Katrina Brewer


There's a tendency for me to sit on work I've shot. Spurts of it sporadically makes itself on to Instagram before it does here but as a general rule, work I've shot with the intention to try out new concepts, I typically hold on to with the intent to obtain a new perspective on it.

Over a weekend, I had some extra time left from having rented studio space earlier in the day, so I invited over Katrina to test shoot in Bushwick.

@AskSternRep on Instagram

SternRep is an LA based agency which represents one of my favorite commercial lifestyle photographers which is Jeff Stockwell. The other day while perusing their website, I became aware of their Instagram page in which founder Andrea Stern set up as a way for her to share industry insights, and for photographers to submit any questions they may have around the industry. Consider @asksternrep as repository of information to any inquiries you and I have both may have but rarely find the answer to it easily.

In addition to answered questions, there's equally a slew of helpful tips to guide us in this photographic journey all coming from someone who has more than 20 years experience in the industry.

Nuggets like these:

Your Photography Career Direction

Every photographer you know and respect is probably known for one thing in particular and that leaves us all with the question in our careers...there’s going to come a point where we have to decide what is the thing that we want to become known for? What direction are we going to point this thing in?

It takes time to find your specialty. To be able to sharpen that right mix of skills and distinct perspective within your photography work that will make people think of you immediately over anyone else. The ongoing one-liner that I've established for myself is that it took for me to capture a substantial amount of shots of sunsets and puppies to ultimately determine what I truly love photographing as oppose to loading up the computer with digital files that failed to have much of a guiding direction.

Lifestyle, travel and fitness is where my mental focus is at moment. It's the area so to speak that dominates my willingness to want to shoot and if any opportunity that comes up doesn't fall within my realm of focus, I'll either commit to it if the money is good or politely decline if I don't feel it's getting me closer to the type of work I envision myself shooting more of. As Sean mentioned, I rather be known for something and not everything.

By the way, if you're not familiar with Sean Tucker's YouTube channel, I highly recommend you subscribe if your'e the type that gets equally boggled down with all the other gear related channels out there. Sean has such a finesse with words. His messages are never anything overly complicated. In fact, they're without question very inspirational while also being absolutely simple which make them have an higher level of an impact because they're that digestible.


If you’re searching for something, chances are you’ll find it on YouTube. Other times you may not necessarily be looking for anything in particular but you discover something great and since you’re the captain of your YouTube ship, you get to invest your time in the creators that speak to you the most. Believe me there’s plenty of them! It’s all a matter of sifting through all the noise.

Several months ago came across Austin’s channel, who goes by the moniker of IAMTHEREALAK. Originally from South Brunswick, New Jersey, Austin’s shot to stardom on YouTube came from a remix he made of Desiigner’s Panda song. The video alone has received over 18M views, it’s been shared a tremendous amount of times and supporters have published reactions to that video and every single remix he’s published from that point on. I’ve been hooked myself!

 Austin recording his music in what seems like his basement

Austin recording his music in what seems like his basement

I guess you could say I enjoy rap but I wasn’t really drawn to it largely because the majority of what’s said now is beyond comprehension, it all revolves around the typical topics of sex, smoking, drinking, etc and quite frankly the only element that’s kept my head bopping is the beat itself. Coming from someone who’s not well verse with rap, all I can say is that there was never a story from any rapper which I felt made me a true fan. I knew of them but never followed them if that makes sense.

For me, IAMTHEREALAK has taken my understanding of rap to an entirely new level. My initial criticism of his music was that it felt too short which I’ve come to accept as benefit now because the sheer stories, the metaphors and enthusiasm in which he delivers his lyrics has so much depth that you’ll undoubtedly find yourself having to go back and listen multiple times to even detect all the nuisances that make his music so great. The level of storytelling in his lyrics is incredible. At this point you don't necessarily have know Austin in person to get a level of understanding of his work because he puts it all out there for you to decipher.

