Where did Tony Stromberg come from to get to where he is now? This is from the About Tony on his website and I would encourage you to go over and read more as this is only the first couple of paragraphs describing his journey.
After successfully spending over 20 years as a high-end advertising photographer in San Francisco, I found myself disenchanted, burned out, and ultimately receiving no nourishment from the work I was doing. On the outside, I had everything anyone would want, but my inner landscape was barren and I began “searching” for my lost spirit.
When horses came into my life in the mid-1990’s, I realized that I had found my teachers, and the connection that I have developed with horses has helped steer my life in a completely different direction. Horses have taught me so much in the time that I have spent with them. They have taught me about the power of authenticity, honestly, and integrity, and they have taught me the true meaning of leadership and relationship. They have also taught me about living in collaboration and community, rather than the model that our society embodies, which is about competition and “getting ahead of the rest”.
In my interview with Tony we go from where he was to where he is now. Horses continue to take him to better places where he has rediscovered things that he had lost in the competitive rush of being everything to everybody as a commercial photographer. Finding horses probably saved him. I hope you will come and enjoy my interview with one of the top 10 equine photographers in the world.
His website: http://tonystromberg.com
His Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TonyStrombergPhotography
When I talked with Tony he had 799,900 Likes on Facebook. In the last two weeks it is now well over 808,000 likes. By the time you hear this it may reach 1 million for all I know. People are captivated by his powerful images and want to see more. Listen to hear how this came to be along with the frustrations and benefits of social media.
60 degrees in February in New Mexico (We started with just a little small talk)
Tony started in photography as a commercial advertising photographer in California
For 20+ years Tony had a very successful advertising photography career starting in his 20s. He describes the variety of work he did so successfully during that period. But, it took him down a path where he was losing himself and dealing with depression and despair. He could just about do any photography project for anyone, but there was something missing for him. At that point he didn’t know the difference between a horse and cow, he said.
He was invited by a friend to visit some horses and he started shooting horses as a hobby. He would go and shoot and find a little piece of himself every time.
How did he start into equine photography as a business?
In commercial photography he was spending 20 percent of his time taking pictures and 80 percent was marketing, showing his portfolio and beating the pavement to get in front of important clients. In equine photography it was the other way around. 20 percent of the time is marketing and 80 percent is shooting. He decided to completely close up shop for his California commercial & advertising photography business and started up anew in New Mexico where he had lived for a time in the past. For a while he did some architectural photography for builders in the area, but soon focused only on horses. He describes how his first horse book came about.
Someone was intrigued with his work and introduced him to her publisher. It was amazing that he walked in with his portfolio and walked out with a book deal. Sales continue with that book through the book distributer.
After the book he started with a calendar company as well and has been doing those for about 10 year now. From there he got with a poster company and that produced some income for the business. All this was getting him noticed in the equine and photography world and people started asking him about doing equine photography workshops. His first low-key workshop was in Santa Fe. He got his feet wet and really enjoyed it so he has been expanding from there. Now he is doing workshops all over the world. This now represents 80 percent of his income from equine photography.
He limits his workshops to 10-12 people and they are for 5 days to a week. He likes keeping them smaller and limits the size of the workshops to be able to offer a better experience to the participants. We breifly talk about the costs in general terms for the participants of his workshops both domestic and over seas . He has people of all ability levels from hobbyists to established pros attending his workshops.
What does a workshop look like? We have a discussion of how the workshops go. He keeps them relaxed and low key so people are not burned out at the end of the week. He sets up one major shoot each day. They have breakfast together and work on their images in the afternoons.
What about Stock photography?
Tony ALMOST signed with a stock agency, but backed out of that deal and never pursued it after that. He had sent out a note to several photographers and found that it might have trapped his images for several years and then not worked out that well anyway. Many photographers have tied up their entire portfolios and been hurt by stock photography agencies. He has done some stock work, but very limited and nothing that would tie up his images in an agency.
Art prints and galleries
Tony has worked with various galleries over the years, but now he only has his work with one gallery. Right now he just had his website completely redesigned to sell fine art prints and his workshops. It is quite beautiful and very easy to navigate by my estimation. He has no idea how this is going to work out at this time. As we spoke he mentioned that he will be announcing the new website on his Facebook page in the next day or two. The website builder need just a couple more days to tweak a few things before he should put it out there.
Believe it or not Tony has only been on Facebook for about 3 years. He started with a paid ad, “LIKE Photography, Like Horses? Click here” or something like that he said. At one point he hired a group for a little while and things were moving along nicely so he stopped that. Then it started to take off on its own. At one point it was growing at almost 10,000 likes per week.
He tries to share something on Facebook and social media every week. It might be a pictures from a recent workshop or it might even be a group shot of the photographers who participated. Sometimes he will post something for several days in a row. He water marks his images, but he knows that a lot of images are being stolen and used everywhere.
His biggest complaint is artists who paint from his images without permission and then selling his intellectual property as if it was their own creativity. He gets 2-3 or more emails and calls DAILY from artists asking if they can paint from his images. He tells them that he does not do that, but he sees his images everywhere as paintings and drawings for sale. They are in too many place to be able to effectively do anything about it which of course is one of the major frustrations of the internet and social media for an artist today.
Frustrations with social media and benefits
He has mentioned his books around Christmas and he expected to see a big bump in sales, but it was surprising it did not increase as much as he would have expected. We discussed how Facebook has changed and how just a couple of years ago when he had far fewer LIKES, he would get exposure to much greater numbers of people.
Now, even with over 800,000+ likes some posts get exposure to only 10,000 or 20,000 people. He gets a lot of his workshops booked and noted that through the Facebook page and he also gets lots of comments (200 or 300 comments with each photograph posted sometimes). It’s gratifying to him that so many people love his images and tell him so.
A Little Facebook trick
If you put a LINK in the post then the number of people who will see it cuts way down. It could be 1/10th what you might get from posting a pictures alone, but if he posts a picture then puts a link in the comments it reaches many more people. Facebook wants their money for you to post links. This is just one little trick he discovered recently.
Being with horses has mirrored back to him and taught him and helped him grow as a person. In the advertising work, he had lost touch who he was, and horses have helped him to find himself. Tony owns 4 horses. He rides a very little bit. He wife also rides a little bit. He sees his horses as more like family members and likes to “hang out” with them.
Thanks Tony for letting me interview you about your work. I much appreciate being able to talk with you and share this with the listeners here at the Equine Photographers Podcast.
Top ten equine photographers in the world
Oh Wait, I called him back to ask about being listed as one of the top ten equine photographers in the world. He was noted first in the list in the post on a website called Topteny and the congratulations started pouring in. It made his day when he found out about it and when the comments started rolling in on Facebook, in emails, and so on…. 300 or 400 comments in the first day or so. He really did not know much about how this selection of the top ten equine photographers in the world came to be and how he or the other photographers listed were judged, but it was fun none the less.
Tony’s new book
Because of the journey that horses have helped him with in his mind and soul, he has collaborated with people who work with horses as a therapy for people. Look for Tony’s new book, “Horse Medicine”.
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Thanks from your host Peter DeMott.