Share a little bit about who Karen de Luca is. How did you get into creative design?
Karen de Luca: I’m the co-owner of Studio De Luca. We’re a commercial photo agency specializing in people and product photography and motion. We’re a full-service agency, meaning we handle every aspect of production – casting, creative direction, set design, styling, and so on. I started my career in marketing, but I’ve always had a strong focus on producing and art-directing social media content. And after many years of working client-side, I decided to become self-employed and founded Studio De Luca with my partner Chris. So far, we’ve worked with brands in a variety of industries, including fashion, accessories, CPG, and beauty.
What made you decide to start Studio de Luca?
Karen de Luca: I always wanted to be self-employed, and I especially wanted to do something creative. I’ve always had a knack for aesthetics and organization, and launching Studio De Luca felt like a natural move after gaining experience working client-side for so many years.
You started out your career in Germany. After coming back to the U.S., did you have to shift your creative outlook or did your experience in Germany give you a creative edge?
Karen de Luca: I don’t know if I had to shift my creative outlook. I find inspiration everywhere. My time in Germany, and especially traveling through Europe in general, definitely influenced my sense of aesthetic. But I always find inspiration in any place that I live, and I bring that to the table in my work as well.
That’s an interesting way of staying creative. Do you have an example of how you find inspiration in a particular place, do you find it in the architecture or the people or the culture?
Karen de Luca: I’d say all of the above, but certainly the architecture! For example, Central Florida, where I live now, is home to amazing mid-century architecture. I enjoy studying the design of these amazing buildings and infusing that into my work.
How would you define your creative principles?
Karen de Luca: I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. She’s an amazing writer and she wrote a book about creativity called Big Magic. In it she says, “Don’t wait for a muse. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just keep showing up.” In my opinion, what separates successful creatives from unsuccessful ones, and this applies to so many fields, is discipline and perseverance. The key is to keep showing up and working consistently, even if you’re not feeling it sometimes.
And does this shape how you do your business at Studio de Luca?
Karen de Luca: I’d say so. For example, sometimes we’ll start working on a mood board, and even if we’re not entirely clear about where it’s going, eventually, everything comes together.
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on?
Karen de Luca: It’s hard to pick a favorite. Everything we’ve done has had its own challenges and rewards. It’s so gratifying at the end of each shoot to bring a new vision into the world. Recently, we did a shoot for a new brand of silk scarves. That was a really fun project because we got to create a lot of different types of content — fashion and still life product photography, stop-motion GIFs, and a video for Instagram.
When you work with your clients, do they always know what they want or is that something that you have to help them realize?
Karen de Luca: Our clients have a general sense of what direction they want to go in. Chris and I then develop a creative concept that visually communicates their brand and message in an innovative way.
What’s your favorite thing about working with Chris?
Karen de Luca: I love having a partner to collaborate with and to bounce ideas off of. Plus, Chris has so many complementary skills. For example, he has a knack for technology and learning new photography techniques. On one hand, he’s highly creative, but on the other hand, he also has this insane ability to master new technical skills like it’s nothing.
Is there a specific style of creative identity that you want Studio de Luca to be known for?
Karen de Luca: We’re not your run-of-the-mill photography studio. Our visual style is quite imaginative and unique. And we work with brands that share that ethos and want to differentiate themselves.
I want to talk about your experience last year. Generally speaking, would you say it was a year of opportunity or a year of challenges?
Karen de Luca: Honestly, I would say both. Interestingly enough, even before the pandemic, we were already working remotely with our clients. So, we had that advantage. And when the initial lockdown happened in March, we began focusing more on in-studio product photography. Also, our daughter was born in May, so we took time off following her birth.
It was a crazy year, and we used the pandemic as an opportunity to slow down since we became parents. And when she was a little bit older, we were able to secure childcare and start working again. We initially held off doing any shoots with models, but since we learned more about Coronavirus and how to stay safe, we started shooting again with models. We take a lot of precautions to stay safe.
Did you observe any striking adjustments made by different aspects of your industry as a way to adjust to the pandemic?
Karen de Luca: People are spending so much more time online and shopping online, and therefore, brands are focusing much more on e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales. So, they need photos and videos to post on their social media channels, and websites. In some ways, this has become an advantage for photographers. I also think that with the pandemic, companies are much more comfortable with and open to working with remote freelancers or studios. And I believe, in many ways, it’s becoming the new norm.
Did you guys at Studio de Luca make any long-lasting pivots?
Karen de Luca: For one, we started focusing more on studio still life photography and discovered our passion for designing and creating custom props for our sets. We also found new ways to connect virtually with other creatives and potential clients. We’ve been using Facebook groups, Zoom meetings, and other online tools to network, meet clients, and promote ourselves. This will definitely continue.
With the vaccines rolling out, do you expect things to go back to normal or will there be some fundamental changes in the creatives industry?
Karen de Luca: I don’t think that things will ever go back to normal. I think more and more companies are embracing a modern workforce. For example, I think companies are much more open to working with freelancers and remote agencies. Firms are going to become smaller and more nimble, and, just in general, the online world is going to become more and more important as a space for work and collaboration.
Amidst all these changes, what’s the most important thing you want people to know about the work that you do? What would be Studio de Luca’s edge in this brand new world?
Karen de Luca: We go above and beyond for our clients. We’re a small but mighty team with multiple skill-sets including production management, set design, and styling, and we have the ability to create amazing visual experiences for our clients. We work completely remotely, and it is a totally seamless process for our clients as well. They can sit back and relax, knowing that we’re going to take care of every aspect of a production for them and deliver something amazing.
If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would change about your journey?
Karen de Luca: Honestly, I don’t think I would. Every experience and every setback has been necessary for my growth as an entrepreneur and has brought me to where I am today.
Is there advice that got you through the years that you would pass on to other entrepreneurs or other creatives in the industry who are just starting out?
Karen de Luca: Always remember your why – why am I doing this work? Why do I continue doing it, even when it’s challenging? For me, it’s because I love what I do. Also, if you have extra time or a slower period, use that as an opportunity to create personal work. Personal work is key in developing your creative vision and learning new techniques too!
Do you have special projects this year? What does 2021 look like for you and Studio de Luca?
Karen de Luca: We have a lot of exciting projects lined up. Next month we’ll be shooting a new Scandinavian-inspired home decor line, and we’re going to be creating some new content for a CBD gummy brand.
We’re also in the process of rebranding Studio De Luca and relaunching our website! Stay tuned.
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