Why is it so important to present your products in a lifestyle setting? If you are a company just starting up, this may seem like an unnecessary expense. Trust me, it isn’t.Read More
So why is a commercial photographer writing about positivity and faith? Well, why not? In order to pursue a career in the creative industry you will need to stay positive and have faith in your work. Sometimes, I’ll find myself on a 4 to 5 hour shoot and have to spend up to 25% of that time problem solving because of an error caused by myself and/or the client.Read More
A couple of years ago, I quit photography. There was a side to the craft that I saw and didn't like. I generalized the craft based on my own negative interaction and looking back now I see how stupid I was. Although, I would've still been in that mindset if not for a specific individual. I came across this 10 part Iceland vlog that demonstrated the pure essence and intention of photography. Capturing experiences and provoking an emotion. But who is this individual?
Andrew T. Kearns is a photographer based out of... well.. he seems to move around a lot but last time I checked he was back in the state of Washington. Throughout all of his platforms, Andrew has an overall audience of 500,000! Kearns has worked with massive brands like Canon and moment lenses to create AMAZING work!
In an interview with LOOKS LIKE FILM, Andrew Kearns was asked if you would change anything if he could do it all over again. Andrew had a couple of answers but one was that he would've liked to "seek out the people 'he looked' up to". So, That is precisely what I did.
Andrew has been able to accumulate an impressive lineup of clients, but what were the first few big tickets? Secondly, what kinds of things did he do that helped him acquire them and keep them as reoccurring clients?
"To be honest it was constantly producing work and sharing it. I can't recall the first big ones but all I was doing at the time was shooting and sharing. It's one of the best things you can do. The more you shoot the better you get."
Andrew Kearns is easily one of the best lifestyle photographers out there and it is simply because he spent most of his time early on... well... capturing life. Andrew has birthed and fostered a successful career by simply capturing his experiences and sharing them with the world. If that isn't inspiring then I don't know what is.
Next, I wanted to know what Andrew felt was the most effective way to reach out to clients. Not necessarily the platform but the approach. Also, I wanted to know if Kearns uses his platform traffic as leverage?
"Simply put, images speak louder than words. Send PDFs alongside your emails not just ideas written out in text. I used to leverage my Instagram but I'm trying to leverage my quality of work now."
I like the message. At the end of the day, you are a brand and you are constantly competing with hundreds of others. You will be judged on way more than your following so you should be striving to be a well-rounded resource for your clients. This means pouring your efforts into every aspect of your business. Andrew mentioned sending "PDFs alongside your emails not just ideas written out in text". This demonstrates effort and tells your potential clients that you don't believe in cutting corners. Going the extra mile in everything you do will benefit not only your clients but you as you grow into this career and in life.
Developing a consistent editing style is something that a lot of photographers struggle with (myself included). Andrew seems to be very consistent in his edits, and so I wanted to know his process early on to establish a "style" without allowing Instagram trends and external opinions to influence him.
"This surprises me - I def used to have a constant style but I feel like now it's not so much so it's hard to say haha. Back in the day I used pretty much one preset only and that was that. Now I do a ton of free-hand edits, my own presets, VSCO presets, photoshop + lightroom, etc. If you want to be consistent use one preset. If you want to develop, grow your skills and expand your style I encourage you to branch out."
Consistency is important, but how important? This is a question that I have been asking myself FOREVER! A style may be something that potential clients are looking for but like Kearns' said, it can hinder your ability to learn and grow. Relying also affects something else. There is no preset in the world that can be applied to every photo. I mean, there aren't any restrictions but you will never get the most out of an image if do so.
The number under your name is important, I get it. It grants you a higher chance of viewership for posts and can act as leverage when coordinating sponsors, clients, etc. Although, the amount of “fans” that you have is arguably more important. The people that will purchase what you put out and support you along the way. Jenna Kutcher often speaks about this and has said that attaining hard fans is one of the most powerful ways to fuel your brand/business. So I wanted to know if building a fanbase was a focus of Andrew's or just an afterthought that has come to fruition purely through the act of publishing videos and photos?
"To be honest I probably don't put enough focus on this anymore so it's so hard to give an opinion. It helps yeah, but It's not what I want to build my business off of as I want to be valued off my work not my number. Some of my fav photogs & creatives barely have a presence on instagram. That drives me to be pushing beyond something bigger than IG."
To clarify, I don't think that number of followers = quality of work. I'm just of the mindset that it can create opportunities and avenues for you but I do agree with Andrew Kearns in saying that you shouldn't rely on that magical number. Like mentioned earlier, you need to pour your efforts into ensuring your brand is well rounded. Quality reach-out methods, good branding, a positive/professional personality & a stimulating portfolio.