I’ve enjoyed every single one of his remixes but if I had to choose 5 that I recommend listening to they would be:

  1. F*ck Up Some Commas
  2. Lights Out
  3. Nocturnal Rainbows
  4. Issues
  5. Tunnel Vision

As a side-note, here’s 4 things I’ve learned from following IAMTHEREALAK’S well-deserved meteoric rise:

  1. We all go through personal struggles in life and it’s up to you to utilize those obstacles to create something by which other people can relate to you.
  2. Stay in your own lane. Don’t worry about what other people think of your work because in the end we all have a story to tell and it's the fusion of both that will make you unique.
  3. The setting in which you create your work doesn’t define you. The work itself does. As a quick example, simply observe the backdrop in which Austin recorded his videos/music. He could care less whether it was aesthetically pleasing but more so that you listened to what he had to say.
  4. You don’t need fancy gear to create. Just a willing to put in the work consistently.

Did I mention Austin is only 18? Kid has a bright future ahead and much like all the support he's received thus far, I'll be right there buying his music.

What Did You Learn?

Growing up in my house, we weren’t allowed to waste time. We always had to be productive. We weren’t suppose to be watching anything that wasn’t educational. Even if we got to watch a cartoon, my dad would ask, what did you learn?
— Venus Williams in the December ’17 issue of Fast Company Magazine

Lately I’ve become acutely aware of how difficult it is for me to enjoy any form of down time. Those brief interludes throughout the day in which you try to convince yourself that it’s ok recharge but then suddenly you’re overtaken by guilty.

I feel as though I’m suppose to be frantically chasing productivity hence why I very often dismiss the idea of allowing myself to do absolutely nothing by perhaps laying in bed, allowing my mind to wander. I feel obligated to always be “on” and “committing” only to activities that serve a deep purpose for whatever personal goal I’ve set for myself. Immediately I’m brought to the realization that I need to chill the f*ck out.

A lot of this sentiment potentially traces back to when I became a parent. We all know time is limited, time is always ticking, so it’s natural to feel there should be no room for wasting it. Eventually I realize there’s a lot to be said for “doing nothing” especially since the research clearly states that “it’s when doing nothing that we finally confront what matters.”

I may have occasionally pressed my son to always do something productive with his time but I’ve learned to step back, I’ve allowed him to explore and be curious about things outside of school even if for me it seems like he’s simply wasting time.

Letter to Younger Self

Happiness isn’t about having more stuff. It’s about learning things you haven’t tried, spending time with people you care about, exploring places you haven’t been to, and investing in experiences that will continue to help you grow.

My son is only 6 at the moment, yet we've been instilling him with this mentality as much as we can. Every year for his birthday, he'll occasionally request for specifics toys which are nothing over the top but beyond that he gets more adrenalized in coming up with small getaway places to celebrate his birthday. Last year it was Kalahari Resorts which was amazing!

I'm not against indulging my kids with toys here and there but whenever there's the opportunity for an epic experience instead, I'll undoubtedly push for that regardless if it ends up costing more.

Personally I wish I had understood this at a younger age but it was not until that point where you find yourself owning sh*t you didn't need in combination with credit card debt that things suddently begin to click. Luckily all that is a thing of the past so all I can do now is to set my kids up for success as they grow older.

On Oversharing Photos

To cull your photos in photography is the process by which one defines the keepers from the rejects. The next step is where you find yourself color correcting all the “keepers” but being at that stage doesn’t necessarily imply one should publish on our site or anywhere else every single one of those “keepers.”

I like to think that when we’re hired for a job, it’s not solely for our technical ability to capture something artistically but also for our ability to edit. Far too often I get overwhelmed in seeing people share work from a shoot because they’ve chosen to completely over-publish photos. Like everything else in life, there has to be a nice balance.

When I edit, believe me there’s a tons of photos I would love to publish on the site which correspond to the same shoot but when I look at feature articles within publications I admire such as Men’s Health, Self Magazine or even Travel & Leisure, you’ll never see everything completely laid out. Granted they’re limited to space because they have to accommodate for corresponding article but the point is there’s always a nice balance where they leave me wanting to see more as oppose to feeling I had enough.

I’m unsure as to why people tend to overshare but if I were compelled to come up with an explanation, I think because they’re not too confident in determining what they feel is their best work so instead they share everything so the viewer can make that decision. I use to be guilty of this myself. When I overshoot someone, it’s because I’m looking to have options while I’m culling and not because the aim is to share every single one of those repetitive photos.

