Alex Strohl on Authenticity and Honing a Creative Vision

In 2011, amateur photographer Alex Strohl was approached for the rights to feature one of his images in an international advertising campaign. After selling the image–his girlfriend jumping into a pool in the south of France–Strohl invested the thousands of dollars into a trip to Iceland; a trip that he says was, “the beginning of it all.” Seven years and almost two million Instagram followers later, Strohl is one of the most influential names in travel and nature photography, creating images from what he describes as authentic moments unfolding before him.

Throughout these years of success, Strohl recognized the importance of mentorship and the power that learning from role models, or “heroes” as he calls them, can have on someone who’s entering the photography industry. So, Strohl released a workshop to engage his followers and to make an impact on a grander scale.

“From the outside, it [photography] looks a little jet-settish, but there’s 80 percent of the time that nobody sees or hears about–the editing, the admin–you’re running your own business at the end of the day,” says Strohl on the motivation to produce The Adventure Photography Workshop. “I want to shed some light because a lot of people want to be a freelancer and I’ll always ask them, “Is this really the right fit for you?”

 

 

As someone who recognized this fit at a young age, Strohl created the workshop to not only give users a glimpse into his daily freelancer routine, but also to motivate photographers to nurture their personal style and expose them to the reality of the post-production technicalities that, today, aren’t necessarily realized as part of living as a content creator.

“This is your road to one hundred. It starts from this idea that people don’t know exactly what it [full-time photography] entails, and if you want to do it at the end of the workshop, you hopefully have a good idea of how you can do it.” he says.

Strohl began his own journey to full-time photography on a more unique path as he was “kicked out” of school and moved to France to live on a remote plot of land with his family. With nature as his new classroom, Strohl became more familiar with the feeling of freedom — and as he developed his photography career, freedom became essential to where he is today.

“The whole reason why I ended up doing photography and owning our business [Stay & Wander] was so I could be free from most things—from time constraints, from fashion constraints. I always wanted to be free,” shares Strohl.

 

 

He relates this back to his workshop, as he’s fulfilled his own dream, and looks to share the ability for others to embrace their own path to freedom. “When you’re trying to make plans with somebody but they always have to work because of a nine-to-five job, I love the first trip with that person. Like, ‘Yes, this is it, you’re on your own, you’re free.’”

For Strohl, part of this freedom comes in the ability to express himself and to capture what he is most drawn to—whether that be a favorite color or landscape, remaining authentic to a creative vision is critical in today’s world where “authenticity” is less definable.

“I think we’ve gotten to a stage where we can manage authenticity–we can make something look authentic—and that’s where it’s gone too far. It’s gotta be genuine, just being yourself 100 percent, and that’s super difficult.”

 

 

As an illustration of authenticity in the industry, Strohl is consistently questioned on defining personal style, which is why he decided to address it in his workshop—the module on individuality and evoking emotions. Strohl explains authenticity as a significant part of the pre-production process—considering what interests you, why you want to take a photograph, and how you process the image. “People send me emails with their photos all the time asking, ‘What do you think?’ I end up with a bunch of questions, but I think it should be clear to the viewer why you took the photos. You can see quickly if people are trying a whole bunch of different things.”

This is why in Strohl’s work, you will find cohesively common themes of rugged living and nature, as he’s strived to share outdoor experiences in a way that will inspire his followers to travel there. “This is my whole message,” he says on the importance of developing a personal style. “A lot of people focus on having a voice, and when they have a voice, they have nothing to say.”

Along with highlighting the significance of messages and themes, Strohl shares the technicalities of shooting, that go beyond a vision, to foster the shooting conditions. Strohl says he focuses on framing, color and light, as a way to create a harmony in composition; a type of balance in his work. “All these little things add up to make a photo cohesive,” he says admitting that it’s not enough to just watch his workshop and think you are better off. “You have to go apply it. Every time you shoot, just remember these key things, plan something and go execute it.”

 

 

Followers of Strohl’s work may recognize his use of harmony with the color blue, such as in the images accompanying this article for which he shot in collaboration with The Polaris Project. He notes the significance of finding a theme can stem down to what your favorite color is in life. “For me, it’s blue. I’m obsessed with everything blue and am gonna be attracted to it just like a bird is attracted to a shiny spoon.”

This personal style—Strohl’s authenticity—allows him to attract clients that align with his vision and messaging, which users of the workshop will learn how the theme translates beyond individual growth, for you to create a career from. For Strohl, this includes a client list ranging from travel and lifestyle brands, such as Tourism Canada and Land Rover, to entertainment and tech, like Canon and Google, of which he always applies his style of shooting to encompass the brand’s messaging.

In the case of the depicted Polaris Project, he shares, “We set out to capture a hero’s journey with the Icelandic winter as its backdrop. There is very little daylight in the winter up north and I wanted to capture the feeling that you get up there—which is like being in a constant dream; never really awake and never really asleep.”

 

 

It’s this ability to apply his individual voice to multiple campaigns that has allowed Strohl to flourish in his projects of passion, and in turn his career. As a result, he’s sharing the lessons he’s learned on this journey as a way to establish that even for topics such as nature, which he notes are heavily exploited on social media, you can bring your style to anything. “When I see something new, it’s inspiring and makes me want to do something newer and bold, because when you’re not growing, you’re kind of dying,” he concludes.

 

To encourage this growth amidst our creative community, we’ve partnered with Strohl to offer $100 off The Adventure Workshop, (using code ‘electrify’) which includes 45 video lessons, 6 presets and a downloadable PDF for easy reference. 

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