Look, I have no idea what I am doing. I have read up on many of my idol’s journeys but non of them will serve as a full proof guide to MY success. In this industry, there is no clear-cut path to success, so you have to make your own. It used to scare me but now it just excites me and keeps me driven. There is a line in Andrew Kearns' recent short, I'm Not Trying to Stay Comfortable, and it goes like this. "As long as you're uncomfortable, it means you are growing". pursuing a career as a creative your own way is scary. It makes us uncomfortable because it hasn't yet been defined, it hasn't been proven. But maybe its ok to be uncomfortable.
I want to thank Andrew Kearns for taking the time to reply to my questions. Andrew has inspired me on multiple occasions with his content and I hope that this piece and/or his content can do the same for you. You will find all of his links, along with his recent short film, below. In the famous words of Andrew Kearns:
Thank you for reading!
I have spent more time the past few months behind a computer screen than a view finder. I've been focused on utilizing the assets I have built up to reach a new audience & to attain more clients. I know that I am not alone in wondering what it takes to acquire the bigger ticket brands, and what needs to be done once the opportunity is granted.
Allow me to introduce Chris Hau! Chris is a Toronto native who has managed to build a following of over 130K on Instagram & close to 135k on YouTube. Now, that is his social presence which of-course can act as leverage when looking to pickup clients but it wont be enough. Mr. Hau has developed working relationships with some of the bigger brands including world known automaker Mercedes-Benz.
After applying one of Chris Hau's tips on getting in-front of clients and successfully acquiring an opportunity, I figured that it only made sense to reach out on how to... well... not mess up the opportunity. I was new to the automotive photography space and hadn't been to a track day before so there was a lot of uncertainty. As nervous as I was, my chat with Chris in culmination with his YouTube content was enough to calm me down and keep me focused in the right areas.
I was asked to meet with my contact after the race to review my photos and discuss further opportunities. To be honest, this is what I was the most nervous about. I am confident in my abilities as a photographer but networking in a new and unfamiliar space was a bit nerve-racking. My first question for Chris Hau was, what kinds of things should I keep top of mind when conversing with him?
"Just show them that you can add value, and that you understand how it helps them. Photos = exposure = revenue, ‘and’ more revenue means more opportunities for them to hire you.”
“Understand the photos that they want to see. Its not about pretty cars. Track days are about customer experiences so show people having fun."
This made sense to me. I work full time as a Marketing Communications Manager, and a massive portion of my tasks revolve around content creation. I understand the value of quality content and the opportunities that it can produce. Also, marketing isn't about generating sales, its intended purpose is to birth/create a perception. When someone looks at your product, what do they think of and how do they feel. Chris hit it right on the nose! It isn't about the pretty cars, its about the audience and their experiences.
Okay, so play to my strengths/comfort zone and experiment a bit? Or should I play it safe and get what they are expecting? I looked at their Instagram feed and it was fairly flat. It doesn’t contain any images conveying an emotional response or customer experience. Nothing to promote an individual's satisfaction towards their cars. Perhaps that’s my value?
“I would do both. Take what they expect and what is on their grid, and then ‘focus’ on emotional response.”
"Its not all about Insta. They use photos for other marketing purposes."
Creativity is a beautiful thing, but if you are on a fixed timeline like I was, make it a priority to capture the necessary shots. The specific angles and subject matter that your client will be looking for and will likely publish. Once you have done that, go crazy and experiment with whatever time you have left. Like Chris said, don't just scout the Instagram feed. Give their website and other platforms a gander to truly understand what they might be looking for and what they're lacking.
Lastly, I wanted to ask this majestically luscious haired man for ONE MORE quick tip. What is the most effective way to get on a brand's radar?
“In terms of brands, post dope pictures of their products and tag them."
"If they like your stuff, they will reach out”.
Jamal Burger's (Jayscale) advice can tie in here. During my conversation with Jamal, he told me to put my heart in the right place & only to take photos of the brands I appreciate. You could literally just give your bedroom a gander for items you use the a lot/love. Then simply take high quality photos of said items before uploading them and tagging the brand. Easy-peasy!
I want to thank Chris Hau for taking the time, and for helping me focus my efforts. Don't already follow Chris? WHY!? Chris Hau's social links are linked under my track photos below. Next week, I talk with a very special creative that has influenced me in many ways. If you enjoyed this write up, then do me a solid and share it! Thanks for reading!
Below are just a few of my favourite captures from the day.
The red & black Porsche is the vehicle associated with my opportunity.
Working hard doesn't necessarily mean that you are making progress. It isn't easy to admit you've placed eggs in the wrong basket but being open to feedback and advice is CRUCIAL in order to grow. So, I reached out to a few of the photographers that are shooting the kind of content and brands that I'd like to be shooting. How did they attain these big ticket clients? What did they implement into their everyday grind and why do they capture content they way they do? These are the kinds of questions I wanted to ask.
