You’ve probably heard of Tessa Neustadt from us before, because she’s Amber‘s number one, go-to photographer for all of her interior design projects. It was an obvious choice for us to spotlight the magic behind the lens, because if you get to know Tessa, she’s one of the loveliest people out there. Not to mention (and which you already know), her photography skills are next level. Amber’s been working with Tessa since early days, and we’ve been lucky enough to spend weeks and weeks together in multiple cities and states and have gotten to know her quite well.
While we work with Tessa on interior photography, she’s got quite the portfolio, an online print shop, and her Instagram is full of inspiration. Take a moment and read our interview with Tessa, because she dives into how she got started as a freelance photographer, her essentials if you’re just getting started in photography, and her daily ritual (which is a good one). We are obsessed with Tessa, and after reading the below, we know you will be too.
How did you get into photography, and specifically interior photography? Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.
When I was a kid I had a lot of interest in design. I would rearrange the house when my parents left me home alone to run errands, I would cut out my favorite photos in design magazines. My mom and I would actually do this together since before I remember. I would beg my parents to take me to open houses on the weekends, loved redecorating my room, and DIY projects and all at such a young age. Alongside that, I also loved taking photos with my disposable camera and polaroids. When I was in high school, I started studying photography and spent all of my spare time in the darkroom. So looking back on it, it’s kind of kismet that I’ve become an interiors photographer. The two passions didn’t merge together until I got an interior design internship with Emily Henderson when I was 22. She slowly started having me take photos / videos for her blog and it just snowballed from there. I learned so much from working with her.
What are some of the biggest challenges of being a photographer?
Retouching is always the hardest for me mentally. I’ll go have a great time on set with friends and only to realize I’ll have just as many hours at home editing. As someone who already struggles with focusing, having a que of sometimes over 600 photos to retouch can be quite challenging!
What are a few essential items someone needs for a ‘photographer’s starter kit’?
If you’re serious, the camera bodies I recommend are the Canon 5D IV and the Nikon D850. I always love a 50mm, thats what I started on. Canon sells a great one for around $100. Almost every photographer I know owns a good 24-70mm. They can be more of an investment, but it’s a great lens to have because of its versatility. Try searching for used lenses at Adorama, B&H, and Samy’s Camera. Don’t forget UV filters for your lenses, it protects the glass from getting damaged…I learned this the hard way! And have at least 2 batteries, chargers and 2 memory cards, because you always want to have a backup. If you plan on shooting interiors, you’ll need a tripod.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in working freelance?
Working freelance can be very isolating, so for me the biggest challenge is lack of community and not feeling like I’m part of a team. I’m lucky that I now have a lot of ‘work friends’ that I get to see on shoots, but seeing them once every few months just doesn’t lend itself to building the same type of close relationships as those who get to work together everyday. I’ve been trying to bridge the gap and ask work friends to hang out though!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into photography?
Shoot as much as possible! When I was younger I never left the house without my camera. You can also try shadowing a photographer and giving yourself ‘photo assignments’ similar to what you might have in an “Intro to Photography” course. When you’re first starting out and trying to build a your portfolio and a name for yourself, it can help to do some shoots for free or trade. I used to go and shoot restaurants / hotels I liked (free of charge) and then share the photos with them in hopes of fostering a working relationship or having them share the photos on social media and crediting me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I can’t quite remember how my boyfriend worded this, but it was something along the lines of “You won’t get what you don’t ask for.” I’ve always been a bit introverted and soft spoken, so I’ve been trying to keep his advice in mind and work on being more forthright and asking for what I want.
What inspires you?
Everything! Traveling, exploring a new neighborhood or town, watching ambitious people accomplish things, going for a walk, a great meal, movies, interesting articles, etc. I listen to the How I Built This podcast religiously. I love hearing people’s stories and their unique path to building their businesses.
Something that always leaves me feeling inspired is going for a walk or a hike. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that allows the mind to wander in a different way. In The History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit describes how walking through a physical space allows you to traverse the landscape of your mind. It helps me get through mental blocks and think more creatively and freely. When I want to get inspired and motivated about work, I’ll put on the How I Built This podcast and walk through this one beautiful neighborhood in Pasadena that I’m hoping to live in one day. I use it as a push to get the things I daydream about accomplished.
Do you have a daily ritual you can’t function without?
There’s a quote I like by The Angry Therapist, “Happiness is the ocean you swim in, not the island you’re swimming towards.” It’s not a ritual in the more traditional sense, but I’ve been practicing finding moments of joy in my everyday life and savoring them. I’m trying to let go of the notion that “I’ll be happy when….” It’s so engrained in our society that I think we have to look at happiness as something that takes practice and finding rituals that we know bring us joy. For me, it’s simple things like going for a walk, going out for a coffee by myself, watching the sunset with my dogs, taking the more scenic way home, and going to the gym.
What’s next for Tessa Neustadt?
I’m slowly working on stocking up my online vintage shop and am working towards buying a property abroad to turn into a short term rental property and a place to hold photography workshops.