From photography to filmmaking – Costin’s story.

Reading Time: 8 min

Hi there! I can’t say just a few words about me…
So, be prepared to read a whole article!

My name is Costin Marian, and most of the time the people confuse my first name with my last name. That’s because, in some parts of the country, my first name is usually the last name and vice-versa. So, let there be light! I’m Costin, nice to meet you!

I’m the Co-founder and the half of Popotam Productions Video Agency.
I wear many hats, the primary being a DOP (Director of Photography). In short, I’m the chief over the camera and lights, and I’m in charge of the look of our productions. If you’ve seen our projects and you like the way they are shot and look, that’s me!

In other words, I’m the guy dressed in black playing with all the gear. After the shooting (production), I wear other hats in post-production too. I’m the editor (the one who cuts the video), sound designer (the one responsible for sound effects), and colorist – the one responsible for color grading (the final look of the video).

But how did I get here?
Let’s start from the beginning…

I was born on September 10, 1989, and I spent my first 7 years in Constanta, Romania. Growing up at the Black Sea was nice. Fresh air, cold winters, and a lot of sandcastles during summer.

I started school, and right after, we began to move. First, to Deva (Hunedoara county), then to Medias (Sibiu county), where I did the high school, and after graduation…

I moved to Cluj-Napoca, in 2008, which I consider being the coolest, cleanest, nicest city in Romania. It happens to be the only Romanian city that I love. Why? Because I built friendships that lasted until today, I’ve been to lots of places, and I made a lot of memories.

I was a Babes-Bolyai University student, and coming from an accounting profile in high school I thought that an economic career would fit my needs. But guess what? Attending FSEGA University classes made me realize that this plan is not for me anymore, so I dropped after the 1st year.

Ok, what now?
Before we get there, let’s go back in time again…

In the 5th grade, I discovered my passion for photography when my dad gave me an Aiptek Smart Pocket Cam. I was 11 y.o., and that was my first digital camera with 2 megapixels and 16MB of memory. Before that, I used to play a lot with my dad’s Orion VHS camcorder. He was a helicopter pilot, and GoPro hadn’t been invented yet, so he used it to film his flights. This way, by the time I moved to Cluj, I learned a lot about photography, and I had several cameras to play with.

I’m a self-learner and I’m proud of it. At that time, Youtube was not what it is today (a learning school if you know where to look and what to search for), so I had to rely on photography forums and websites, both national and international. That’s how I learned Photoshop, too, in the 7th grade.

The best feedback I got was from I signed up as a Junior member in April 2006, and soon after, I advanced to Senior. I learned a lot there and helped others learn.

In the same year, I discovered the best photography website at that time: One of the Greatest Romanian photographers had accounts there and were showing their work. Most of their photos were beautiful, and I saw it as an opportunity to learn from them. And to be honest, I wished to have my portfolio there too. The only thing was that…

Not everyone could sign-up because we had to apply with a portfolio and be accepted. So, I’m 15, and I have a shitty compact camera … what should I do to accomplish this? Besides these, the bar was set so high, even some people with expensive DSLRs couldn’t make it.

But I did! And you know why? Because I tried, and I wish for it! Ok, I had great photos too… but still…
I was so proud of this achievement, and it was the biggest at that time. So bad that the website is offline today due to the lack of activity in the last 10 years, and I couldn’t have a chance to take at least a print screen of my portfolio.

The same year I said to myself: I need a website! … And I discovered 
That’s how I made my first website at 15 y.o. I have my 2006-2013 portfolio there, and if you’re curious to see my beginnings, it’s still online:

Medias, 2007 | Photo by Ionut Balcau

Looking back, I realize how easy it’s for kids to achieve everything they want and how adults forget to be kids when they allow all their fears and limiting beliefs to interfere.

Let’s get back to University!

Which one? Because I dropped…
Well, the new one!

I was thinking a lot about which path to choose, and I went for photography. But I thought again that to practice my passion I don’t necessarily need a degree. I was right, but I still wanted a degree just for the sake of having one, or maybe the comfort of a backup plan.

So I went to FSPAC and studied PR & Communication and got my master’s in Advertising. There I met nice teachers and colleagues, and I learned what a client brief is and how to make one. Also, how to analyze and create a campaign, and other stuff from the industry.

Living on the campus for six years was a great experience. I met great people, and I’m still friends with some of them. I even learned to make websites and graphic design. At the same time, I started building a career as a photographer. I got my first DSLR in 2009, a Nikon D80, and in parallel, I developed some online projects with my new friends. In 2014 I made my new website on a new domain where I have my photography portfolio today. If you’re passionate about travel, nature, or architecture, you’ll find 1.256 photos there, and I recommend checking them out:

Six years later, I was on the road again.