The first person I reached out to was Jamal Burger (@Jayscale). I sent Jamal a message but not before giving his instagram portfolio a deep dive look. After reviewing Jamal's earlier posts, I noticed that early on he was actually shooting a lot more street and rooftops. At some point he started the transition into travel and sports photography (studio & court-side). What I loved about looking through his travel photography was that he was able to capture the true essence and culture of the locations he traveled to. Whats crazier is that he was able to do so while doing it in black and white. Colour is such a powerful tool and for an artist to take that very tool away from himself/herself is gutsy. For a few photos sure, but Jamal has committed to this process. Jamal Burger is a Toronto based photography and is followed and supported by some of my biggest photography role models like Andrew T Kearns and Samuel Elkins.
Lets get on to the questions shall we! The first question I asked revolved around the transition that Jamal made in subject matter.
"I transitioned based on the motivation to find more purpose in what I was shooting. I ended up landing on sharing my travels and I still wake up trying to understand what I want to do with the camera, and how I’ll convey my message."
With the conversations I had the past couple of weeks, there was one thing that seemed to echo. Shoot what you are motivated to shoot. Don’t jump onto trends just because people are double tapping them. There is no longevity to that approach as you will only look to drain yourself creatively. Take pictures of what you know, and what you love.
My second question was more focused on how Jamal was able to create the connections and bonds that have allowed him to get into the studio and onto the court with some of the greatest athletes in the world.
"Connections that led to opportunity are based on genuine friendships which inevitably turned into work, without that being my intention. So network and make friends but never force anything."
I absolutely LOVED this answer. Essentially, don’t look to use people. Try to be your best/truest self around people and watch how doors open for you. Jamal told me that he wasn't looking for opportunity when befriending these contacts. Like he said, “Network and make friends but never force anything”.
Now I know that I am not alone in saying that there are brands I come across daily through social media that i’d really like to work with. With that being said, my next question was more so targeted towards the approach. What did Jamal find to be the most effective way to reach out to brands and turn them into clients.
“The best way to do that (reaching out and locking them down as clients). I think its a combination of both. Stay true to what you believe in and show that in an honest way. Only pitch to people/companies you believe in. Do some digging, DM and show that your heart is in the right place."
This was great. The consistent message that I was getting from Jamal was that you need to stay true to your craft, your passion & yourself. Instead of reach out to the big ticket clients and/or easy snags, reach out to the brands who speak to you visually and emotionally.
I wanted to touch on the visual presentation of his images now. Every image is in black & white and I wanted to know why Jamal has committed to this style. Also, I was curious to now whether or not it was true film or a preset/post edit.
“All shot on film. I committed to this form because I want to be the one capturing my moments and I want them to live forever."
Lastly, Jamal left me with a recommendation for finding good reads.
“I recommend reading in general. Look for what speaks to you."
I enjoyed picking the brains of these creators. I need to thank Jamal Burger for having that knowledge exchange with me and allowing me to use our conversation to generate this blog post.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this! For more like it stay tuned every Friday till the end of June.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week!
This is a short one but an important one. How much of an effort are you putting forward every day to stay positive and find solutions? I can tell you right now that it has been far more effective for me than staying negative and lingering in the mistakes. I have a few examples that I am going to leave you with that will hopefully have you buying in and skipping down the path of positivity.
Last rewind to a couple of years ago. A young and ambitious Michael just looking to take the world by storm. Reached out to a brand and asked to shoot for them, they agreed, I booked the studio and booked the model. Shoot day arrives and everything is going to plan. The model has arrived, clothes are on the rack, the backdrop is set and the lighting is almost completely set up... almost. Let me tell you, I showed up to my shoot without flash triggers. After searching extensively and looking for alternative ways to trigger the flashes without utilizing my on-camera flash, I had an idea. You see, the studio I was shooting in had a massive window setup along the back wall. I pulled back the curtains, pulled up the backdrop and found a V-flat. The result was a collection of shots that I was super proud of.
The next example is from earlier this year. I had been partying the night before with a small group of friends in Waterloo. Silly me stayed up far too late (5 am) and needed to wake up way too early (7 am). For convenience sake, I fell asleep at a friends house that the party was held in. The issue was that my car was 7 KM away in the other part of town. I woke up to a dead cell phone, a lost pair of glasses (still not found) and many drunk/passed out millennials scattered around. The major issue is the reason I needed to wake up so early to begin with. I have a project titled 'In My Head' and it revolves around collaborating with multiple talented individuals (ie. MUAs, models, stylists, etc) to create really cool and interesting portraits. Now, I needed to be at the MUA's (makeup artist) studio with the model by 9 am! After an hour of non-stop running in my very bloody John Maddens, I had arrived at my car. I needed to set aside the TERRIBLE morning I was having in order to not only make it on time but also to be engaging and pleasant during the entire shooting process. A couple of other things went wrong during that shoot but overcoming that morning had my positivity coded in titanium.
Now, those are only a couple of examples but I'd hope they can help in sparking the match for you. So, to sum it all up, you can pout and linger in negative situations, or you can pull the back the curtains and let the light in.
I am super proud of that metaphor.
P.S. Here is a short video I did recent highlighting this topic. I also include video footage of day 2 and what my mentality was like going into that photoshoot. Its definitely worth the watch!