10 Questions with Sara Johansen.

10 Questions is our newest interview series—Different photographers. Different paths. Same 10 Questions. Next up is Sara Johansen!

1. What are 3 things you take to every shoot?

2. Tell us about how you got into photography:

I got into photography because I saw others creating beautiful images and I knew I wanted to do the same. It’s just something that I always admired and knew I could do it myself if I just started, so I did! I bought a Nikon DSLR and taught myself everything I could about photography. Then eight years ago, I shot my first roll of film on my dad’s old Minolta Maxxum 7000 and that’s when the story really started for me—I fell so deeply in love with film, and truly photography, through analog images.

Portra160 rated at 160 / Nikon F100 / Noritsu S-1800

3. What’s something about you that would surprise most people?

I’m on about my fifth career! I graduated college with a degree in Journalism, which I did for a few years out of school. I’ve also done internet marketing, finance, worked on cancer clinical trials and compliance for a non-profit. Now I’m a full-time stay at home mom, which I must say has been my hardest career yet, and a photographer, which has been my most fun career to date. All my careers have taught me something and in little ways gotten me to where I am now!

4. Describe your creative process:

I’m always looking for inspiration to spur my creative process! Sometimes it’s seeing the work of other artists (not just photographers—but painters, designers, musicians, etc.). Sometimes it’s color stories in my day-to-day life or the clothes my kids are wearing. It’s these moments of inspiration coming together that help me try a new vision when I’m photographing. I’m always taking notes and saving pieces of inspiration in my day. When I’m prepping for a session, I go through those notes and piece them together with film stocks, cameras and the personalities of my clients. The biggest piece is I make sure I’m not afraid to try anything new! I’m constantly doing personal projects to try new things—it’s the learning I take from these personal projects that helps me bring magic into my client work.

Portra400 rated at 400 / Minolta Maxxum 7000 / Noritsu S-1800

5. What are you learning lately?

I’ve got a couple things on my plate! I’ve been learning more about instant photography this Summer and I also just got my first twin lens reflect camera, so I’m ready for the challenge of getting to know that camera. I’ve also been dabbling in learning more about videography and having fun making IG Reels and TikTok videos. You’re never too old for new tricks, right?

6. What is something you struggle with in your career?

Impostor syndrome! There are SO many incredible photographers, I’m often doubting why anyone would want to see my work or hear about my process. But one thing I continue to stick with is being true to my work. I create what I want to create, when I want to create it. I’ve decided not to do things because it’s a fad or others are doing it, but to do it because I love it. And maybe that means what I’m doing is a fad, but that’s ok! I create for myself, and as long as I stick with that, I can never be an impostor. Just me. And anytime someone asks me how I do something or tells me I inspired them, I know that it is genuine and true, because I’ve stayed true to my work. You can never go wrong with that!

Portra160 rated at 160 / Nikon F100 / Noritsu S-1800

7. If you could have dinner with one photographer (living or dead) who would it be and why? And what would you eat?

Vivian Maier, because we know so little about her as a photographer. I would love to chat with her about how she saw the world and what made her click an image. I would also love to hear what she thinks about being a famous photographer, and having an exhibit at the Chicago Institute of Art—would she even believe it?! High noon tea at The Drake Hotel would be a must, and we’d wander the Gold Coast afterward taking all the photographs.

8. What are 3 things you’re loving right now?

  1. Polaroids and instant film in general. It’s giving me such a different perspective when I’m shooting!
  2. Conversing and connecting with other creatives. I’ve had some really fantastic opportunities this summer to meet up with other creatives, and it’s been so good for my soul and so inspiring! Community is everything!
  3. The bright colors of Summer all around me: green grass, blue skies, pinks, purples and yellows in the flowers. It’s an amazing time to be inspired by color and beauty!

Portra400 rated at 400 / Nikon F100 / Noritsu S-1800

9. What is one piece of game-changing advice—whether for business, art, film or life?

Just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean you have to always do it that way. Don’t put yourself in a box creatively (or in business or life, for that matter!). But if you have, don’t forget you can step outside of that box! Artists are forever changing, so you can, too! And if you don’t want to, that’s ok, too, just know that you dictate your art!

Portra400 rated at 400 / Pentax645 / Noritsu S-1800

10. What is your favorite image from your portfolio?

Currently, my favorite image in my portfolio is a double exposure I took this spring (above) in California. When I got the scan back, I actually sat and clapped like a giddy school girl at my desk. It’s my favorite for a couple of reasons:

1. My image turned out exactly as I hoped when I took the picture. This doesn’t always happen, especially with a multiple exposure, so I was incredibly happy I nailed the exposures and lined everything up just how I had wanted.

2. The glow of the sun shining on my friend Isabelle’s face is synonymous with Isabelle as a person. She radiates so much light and joy, which comes through beautifully with the light in the image.

3. I took this image on a trip where I learned a lot about myself both personally and professionally. Even though the image is of my friend, when I look at it, I can see myself in her, looking up to the light, basking in the beauty all around and ready to move forward with this new confidence and power.

Sara Johansen is a family and lifestyle photographer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be found at sarajohansen.com and @everydayinfilm.

Portra400 rated at 400 / Nikon F100 / Noritsu S-1800

Portra160 rated at 160, converted to B+W / Nikon F100 / Noritsu S-1800

Portra800 rated at 640 / Nikon F100 / Noritsu S-1800

Portra400 rated at 400 / Nikon F100 / Noritsu S-1800