Less fluff, more real stuff. We’ve been changing the business, marketing, and visual game for over a decade. We don’t subscribe to standards that don’t apply to us. We make our own. We pave our own path, and frankly, it's served us well for the past 12+ years of business. It’s time to raise your standards, you ready?

Alternative Standards for the modern professional.

about altstd



Together, we'll create something extraordinary in the ordinary, and set a new standard of livelihood.

Our clients are audacious, imaginative, and ambitious. They are creatives who dare to take risks, visionaries who change the world, and masters of their trade who aren't afraid to do things differently. They are the lifeline of our business, and for them, we create. We bring value to our clients by transforming their unique visions into visually captivating narratives, pushing creative boundaries, and setting new standards in visual marketing. We offer them a transformative experience that not only resonates with their audience but also leaves a lasting impact, helping them to create their own standards in their respective industries.

We Can't Wait to Tell Your Story.

about our amazing clients

ALTSTD, short for Alternative Standards, traces its roots back to 2013 when it was founded by Erica "Gem" Benson. Erica, a creative marketing mastermind, had grown tired of the same old, boring marketing and visual "standards" that didn't make sense for creatives. Determined to create her own standards, ALTSTD emerged as an alternative to the traditional norms. Their approach values unapologetic authenticity, passion for what they do, high standards, and chill vibes.

Erica's journey began with a marketing job at an ad agency in LA right after college. Over time, Erica's role expanded beyond social media marketing, encompassing creative direction, copywriting, web design, and photography for several multi-million dollar brands. As her photography work evolved from product shots to headshots, family portraits, and weddings, Erica made the bold decision to leave the agency and establish her own wedding and branding photography studio in 2015.

Since then, the business has evolved from SamErica Studios to SoCal Standard and now Alternative Standards Creative Studio. Alternative Standards has continued to thrive, vitalizing the realm of photo and film through intentional creative direction, strategy, and artistic expression. Their commitment to setting their own standards, pushing boundaries, and embracing authentic storytelling has made them a trailblazer in the industry, recognized for their exceptional expertise, magnetic energy, and captivating visual creations.

Making of the Main Character

get to know us better

our philosophy

Do it your way. Every other way is going to make you feel inadequate. 

Do what makes you happy. That's all that really matters. Then hire people you trust to do the rest. 

Inspire. Get inspired. Inspire others. Repeat until forever. 

Social media engagement is just people sharing in experiences. So share yours.

02. everything on film

current vibe

03. brown sugar lattes


High Standards, Chill Vibes

Emotive Cinematography

Bold, Editorial Photography

Intentional Creative Direction

Unique Captivating Content

altstd at a Glance

Silently went back to school and got her Master's in Marketing, a Bachelor  in Business Administration and a Master's in Finance.  


Got published in several magazines such as Brides, People, Oprah Daily, Vogue, and The Knot. 


Was a little too good at my job that my side hustle of photography became my full time job and official first business. 


Got sucked into one of those "your position means you're doing everything" for not enough & was thrusted into visual advertising.


Created our first annual "Calling Black Dads" campaign - a nonprofit portrait series celebrating black fatherhood. 


Created the Light & Melanin course for photographers, teaching them hour to photograph & edit melanin skin. 


Rebranding my life again, I felt rushed with this divorce process. 


Divorced my WASband and had to create a new identity for my photography business. 


Stepping fully into my calling as a Creative Director, Photographer, and Cinematographer running and operating a creative media production company in San Diego. 


Picked up a video camera and started offering photography and videography services. 


Coming to terms with the fact that I do love editorials and creating visuals for marketing businesses.  


Got to photography many celebrities this year... realized, celeb life is not for me (and it pays nothing).


ALTSTD over the years