When you want to achieve greatness, you have to start from somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. Here at DailyDriven.com, we know firsthand the complications of being a photographer in an industry that’s hard to break into along with our fair share of success stories. Our new Featured Photographerseries is aimed at highlighting some of the industry’s best, where and how they started and where they are going.
Photo Q/A 001: William “The Beard” Stern, Owner of William Stern Photography
Can you explain a little bit about who you are, where you’re based and what you currently do and/or shoot for?
Well, my real name is William Stern, but believe it or not some don't even know that. I'm best known for by nick name, The Beard. I know this for a fact, because at the last 2 Sema shows in Vegas, random people would come up to me saying... "Dude you're The Beard!" I chuckle, and ask if they knew what my real name was? Oddly enough, and a strange look to the persons face, they would honestly say... no.
I'm a Miami, Fl. based automotive photographer. I'm best known for my work with ADV.1 wheels, along with a long list of other clients. Vellano Wheels, Forgiato Wheels, Savini Wheels, Morr Wheels, 360 Forged, MC Customs, Rides Magazine, European Car Magazine, and Dub Magazine. That's just naming a few.
When did you first pick up a camera?
I was really late to the photography game I think? It wasn't till late of 2005 till I really picked up a camera. It was a cheap point and shoot Kodak digital camera that was given to me as a gift. Growing up, my father was into photography, and had a pretty sick Minolta film camera with a few lenses, but I was never interested in it.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue photography?
Getting into photography was a 100% accident. I was at the point in my life where I just really didn't know what I wanted to do. For years I was in retail management, but as many know, it'll just burn you out. Long hours and crap pay. One day, I just decided to walk away from it. After that, lost within my own self, I just picked up a job waiting tables at a local TGI Friday's. It was quick cash, and gave me flexible hours to sort things out with my life. I stared dating a girl that worked with me, and she's the one that gave me my first camera as a gift, for my birthday, I think it was? That's when my life changed. I would have never in a million years thought I'd be a photographer.
Heh, good question. Like photography, cars just fell in my lap. When I first got into it I was just shooting random shit, like flowers, trees, people, statues, and so on. Notice how cars were not in that list?
Not till one day my best friend at the time had a brother that owned a pretty well-known wheel company called Sevas locally to me. Well, one day my friend’s brother asked me if I could take a few shots of a car for him. I remember it being a BMW, but couldn't tell you which model for the life of me. I don't even have the images. It was a non-paid job; it was just more for fun for me. A few months go by, and never shooting another car I found myself buying a Nikon D200. Loving photography with my point, and shoot I really wanted to take a stab at using a DSLR. Using multiple lenses, and more advanced features to help give me different looks I sought after, I felt like I was on top of the world!
The very same day I bought the Nikon D200, I made a call out to my friends brother, and told him that I had just picked up a new camera, and if he had any work for me shooting cars? I remember this day very well because it was on a Friday, and I was headed to work. While on the phone talking to my friend’s brother, he said sorry, but he just hired a new photographer. A little bummed about what I just heard, I just went on with my day, and weekend. Monday rolls around, and my phone rings. It was my friend’s brother. To my surprise, he told me that the new guy he hired sucked, and was willing to give me a shot. Very excited, I was ready to take on the shoot! Not knowing shit about automotive photography, I was introduced to a nice all black Mercedes S 550, on a hot sunny day. Truth be told, I really didn't know what I was doing, and it was my real first test shooting with my Nikon D200. Stumbling with the controls, I just tried to make sure that the car at least looked good in my LCD screen. After a long day of shooting, and learning I was finally done. A few days go by, and I turned the photos in. Surprisingly enough the owner of the company was happy, and gave me more cars to shoot. And this my friends how it all started.
When did you first realize you have “made it” or a name for yourself?
I didn't notice that I "made it" till after I did, what I think was my second or third shoot for a new wheel company called 360 Forged. Even then, I wouldn't say "made it" but things were definitely about to change. It was a Jet Stream Blue Corvette Z06 done up by the guys over at Wheels Boutique located here in Miami. At the time it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen! The Z06 was lowered on some nice looking matte black 360 Forged wheels with lips to match the color of the car. My jaw dropped by its beauty! The shoot was pretty basic. We found a nice high parking garage and shot on the roof.
Once the shoot was complete, and uploaded to the internet it spread like a wild fire. It found its way on a mess of photo sites, car forums, forums that had nothing to do with cars, or even photography at all. It was just nuts! This is when people wanted to know more about this new wheel company, and the photographer who took the photos? From that day on, I was known as the 360 Photographer. I didn't sport the "Beard" just yet. It was this day that I felt that I've made a name for myself.
Two-part question, what car do you want in your garage and what car do you want to shoot the most?
Oh, I've always said that I wanted a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, just like the one in Smokey and the Bandit in my garage. That car has always been a long love of mine. As for what car I want to shoot most, it has to be a mint red Lamborghini Countach.
If you could shoot anywhere in the world, where would it be?
That would have to be anywhere in Europe.
Who did you look up to when you first started out? Who do you look up to now?
Wynn Ruji was huge for me! Something about his style was so unique to me at the time, and still is. Unfortunately, I just haven't seen anything new out of him in some time.
Scott Dukes is another. When I first found his work, I was like... WTF? It's that good!
Are there any gadgets in your equipment outside the standard that you can’t live without?
Lol, that's a secret.
Do you have any resources that you use to make your job easier? In either pre, during or post production?
I can't say that I have any real resources to make my job easier except for using a circular polarized filter on all my lenses to help reduce reflections on the cars I shoot.
Where do you want to be 5 years from now?
Well, apart from shooting cars, I'd really like to travel a bit more, and shoot life as it happens.
Lastly, what advice do you have for all the aspiring photographers out there following in your footsteps?
Always follow your dreams, and never let go. Practice, practice, practice! Watch tutorial videos till your eyes are blood shot, and never be afraid to ask questions.
DailyDriven for featuring me. Shoutout to all the guys in the LC crew. You know who you are. Each one of you are inspiring in your own way. Andrew Link, my brother from another mother! Josh Mackey for being my secret lover. Shhh... Jordan at ADV.1 for being such an understanding friend, and one I now consider family. Also making everything even possible for me. Tu, and Eric from Vellano for always making it a pleasure to work for guys. Jhulio at MC Customs for building some sick cars for me to shoot, and feature into magazines. Joe at Ultimate Auto in Orlando for always, and I mean always for treating me like family when I come up his way to knock out a few cars for him. Of course my wife Maria, and kids for dealing with my bullshit, and long hours I put into what I love doing.
Last, but not least my loyal fans from all over the world. You guys keep fuel in my tank to keep me moving forward.