I’m a Full-Time Nerd Working for a Multi-National Corporation

I’m a Full-Time Nerd Working for a Multi-National Corporation

Sonja Weiss studied biochemistry in school and is a scientist during the day – photographer on nights and weekends. Sonja started shooting when she moved to Chicago from Atlanta in 2015.


I got started in photography shortly after moving to Chicago from Atlanta. I didn’t really know anyone and spent a lot of my free time roaming the city, particularly, the lakeshore. I was captivated by the city and so the photography came naturally. It actually ended up working out pretty well in that I met my entire friend group through photography and got to know the city at the same time. I started out shooting on my phone and after a year or so, borrowed a Fuji XE-2 mirrorless camera from a friend. Recently I upgraded to the new Fuji XT-2 and I love it. The upgrade definitely allowed me to do more with my photography and produce noticeably better quality photos.

I like to keep my photography diverse and shoot a bit of everything – sometimes just to challenge myself or to keep from getting bored. My photos usually are a bit edgy, whether it’s finding new views on roofs, exploring abandoned buildings, or experiencing street culture. My sense of adventure drives a lot of what I do but every now and again, I don’t mind enjoying a beautiful sunset. At the end of the day, photography is my therapy and escape from the stress of daily life.

Chicago inspires me all across the board. It is an amazing city. Our architecture is amazing, new and old, and the skyline is constantly changing. That is probably why I’m drawn most to architectural scenes. The weather in Chicago is another plus, photographically. You can get a dramatic sunrise to a heavy blizzard and everything in between. My personal favorite time to shoot is when there is low fog, which occurs sporadically during several months out of the year. There is really nothing like it.

Once. We were shooting the sunset on the river and the Chicago PD (police) showed up and pulled guns on us. Supposedly a neighbor called and said we were doing graffiti, which we obviously weren’t. Luckily no one was hurt, but it was pretty crazy.

The only thing I edit with is Lightroom. I’m usually pretty quick with my editing and Lightroom makes it simple to batch edit. I have a handful of personal presets that I use, but just about every trip I take I end up making a new one. I personally don’t add or “photoshop” things into my photos, I prefer to keep them as is.

Instagram is making me shoot in ‘portrait’ orientation with my camera. It was really awkward at first, but because everything I post ends up in portrait crop, I adapted to it. It allows me to compose my shot and get the compression I need to fit everything in. Other than that I don’t pay too much attention to Instagram, especially after the purchase by Facebook. I hate Facebook.

Simply put, I’m a full-time nerd for a multi-national corporation. I’ve been a scientist for over 10 years now and studied Biochemistry in school, but I’ve always been artistic. Growing up, I spent class time sketching instead of taking notes and did a lot of arts and crafts with my mother. My dad wanted me to go to art school but I was afraid of becoming a ‘starving artist’ so I went for something completely different. I love what I do but photography is my passion and allows me to escape from my every day stress. I kind of love that I can enjoy it for what it is, instead of feeling like it’s work.

To stay inspired, I travel. Shooting in the same city day in and day out gets old. I don’t get too bogged down in other people’s shots or things they’ve done, rather I take note of other cities/countries I’d like to travel to and gather locations of interest to shoot. New places are great because everything is inspiring.

A perfect future assignment. It would be an all expense paid trip to somewhere I haven’t been, to shoot content for tourism or a company/brand in the area. Places like Dubai, Morocco, and Tokyo are definitely on my dream list.