 A few of many photographs I took of Aimee but not all of them made them into final  visual essay .

A few of many photographs I took of Aimee but not all of them made them into final visual essay.

More is not always better. Instead, try to aim for a more concise tightly edited body of work. The last thing you want for a slew of photos to be something people just scroll by especially if the majority of them are a depiction of the same subject or place but from varying angles. We don’t need to see all of that. Just choose the best ones.

In the event you’re wanting to share more photos than you should, I strongly advise you to at least lean towards an editorial approach which I’m a huge fan of. It simply involves selecting a variety of photos that relate to each other and are presented a beautiful grid like this one or this one.

Keep in mind that for this technique to work, you should know beforehand and while you’re shooting that you’ll be presenting the photos in a grid or else you won’t have that mixture you’ll need for all of it to make sense.

I know a lot of times we want to believe each and every frame we take is profound in its own way but that’s only the case if we take the time to present them in the right way to begin with.

Bianca Paige & Studio Tips

Immediately after I wrapped up shooting with Bianca, she packed up and commuted back into Manhattan to train a few more clients she had scheduled for the day. With the remaining time I had left in the studio, I cleaned up, reflected and took quick notes on things I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t necessarily plunged into renting a space to create more work for themselves.

Renting studio space can be expensive depending on where you are or it could be reasonably priced depending on who you know. So based on experience and in no particular order, here’s some tidbit of advise I wish someone would have told me before I started renting.

Scout around: Before you get excited about having found the most epic space to shoot, think not only about the ease of your commute but most importantly the commute of your model. Subways in New York are the pipeline by which the majority of people get around, so there’s been instances where I’ve overlooked how difficult it would be for someone else to reach a space simply because I’ve thought only about the ease of my commute.

Consider both ends and in the event you drive around like I do, make sure you’re aware of what the parking rules are because that’ll determine what the ideal time would be to rent the space in the first place. Once I booked a space for 10am but parking rules didn’t go into effect until 11am. Luckily the model was running late and the owner allowed me to bump up my time to 11am but that won’t always be the case without any penalty.

Don’t starve yourself: Seriously, don’t. Bring water, snacks or even a sandwich which I’ve done and munched on in between those moments where the model has stepped away to change outfit. I can assure you that when you’re in that moment of creating, you literally lose track of time and without knowing you just keep going and ultimately find yourself famished.

Buffer, Buffer: Insulate yourself with enough time before and after a shoot. Before so you can setup without rushing and after so you can clean up once the model has left. Going back to how time equates to money, you want to avoid overextending it unless you’re ok with paying extra for doing nothing but cleaning up. Learn to calculate your time.

If I’m shooting someone for 2hrs between 10am-12pm, I would ask them to arrive at 10:15am which buys me time to setup and that’s not taking into account their time for changing into whatever outfit.

Should I wear this?: For the most part, particularly if it’s a test shoot, models will bring with them a slew of outfits to get your opinion on what you could potentially shoot. While it’s great to have options, you should have already reached a point where you’ve centralized what direction you’re hoping to take with the shoot before you’ve even stepped foot in the space.

You should be able to transition seamlessly from one look to the next. Don’t waste any time thinking “what should I do next?” because you’re the photographer and you’re technically in charge of the pace while still collaborating with the model on whether you’ve nailed a look and if it’s time to move on. I’m all about spontaneity but go in with at least a draft in your mind of what you’re looking to achieve.

Where is the…?: Do inventory of everything you think you’ll need and just when you think you’re ready, double check one more time. I’ve been short on stuff I’ve needed multiple times and I’ve had to improvised things on the go and ultimately not project the vibe as if I don’t know what I’m doing because I failed to prepare properly. It’s on me not on them.

Bring the jam!: Get yourself a portable bluetooth speaker. I personally use the Anker Soundcore Mini. I’m all about encouraging models to bring their own tunes to rock since it’s no surprise that music has the tendency to bring the best out of people. It’s all about them and in creating an environment where you’re likely to capture their true self. On top of that, music in my opinion works best in conjunction with the conversation you’re hopefully having as you shoot.