After graduation, in September 2014, I moved to the 5th city: Bucharest, while continuing my projects. The Biggest achievement was winning a national competition made by Paravion travel agency in the spring of 2015. To keep things short, I had to submit a 60sec video about a favorite place, respecting a brief. So I made a video about Jordan with some footage from my GoPro:

The whole campaign was simple. They were looking for someone to send to their destinations to document the trips. I was 25 y.o., and by that time, I’ve visited 12 countries, and I already had a nice portfolio. (Thanks, mom for teaching me what travel is by taking me to Egypt in 2004!) But you know how it is … There’s always room for more! So, my video got into the final, I went to the interview, and a few days later, I got the job.

And the journey began…

I don’t want to brag and say that I was paid to travel, but pretty much this is what happened. From May to December, I was jumping from a plane to another, from a hotel room to another, and from a continent to another. I spent 70 hours in the air, visited 8 countries, 15 islands, and 120 hotels. I drifted with a traditional Basket Sledge at 30km/h on Madeira’s narrow roads, and I even took a ride in the world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa (240km/h in 4.9 seconds) at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.

To be honest, I had amazing experiences and it was the best time of my life. I enjoyed lots of sunsets, falling stars, and sleepless nights doing time-lapses with the Milky Way and editing photos and videos. I had my office everywhere. From sunbeds to airplane tray tables and from cliffs to boats and yachts. I even developed the skill to film with my left hand while taking photos! And I got all of these because it was the only Youtube ad I didn’t skip and watched until the end. It was my first competition, and I’ve never won anything by that time.

Cape Verde, December 2015

Looking back with today’s know-how I can tell that the law of attraction did a great job. Even if I didn’t know back then what this law is or how to apply it, I did all the steps unconsciously. After joining the contest I visualized myself on the beach every day and I was sure it gonna happen. So it did!

Moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for and be careful which ads you watch and which ones you skip! Choose wisely, be smart and take action!

If you want to read more about my experience, Elena Cîrîc took me an interview back then.

One year later…

I met a young lady named Maria, which happened to be my girlfriend and partner later on. So in the summer of 2016, I moved to the 6th city: Timisoara. Since then, we started working together on different projects while developing our mindset and learning how to grow and become better people. We’re both NLP Master Practitioners, and she’s the one that pushes and encourages me to cross my limits, and I want to thank her! So, thank you, love you, nice ass!

She’s a smart woman, a beautiful human being, and she wrote her story here. Some say we’re a cute couple, and if you’re curious if we have kids, we have one: Popotam. This makes us focus on our business, learning, and developing every day. We read books, take courses, masterclasses, meditate, and so on, and we’re happy with what we’ve accomplished so far. We like to keep our life private, and we don’t waste time on social media posting every move we do.

The switch.

I’m in filmmaking now, so how does that happen?
Well, I guess that the switch from photography to filmmaking happened naturally over a period of time. I felt the need to have motion in what I create, and the last 8 years were responsible for that. Besides that, I have to admit that I enjoy playing with all the cinema gear I have. I guess I like to screw and unscrew things, and if you’re curious about what’s in my backpack, you can read here.

Somehow I developed both sides in parallel. As I already said, I got my first photo camera in 2001, and in 2005 I also got a Sony DCR-HC40 camcorder with a MiniDV cassette which I used to document my travels. Shortly after, I learned how to do a basic edit, add music, and so on.

Later on, in 2013, I got my first GoPro Hero 3, which I used mostly for snowboarding and free-diving. A year later, in 2014, I entered the full-frame world with a Nikon D810, which I still use today. It was my workhorse both for photography and video. In 2017 I got a DJI Phantom 4Pro+, and I became a drone pilot, and from 2018 I see the world through the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro.

This camera is amazing and made me focus 100% on video, learning more about cinematography, color grading, and storytelling. But with all these, the video didn’t steal the photography from me. Every time I frame a shot on set, I apply my know-how from photography, and when it’s time to color grade, I see it like developing a D810 RAW in Lightroom. The only difference is the software (DaVinci Resolve) and the motion, which I needed in the first place.

Final thoughts.

I just moved! Again! After 7 years, I got back to my first love, Cluj-Napoca.

Looking back at what I wrote made me realize that I did a lot in those 32 years. I saw a lot, I learned a lot, and I’m grateful for everything. I can’t wait to see what the future has got for me. As you may already know, we create our future, and with the right plans and mindset, it’s gonna be awesome!

Till next time, invest in yourself and know your value!

Happy Birthday to me!

Instagram | Photography portfolio | LinkedIn


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