Sophie Saks

Sophie "borrowed" her dad's camera while traveling. Gifted a camera. Remains ambitious.

Take us back to you as a kid. Oh, take me back. What didn’t I do? I tried EVERYTHING once, just to say I did. Played every sport for the least amount of time you could (seriously uncoordinated as a kid and well…. now too. Some things never change). I never liked practicing things that I wasn’t good at, but I totally excelled at playing the cello! I learned music by memory, so I would fall asleep at night listening to songs + wake up in the morning sounding them out, playing them by the end of the day.

I was always drawn to more creative outlets, but it took me a really long time to figure out WHAT I wanted to create and HOW. It’s fun to look back on everything I created while figuring it out; the good, the bad + the embarrassing. Of course, my mom saved it ALL!

Walk us through the days leading up to getting your first camera and starting your own thing. One of my favorite things to do, as a child + still now, is look through photo albums. My parents were SO GOOD at curating photos + keeping albums around (I’m still trying to do well at this myself, but THERE’S SO MANY). I guess I’ve always been fascinated by a tangible memory. I love the way looking through old photos makes me feel, how photos can evoke emotions + memories in other people. The stories I’ve heard and the people I’ve gotten to know better, because of a photo… I love it.

My dad has a wanderlust soul + he has always fueled mine! Growing up, we travelled a lot + he documented every trip. As I got older, I would start “borrowing” his camera on these trips and I think we both realized that I saw all the same things, but in my own way. For my 16th birthday, he got me my own DSLR + I was ecstatic! That first year, I spent ALL of my free time shooting anything + everything. Like everything…. close up shots of every flower on the block, pictures of my toast before school, the occasional mirror selfie (back when MySpace was still a thing). I can’t even fathom how many photoshoots I put my sister through (always grateful). My senior year, I was taking senior portraits for friends of mine; nothing I would want to see now I’m sure (we all start somewhere, right?), but I was ambitious from the beginning + there are days now where I remind myself of this!

"Ask for the opportunities you want to make happen!"

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped? Running a photography business has been a constant learning experience, and I’m not done learning. I don’t know if I ever will be! The path to progress as an entrepreneur is NOT straight, there are highs and lows, and it was so challenging at first to learn how to push through the lows. To learn how to LEARN from the lows. Fresh out of high school, I shot my first wedding ever, ALONE, with no wedding experience, and I was so not prepared! The stress was enough to make me want to quit + I think I actually did put my camera down for a period of time, at least “business” wise.

That’s around the time I moved to Des Moines! I spent a year studying photography at Grand View University. I spent a year working, saving up for a new camera, and just planning how to do + be better than I was before. Des Moines is full of so many people + resources that put me on the path to succeeding as a better photographer/entrepreneur/overall person. My photo prof at GVU, Doug Wells, was a solid support both in the short time I studied with him + since I’ve left. He pushed me to really fine-tune my strengths while I was a student + was one of the people who gave me the nudge I needed to pursue making my passion my livelihood afterwards.  

This past year, I stumbled upon the DSM Girl Gang, which has also been an incredible resource! Running head-on into a business you’re not necessarily sure how to run can be empowering but also terrifying. Being welcomed into a group of female creatives who can not only relate + offer advice but also want to collaborate + push each other to learn + grow is so rewarding! I’ve made friends + met clients through the Girl Gang, as well as created some beautiful personal projects that nourish my creative soul. That’s important for a business to thrive, too! The more you know. *cue the jingle* 

Talk to us about one of your good days this week. This week was amazing. I shot my first wedding of the season + a few other portrait sessions with the best people! I love getting to know new people, hearing their stories + seeing them gush over their favorite picture of themselves (cause if you’re like me, how often does THAT happen?). It doesn’t get much better than that!

"Running head-on into a business you’re not necessarily sure how to run can be empowering but also terrifying."

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them? Believe in yourself + pursue your passion. Try something new, step outside of your comfort zone; it’s OKAY to be uncomfortable, it means you’re learning. And ASK for the opportunities you want to make happen! So many of the jobs I’ve been blessed with this past year have come from simply initiating a conversation. I believe in you. You can do it!

Why Des Moines? To be totally honest, Des Moines wasn’t my final destination. Remember, wanderlust soul? When I first moved here, I so desperately wanted to move to Colorado, California, Oregon, Alaska… somewhere the scenery is awe-inspiring. Somewhere it would be easy to take a stunning portrait, am I right?  

But when I started really LIVING here, I fell in love with Des Moines. The people here, the community, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s the perfect place to grow + thrive as a creative! And really, Des Moines is so beautiful when you slow down to really look.

"Des Moines is so beautiful when you slow down to really look."

Convince someone new to DSM to check out and capture one of your favorite sights. One favorite sight!? Hmmm. Ever since I was little, anywhere I go, I like to find some kind of quiet place to watch the sunset. Currently, my favorite place to do that is a tiny little dock off of Birdland Marina (but don’t all go at once, I’m talking tiny)! It’s so peaceful. Watching all the colors melt into the water + reflect back is so dreamy.

Check it out, at least once! If you DM me first, I’ll go with you :)

What are you most proud of and why? Working for yourself you’ll always encounter something new, something you don’t know how to do, or aren’t necessarily good at.  I’m proud that I’ve started to overcome my fear of not being “good” at something.

It took some time for me to learn that failure happens on the path to success, more often than not. Before, that used to be detrimental to me; now, I view “problems” as a way to test my knowledge, strengthen my abilities + maybe even learn something new! I’m incredibly proud of that, as that’s a huge step in the right direction for me.

"I’ve always been fascinated by a tangible memory."

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? I care about YOU! About your story, your feelings, your passions. The things that make your eyes light up when you talk about them. The things that make you YOU. In the age of technology, it’s so easy for us to sit amongst each other + disappear into the crowd, into our phones or a social media presence.

I love to get someone out of their phone + their distractions; show them that I really care about them + what they have to say. It’s just one more reason that this job is so rewarding. 

Derek Jensen