Michael e. Stern

Michael e. Stern (www.buildabetterphotograph.com) is an award-winning Los Angeles-based photographer specializing in both construction time-lapse photography and portraiture. His clients have included: The Madison Square Garden Company, The Huntington Library, The Rose Bowl, The Walt Disney Company, ABC Television, Warner Bros., Universal Studios, & USC, to name a few. Michael’s still photographs have been published in more than four dozen books published by Disney Press, in addition to catalogs for Sotheby’s, Cinema Secrets & Sid & Marty Kroft. Michael has taught at community colleges, private colleges, online and one-on-one tutoring. His first book is: Build A Better Photograph, A Disciplined Approach To Creativity. His podcast: “Build A Better Photograph” is aimed at advanced amateurs, college students and early career professionals. Podcasts are available through iTunes.

Michael e. Stern Portfolio

Julia Dean Interviews Michael e. Stern

LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Michael e. Stern ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography.

Julia Dean: What kind of photographer are you?

Michael e. Stern: Currently I specialize in construction time-lapse videos, construction documentation and portraiture.

JD: How long have you been photographing?

MeS: I began my professional career in 1979 but first picked up a camera in 1968. OY!

JD: Where did you get your training?

MeS: Self-taught through high school, (with the occasional jr. high and high school class) and then went to ACCD full time. Graduated in 1979.

JD: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

MeS: After my career choices as an athlete, actor and gigolo didn’t pan out, I went with plan D and it’s worked out. Photography should have been my plan A but I was blinded by youth, insecurity and a chronic illness that I deal with to this day. Seriously.

JD: Did you ever come close to giving up?

MeS: Absolutely. I think all SECP’s, (self-employed creative professionals) have their turns in the barrel. It’s really a matter of how you deal with the challenges. I just came off a job where I made a mistake and felt like I was a complete fraud and why was I even hired. The photographs are solid, (whew!) but until I saw the files in Lightroom, I was stressed. I’ve considered giving up at least a 100 times in 36 years.

JD: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

MeS: Yup. Health. Money. Sleep. Exercise. Family time. Sanity. Fun. And I don’t think I’d trade any of it in for the benefits to my soul creativity brings me.

JD: What have you gained by being a photographer?

MeS: The ability to go, (from time to time) on very little food, sleep and money. :() Don’t get me wrong, I have a solid retirement setup, great relationships at home, a garden I love fussing over and good friends. It’s just that the times I’ve been on fumes, literally in my gas tank, my soul and bank account have taken more of a spiritual toll than I’d prefer. The process of filling back up is not as fun or easy as it used to be. Probably more age-related than anything. I’ve been at this 36 years. But, I’ve a finely tuned work ethic, I’m a life-long learner, I’ve a great BS detector when it comes to business people and I spend a lot of time with family and friends. All in all a lot gained.

JD: What classes do you teach at LACP?

MeS: Basic Photography, Lightroom 1: The Basics.

JD: What do you love most about teaching?

MeS: When students have their ah-ha moments. They get over the wall that was blocking them from their desired knowledge. I’m a facilitator, a guide on their knowledge journey.

JD: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

MeS: Be prepared to work harder than you thought possible, prepare to work with people who may not support you in the way you’d imagined and above all else, if this is something you really need to do, then do it, obstacles be dammed. Find a way to accomplish your goals and don’t be deterred by the challenges thrown in your way. Quitting is too easy. Moving ahead takes guts, internal love and a self-sacrificing determination to achieve success in the way you define it for yourself.