Everyday Icon: Guest Art Director Allie Lehman

Clementine Daily sits down with Allie Lehman to talk about her company Death to the Stock Photo and her thoughts on collaborating with others.
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Clementine Daily sits down with Allie Lehman to talk about her company Death to the Stock Photo and her thoughts on collaborating with others.
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Image Credit: M. Newsom Photography

We can’t exactly remember how we came across Allie Lehman’s work (Twitter, perhaps?), but once we did we were hooked. She is a photographer, writer and designer who happens to run two incredible companies—The Wonder Jam, a design studio, with her husband Adam, and Death to the Stock Photo, the wildly popular stock photography company, with her business partner David Sherry. Oh! And did we mention: she also co-authored a fascinating book about being an introverted business owner? It’s true.

Lucky for us, she has signed on to be this month’s Guest Art Director, and we’re so excited to have her with us to share her incredible aesthetic and hard-earned wisdom. Read on as she shares her thoughts on collaborating with others, the importance of supporting our peers and tips for introverts who need help managing their energy.

You essentially serve as the art director and photographer with Death to the Stock Photo, which has become an invaluable resource for creatives. What inspired you and David to launch a stock photography platform?

I realized that I had a lot of unused photography sitting around. There are only so many photos from my travels that I can post on social media or my own blog. David and I were playing around with an idea of just launching something quickly as an experiment and figured a lot of our creative friends could use these photos in mockups when presenting to clients or overlays for hand lettering.

After we registered for the domain, we put up a "coming soon" page which stood as our site for awhile and gave you one option: subscribe to our email list! We're all about breaking down barriers to create. We try to keep it simple so people can continue to be creative.

 You’ve obviously struck a chord with both content creators and photographers, which is hard to do in the stock photography world. Can you share with us why you think the community has been so receptive to what Death to the Stock Photo is doing?

We distribute our photos as cohesive packs (which is very different than any other stock photo site). Each pack contains 10-20 photos accompanied by a story that has been written either by us or the photographer (if we aren't the ones shooting).

Honestly, we shoot photos that we're really proud of and would use on our own blogs, website and Instagram. I think that sets a good standard.

Let’s talk about how you support photographers, because now you fund photography trips and projects for those who are creating the photo packs for Death to the Stock Photo. How did you and David come up with that plan and how’s it going so far?

Yes! This is my favorite part of the whole business. Each month, we're funding various photographers to shoot our photos. It's not a normal, "We'll pay you a lump sum and you hand over the photos," type of interaction. We hear their story, why they need the money and we try to fund an idea or a project that they've always dreamed of doing.

Sometimes we're buying plane tickets, sometimes we're buying someone a new camera and there are other times that we're covering project costs. It's incredibly fulfilling to see someone accomplish his or her goal. And in exchange, our audience is allowed to see a glimpse of the experience through the photos.

You place a lot of value on collaboration and with so many of your projects you are usually part of the team. What advice would you give to Clementine readers about collaborating in business and in life?

When it comes to collaborating, go with your gut. It won't often hurt because it's easy to stop collaborating. I always say, "Work together before you work together." Collaboration is that for me.

Partnering in a business, however, should be taken more seriously. I see a lot of people jumping into legally binding partnership agreements before the business has ever been tested or before a dollar has even been made. Give it a chance to succeed (or fail) before doing anything too permanent.

For a year we called Death to the Stock Photo a project. Do more projects and put in 100%.

We know from your book “Charge Up” that you consider yourself an introvert, which is really an exercise in energy management. So, how do you manage your energy as a business owner, wife, friend and, you know, human?

It's hard. I go through spurts where it's easy to manage because I've built a schedule that allows a lot of solitude. This past month and June are much more difficult, as I'm traveling for a majority of it (or working with my clients with my other business, The Wonder Jam, for full days).

My husband tells me to find my own oasis in the day-to-day. Sometimes that requires me to opt out of dinner plans, sometimes that means taking an hour long shower or book a hotel when I'm staying at someone's house for an extended amount of time.

In the moment, you can be selfish—and that's okay!

You know we’re pretty focused on living intentionally and authentically, while celebrating the everyday, here at Clementine Daily. How do you embody those values day-to-day?

Lately, I've been much more aware of how connected I am to my iPhone. I can ignore the most important people in front of me when I'm glued to that stupid thing. It's a powerful tool that can quickly isolate others. It honestly hurts my feelings when people "half listen" while scrolling on their phone so I'm trying to be more present and leave it in the other room.

When I'm not with anyone in real life, I try to stay real online. I have always kept my blog a sponsor-free zone (my Instagram, too) and share about things I'm really grappling with or thinking about. I welcome comments and interaction. The best part of life is the people, in my opinion. Oh, and dogs.

We kind of can’t believe we’re asking this question, but we’re dying to know: what’s next for you and your various projects?

I'm in an exciting place with the small creative studio that I own with my husband. We're continually booking up to the point where we'll be booked solid for the entire year. I'm learning to not book up every second of my schedule to allow for play and experimentation.

We have some fun things in the works for Death to the Stock Photo. I can't give any hints, but it involves some really amazing photos and experiences.

I probably shouldn't start another business unless I can clone myself, but we'll see...

p.s. Want to hear more about Allie’s business journey? You can catch her recent interview on the Creating Your Own Path podcast!