Andrew Kearns on growing as a photographer and as a person.
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!