This interview was originally written by Mara Serdans and posted on her blog, Mara’s Mix.
Today marks the beginning of a Q&A series I’ll be featuring on my blog including interviews with artists, agents and creative luminaries in the industry. The format may change to keep things interesting but my goal is to shed some light and start some conversations on the state of the commercial/fine art world, share the beautiful work of talented artists and hopefully inspire you along the way.
I’m super excited to share my first interview with artist agent Andrea Stern of Stern Rep. Andrea is a seasoned and celebrated commercial agent with over 20 years experience representing photographers in the product, automotive, and lifestyle industries among others. Andrea is genuinely passionate about the business and has a talent for building long-lasting relationships with her photographers and clients. She represents talent who have worked on major campaigns for Apple, Google, Target, VW, Beats, Subaru, McDonald’s, Bacardi, Sony, Hershey’s, Taco Bell to name a few.
So without further ado…
1. How has the commercial photography industry changed in the past 5 years? How would you describe the current state of our industry?
In my 20 years of representing artists, I have not seen a change like this. It has always been an industry of change because the advertising world possesses a young, progressive-thinking mentality but this time it’s different.
One of the biggest driving forces behind this transformation has been the rising importance of what is termed “content.”
Nowadays we need to incorporate all of the established ways we used to market ourselves like promos, meetings, paid website search engines, as well as staying active on all of the social channels. And the content we share must be clearly aligned with our brand if we are going to do this right. I always say Instagram is your second portfolio that can have a sprinkling of personal work on it.
Hashtags can actually get jobs. This is a new way that some clients are finding photographers. With that said, it’s not just about sharing endless content but it’s about sharing content that speaks to your level of expertise and gives people a glimpse into your life as a successful photographer.
It’s more complex now because you must have your own voice as part of your branding. This type of expression used to happen on the creative conference call during a bid. Now you can use these social channels as a way to publicly show clients on a regular basis what you will bring to the project when they hire you. We have always had to stay in front of clients through marketing, but now it’s adding a more personal presence.
2. What do you foresee changing in the next few years?
I think that social media and content creation are going to continue to dominate the scene. Photographers must go for it and work within this new paradigm. We are in a young business so photographers will appear dated even more quickly if they don’t take advantage of this social media world.
The big question is how do we succeed in this new world? My business instincts tell me there is not one correct way; we need to use our imagination. The creative process can’t stop with the images. The creativity must actually be brought into the marketing and business itself. That is why you and I are doing this interview, right Mara?
I foresee business trends shifting more and more into this new innovative style of personal creation. For example, I started a platform on Instagram called @AskSternRep where I can share industry insights, and photographers can ask questions and get answers. It’s my inventive way to increase SternRep’s public presence while acting as a marketing tool that I genuinely enjoy.
Developing our own ways to get ourselves out there now is the key. Business and creativity now go hand-in-hand.
3. What’s the secret to a long-lasting career as a commercial photographer in this day and age?
Keep rediscovering yourself. Get out there and try new things. You have to keep working on your portfolio. People don’t want to see a book of images from the past. Stretch your creative muscles in what you shoot and how you run your business. It really all comes back to creativity. This will show clients that you are relevant in today’s market.
4. What advice can you give to aspiring photographers?
Explore. I don’t even call it testing anymore. Explore and expand your look without losing that specific edge to your style. As I said before, all photographers need to rediscover themselves on a regular basis. Educate themselves, look at others, assist and learn as much as possible. Also, we’ve talked a lot about the importance of social media but I think the new photographers could really benefit from thinking beyond social media for their marketing as well. Send emails. Write people on LinkedIn. Go to lunch. Meet people in person. Aspiring photographers may need to get creative by finding ways to connect.
Go with your gut. Trust your instincts. If you have an idea about something you want to create, create it. Be open to inspiration and follow-through with your creative ideas.
5. What do you currently find inspiring in the photography/art world?
I am inspired by what is happening when we go with the flow and actually embrace these changes. By getting creative in my own marketing methods I am now in touch with so many photographers and making contact with clients that would have otherwise been very hard to reach in the past.
I feel more connected. I am out of my own little box. I am enjoying the exchange I have with the world. It has completely changed the definition of a “rep” for me, and I am being reminded of why I first got into this business. I am enjoying being a resource for photographers and a part of this evolving conversation.
Lindsay has been with Agency Access for seven years. After a transition from Campaign Manager where she managed multiple client campaigns, she found her home as Marketing Manager. She enjoys working in the creative world and bringing her Public Relations background to the forefront.
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