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How I Built My Audience

Lesson 45 from: Adventure Photography Pro

Alex Strohl

How I Built My Audience

Lesson 45 from: Adventure Photography Pro

Alex Strohl

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Lesson Info

45. How I Built My Audience

What does an iPhone 4 photo of a snow pile at blue hour has to do with Alex's journey? Hear the untold account of how Alex built his audience.


Class Trailer



Workshop Intro






Gear - My Camera Bags


Mastering Camera Settings


Blue Hour, A How-To


Photos That Move Us


Visual Storytelling 101


Endurance In A World Of Sprinting


Keeping Your Ideas Fresh


Building Your Story Arc


Shooting More: Action Plan


Conveying Emotions


In the Field


The Assignment: Himalaya Pre-Pro


In the Field: The Himalaya Defender Shoot


The Assignment: Canon Pre-Pro


In the Field: Canon USA Shoot




Keywords & Organizing Images


Commercial Grading


Masking & Radial Filters


Perspective Correction


HDR (Hand-Held)


Black & White Edits


Before & Afters


Moody Grading


IG Export Settings


Web Export Settings


Clone Stamping & Patch Tools


Grading in Lightroom


Hand-Held Panoramas


Radial Filters Pt 2


Delivering Files to Clients


Archiving & Organizing Images


My Favorite Software




Let's Talk Business


Building A Desirable Portfolio


How to Contact Clients


Prospecting: Finding Brands That Fit You


Getting Clients To See Our Value


Paid to Travel the World


The Art of Making Moodboards & Treatments


Keys To A Fulfilling Career


Three Things You Need To Know Before Pitching


Finding Your Value Proposition


Media Kit: A Walk Through


How I Built My Audience


Social Media Landscape


Module Recap


Bonus - Everything To Know About Filters


Do You Need Lens Filters?


Filters in The Field


Bonus - Find Your Path


Find Your Path


Bonus - How To Print Your Work


Why Print or Sell Photos


Preparing Photos for Print


Reviewing Major U.S Printers


Lesson Info

How I Built My Audience

(Dramatic music) So how do I build mainstream audience? And this is a story I've told many times but often, you know it's a condensed version and I skip so few details. So I'm gonna try to be thorough here, not too long but just thorough looking back I've distilled how this happened down to a handful of important points to begin with. I was in Quebec when Instagram came out I was a student and I was always interested in new things. So I was like, oh, this thing just came out. I'm installed it on my phone. Right? iPhone four, iPhone four, iPhone, four little one. I installed it. And at that time I was really into shooting architecture and old cars just because I had moved to north America from France. And we didn't have like this sort of mid-century architecture that I saw in Quebec and we didn't have old muscle cars. So I just go around the neighborhoods when I had some time. Well, it was in school shooting, just photos, the old cars at the same time as Instagram was growing signific...

antly which by the way, I installed Instagram like the month it came out pretty much at the same time that it was growing they were also starting to feature people from different corners of the earth, right. Just to foster community. So there wasn't many people in Canada using it significantly. At that time, I had committed to using it daily. Why? Well, because I was interacting with people on the app. I was like, I, I came from the Flickr times where you would talk with people online about photography. So to me, Instagram was just like Flickr. Oh, let's just all talk. And I ended up building this small community of people that we talked and Instagram ended up featuring me on their Explore Page and under suggested user list. So they put me on that list and I think I gained 30,000 followers in a week from nothing to 30,000 followers. Like cool. So that's when I was like, I mean first I thought I was just getting spammed. I was like, oh, this fake account. So I started to get on this website and started deleting followers. I was like, dude, I'm just getting hacked. And then I got this email two days after you are being featured. I was like, God, I wish I cut it earlier. So I, I ended up deleting a bunch of the followers but that's when I saw there was something there. Right. So I decided to invest more time in it because it's the, it's the most reach I've ever had. It's like, wow there's so many people now I use 30,000 people. It's still huge. And I was like, I'm gonna my goal is always to travel the world. Right. So I'm gonna share photos of my travels on this app because nobody's doing it pretty much. At that same time, I had sold a photo to Microsoft through another turn of interesting events. Basically they just found a photo that I shot just for fun of Andrea through keywords on 500 PX which is a site like Flickr. So at the same time I had some cash that Microsoft gave me to buy my image. And I was remember I was sitting at university not really any money. So I was like, awesome. So I kinda left university there and went to travel with that cash. And I built this storyline of traveling with Andrew as a couple and then going to awesome places and sort of the idea of exploration. And like I said, at the beginning I was re interested in the community aspect of the app. So every city I'd go, every new country I'd go. I try to connect with people there. And this created this momentum from connecting with people that just make made me even more addicted to the platform, right? So I was posting every day, all the time. After coming back from this one year trip I had maybe built about a hundred thousand followers in a year of traveling, which was awesome. Buzzfeed ended up featuring me as travel photographer for their, some compilation ended up getting another 80,000 followers out of that. So it was like the snowball effect just from being out there and stoked. It was a very innocent place to be. I was just traveling and taking photos. That's it? That was my goal. There was no secret mission. I didn't even wanna be a photographer. I wanted to be a graphic designer. So ended up in Vancouver, BC which takes us to the story I've told you about working with the government of Canada. So on these first projects with the government of Canada, I invited these guys. I met through Instagram, right? Like the ones I've been telling you about on my trips and these guys had massive audiences back then and still have. So I was just the producer of this trip. I was putting these trips together and bringing people to explore Canada. And I was getting everybody paid as a producer. So I ended up being on all the photos on these guys. And somehow my accounts continued to grow and grow just from doing these trips. And I was really driven to do more trips. Right. But I ended up being at the right place at the right time and actually placing myself at the right place at the right time. But looking back, I didn't really know what I was doing but it all made sense. How did I get to the first million followers? Honestly, it took years. And like I said it really wasn't the goal I was driven to post. I mean, how did I, the short answer is by posting content that I was happy with and proud of for years on end, literally five years in a row. It took about five years to get to that first million followers. And then the second took half the amount of time, I think two years. Right. Because it's all exponential after that. And again, it was just through this drive to discover new places and meet new people. And it's, it's one of these things like the more audience you have, the more you get, right. Especially back then. Right. But back then, organic reach was huge. Like Instagram was just featuring as many people as possible and creating power users like me to get people engaged on the app. Right. What really helped me get to the 2 million followers was the stories feature. Because before that, before the stories came out it was more about photos, right? I'm just gonna put good photos out there. I don't, I didn't want to be in the public eye. I just wanna put my photos out there and I didn't need people to know who I was. It's fine. It was just all about the photos. And then the story feature came out and then it was a different ballgame. It became, you know it became this public thing where it was you were sort of rewarded for sharing about your life. And it was pretty new to me. I wasn't sure how to use that, but I ended up, I think embracing it and opening up to just a more person on a personal level which is what really led me to the second phase. Like the 2 million followers, just building the story arc. Like I always had the story arc about travel. And then I started to integrate more things into the story arc, like building a house traveling more with Andrea all these things became easier to share on stories. So as the stories feature continue to be more and more used by people, it kind of tested my own limits about, you know being personal and thanks to the stories we can all be so transparent nowadays. And that was really strong to me, which is like, I mean like I always said, like be yourself because it's so much easier and on the stories there's no other option anyways, than to be yourself. You can't pretend you're somebody else. Right? So that is the foundation. I think of building this building this audience was like being myself and then being really driven to meet new people and travel, right? Like focus on the community that somehow this karma has ended up propelling a lot of us to sort of this where we are now but it's, it's through honesty and transparency I think that we all get there. But now we're in and the last, the landscape is pretty different. Things are changing. So I'm gonna talk about that in the next episode.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

