise what you want and use every rejection to make you stronger. Just keep going, and eventually, someone will buy something, a scratch card or a bottle of perfume, or whatever it is that you are selling. So I just kept going and that’s how I built my first list of clients.
Why did you feel Iconic Offices was the right fit for you?
For many years, I worked at my clients locations or was hired at day studios. I really needed a change, a place where I could meet my clients and deliver the best experience possible.
The Masonry building really exceeded my expectations. After over a year of being here, I am still in love with the interior design. The accessibility is great because it’s 24/7 and I really appreciate our kitchen and shower facilities especially when I’m working long hours. I receive and send a lot of big files regularly, so it’s makes life a lot easier for me when I have good connectivity and high speed broadband. The people at reception are phenomenal, always helpful, and when I hear “Good Morning Raf” everyday, it’s priceless.
How do you unwind after a busy?
As part of my anti-burnout strategy, the best way for me to unwind is to get a Thai massage, it really helps after an intensive day or project. I love to get out and enjoy Dublin’s multicultural cuisine and on the weekends I spend a lot of time on my boat – sailing in Dublin Bay and fixing stuff on the boat.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
I think everyone should experience scuba-diving at least once, especially in warmer seas, it is just beyond words. Of course, I should mention sailing as well, which I think everyone should definitely try once.
If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite three guests, who would they be and why?
Tony Robbins and Simon Sinek – I have followed and watched these guys for years and having them at dinner would be an amazing opportunity to learn something new. I would also invite a good marine electric engineer – I skipped physics class in the past and the only AC / DC I was interested in was the rock band! So I would definitely invite a marine electric engineer so I could learn a few things quickly.
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