Adam Lerner: Locations Are Super Important

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Adam Lerner is a former (and current) musician, that was whisked into the world of photography in college while photographing bands—and that's when he caught the bug. Since then, Adam has applied his photojournalistic skills to gigs for GQ, ESPN, and various others.

We managed to catch Adam at the perfect time right before he went off to go shoot a major project. He talked to us about his photojournalistic background and his photography.

Photo shot by Joe McNally

B&H: You shoot tons of environmental portraits. What’s your process of creating the photos? Locations are super important, correct?

Adam: Locations are super important, however I don't always get to see the location prior to the assignment, and have to figure things out once I get there. I do my best to research the location in advance, and I always get to my location early to do a full walkthrough—preferably with someone who is familiar with the location, as they may have access to areas that I wouldn't otherwise know about. Once I've got a sense of the layout, I try to pick around 3 to 5 settings to concentrate on, and go from there.

Interestingly, the best images sometimes come from the first spot I pick, but then again, there's often the case when we try something completely different and end up loving it.

B&H: We know that photography is all about vision first, but we’re eager to know: What gear do you use? A lot of your work looks like it was created with some very simple light setups.

Adam: A lot of what I use for the environmental portraits is what I call my portable rig. It consists of my Nikon D3s, a handful of lenses covering a fairly large range, a handful of speedlights, and my PocketWizard Flex TT5's. I try to keep the lighting simple and get my ambient exposure for the setting before I bring in artificial light on my subject. I typically use small umbrellas or softboxes as modifiers. If I'm not using the portable rig, I love the Paul Buff light strobes, and use them mostly for studio.

B&H: You’re all over social media: Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, you’re everywhere. How do you find time to manage all of your platforms, and which one is your personal favorite, (and why)?

Adam: I feel that having a social media presence is very important for a photographer. Simply posting images to your website and/or Facebook page isn't enough to differentiate you from the masses, and I feel it vital to have all guns firing with social media. That, and I find the interactions with followers and subscribers to be extremely important—not just being a faceless entity, but a real person. Granted, I don't have time to answer every email or post I get, but I do my best to get back to people. It's amazing how the internet allows for us to have a global community of photographers. To be connected to other photographers around the globe makes the world seem like a smaller, more manageable place. I would say Twitter is my favorite, due to its simplicity and speed of proliferation.

          

B&H: You also shoot a lot of travel photography. What are some of your favorite locations that you’ve shot in?

Adam: I feel that any chance to travel is a chance to tell another story with photos. I've been to Greece a few times, and I've found the people and landscape to be endlessly compelling. I recently traveled to Ireland, and there too, the amazing people and landscape blew me away. Interestingly, there seemed to be many parallels between the two places despite the temperate and language differences. I long to visit India and Asia, and hope to make some trips to those places soon.

Simply posting images to your website and/or Facebook page isn't enough to differentiate you from the masses, and I feel it vital to have all guns firing with social media. That, and I find the interactions with followers and subscribers is extremely important.

B&H: Your bio says that you were a musician, and that’s how you got into photography. At what moment did you know that you wanted to pursue photography professionally?

Adam: I am still a musician, and I feel that I relate and/or see light much in the way I hear sound. It's an odd parallel, but somehow the two are interrelated for me. I got into photography by sneaking my camera into clubs and shooting bands I liked. I would always have a dummy roll of film on me because back in the day, bouncers would confiscate your film. I ended up making records and touring around for years before I decided to pursue photography full time. 

B&H: Which photographers, do you feel, have influenced your work?

Adam: David Bailey, Jim Marshall, and Ethan Hall are folks I've admired in the rock and roll realm. Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Annie Leibovitz, Platon, Steven Meisel, Martin Schoeller—all legends. I love the work of Henry Cartier Bresson. I think that street photography is underrated; I am always compelled to shoot street shots and candids wherever I go. The works that were recently unearthed of Vivian Maier are amazing. Currently, folks like Zack Arias, Peter Hurley, Joe McNally, Jeremy Cowart, and Chase Jarvis are some of the photographers I consider to be influencers, both with their work and social media presence. The list is pretty extensive, and I haven't even begun to mention the younger, upcoming folks that I've found thru flickr and the web, who are shooting all kinds of formats and film, keeping things fresh. 

B&H: Do you have any major projects in the works?

Adam: I have a few projects in the works, but can't elaborate much at the moment, as it's too early in the process. However, I feel that personal projects are hugely important for the creative growth of any photographer, and I am always looking to challenge myself to take my photography to the next level.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Photo Video Pro Audio