A Note From Alex

Ratings and Reviews


Not What I Was Expecting Let me just start by saying that the workshop was very good. There were lots of things that I learned and many insights I took away. Perhaps the greatest bit of wisdom imparted to me was not anything Alex said but how he approached every subject he talked about. I felt that he was talking to me as a friend, very personal and open book. This was both a blessing and a curse as the course tends to meander around and is not as structured as others I've taken. Alex's passion for the highest quality, and craftsmanship in every aspect of his business, is very evident. From the premiums he charges, to the attention to detail in client deliveries. This is where my review is going to give some hopefully constructive criticisms. For someone so focused on a premium experience I was a surprised to find the course a bit sloppily assembled, and the videography and editing lackluster. This is coming from a videographer and someone with a lot of experience in online training. A few short examples to illustrate my point include: repeating segments of the edit (in some instances the exact same segment), poor framing. Colors changing between cuts, and my biggest pet peeve, not leaving photo examples on for long enough to see them. These are all small things, but they add up, and along with the topics meandering, left me a bit disappointed. I'm curious who you would say this class is aimed towards. Amateurs, mid-level, or experts? The assumption of who you are addressing changes throughout the course. I feel like with a bit of work from an instructional designer, and some editing cleanup, you could help hone this course to be one of the best out there. I feel like I need to do a more in depth review than will fit here, to actually explain this well. Let me know if that would be helpful to you. One other note: When I signed up for a workshop on Adventure Photography, I honestly thought it would be more field focused. The field examples were all shoots for products, and not shoots documenting an adventure. I guess I had just hoped to learn that side of the storytelling process more. Getting into the nitty gritty of being wet, cold, and dirty, and still shooting bangers. The section on filters (going out and building the snow cave) was more what I thought this course was going to be. Anyhow, with all that said, I still found it valuable and worthwhile. To summarize, the course feels a bit unpolished and in some ways unfinished though there is still great value. I've taken Jimmy Chin's Masterclass on adventure photography and it felt very structured and highly polished. I purchased "Adventure Pro" on the "finish in a month" discount. I would have felt ripped off if I had paid full price with the course in its current state. Thanks for reading and I hope my criticisms come as helpful. As I've already mentioned I'd be happy to further elaborate.

Topher Hammond

One of the best photography investments I'm only 1/4 of the way through Alex's course and I feel like I already have a loose plan on how I can move forward in my own career as a photographer. I felt like my work was lacking a specific feeling. The way that Alex articulated ideas on how to convey emotion in your imagery and building that overarching story arc for your own life narrative were super helpful to focus on how to make my work better. Super looking forward to the rest of this course. Thanks Alex and team!

Sergi Mas de xaxars Rosell

Great Workshop I learned quite a lot with this workshop. Because I'm in the industry for 5 years now, there were a few things I already knew. On the other hand, Alex showed me different and more effective ways to improve my business. I like the way he gives the lessons, always in a personal and close way. This is the knowledge I wish I had when I started. Totally worth it!

Student Work