by Skip Cohen
Most of us have seen the artwork done by StoryPeople in various shops and galleries over the years. For Sheila and me, we've always found their messages mostly related to us personally or about love and relationships.
Well, I'm on their email list, and I get a new one every few days. But the minute I thought about the message in this week's artwork, my mind went immediately to business.
Right now, most of you are doing everything you can to get your business back on track. You're fighting to rebuild, be creative, and figure out how to best enjoy the upcoming holiday seasonality.
It doesn't matter whether you believe in angels, and you don't need one drop of spirituality to appreciate the message. Here's my point:
It's your imagination and creativity that will carry you through this year's holiday season and, in turn, sales. Coming out of the pandemic, even though we're struggling with politics and fighting to not get sucked back into a second wave - the world really is in the palm of your hand.
There's a new sense of family and just for a second, think about what everybody, especially "Grandma," has missed most - her kids! So, when it comes to the challenge of what to get Grandma this year, I'm not sure there's a better gift than a new family portrait. And if you're not a portrait artist, think about wall art. We've all spent more time at home with limited travel, looking at the same artwork on our walls. It's time to redecorate, and you've got the skillset to meet the needs of your clients.
But nothing happens without your imagination and creativity! Use your blog to plant the seeds of ideas. Talk to the vendors in your network, especially your lab, about unique products. The reality is - angel or not; your community is in the palm of your hand!
Images copyright Andrew Michaels. All rights reserved.
Intro by Skip Cohen
One aspect of the fun of a conference or convention is the people you meet. Today's post is a perfect example with a guest post from Andrew Michaels. We met briefly at ClickCon in Chicago last week, and after the convention, he sent me an email about a unique special project he worked on during the pandemic.
The main idea was to photograph a different train operator at each of the 194 CTA stations. I simply wanted to put a face to the L. I know a lot of people don't even think about it. After showing my friends, I would get texts "OMG I saw the operator at the front of the train!!" And from what the operators told me, it meant a lot to get that recognition...The message I was trying to send hit me harder than I intended. These people really are part of the community, and just like your barista you see every day, no reason you can't say hi and just smile to brighten their day. I got to know some of them, and they are truly amazing people.
There's that old line about "it takes a village." Well, take a second and think about the people in your "village" since the pandemic started. For Andrew, he wanted to recognize the team that kept Chicago's transit system operating - never missing a day of support for the community. And remember, they supported thousands of nurses and doctors who rely on the CTA to get to the people they care for!
I'm a big fan of special projects because they help you focus on essential concepts outside your business. In addition, they help bring out your creativity and spirit, which too often, lately, are buried under Covid's baggage. In other words, they help keep you grounded!
Andrew needs to be on your radar - visit his website and follow him on Instagram.
"Dedicated to the entire CTA organizaton for their consistent dedication keep Chicago moving forward."
by Andrew Michaels
In January 2020, I made a decision to commit full time to photography, spending January offering headshots and February learning squarespace to put the new portfolio online. In March 2020 COVID hit, so my plans came to a screeching halt.
With my studio-that-never-was on lock down, I needed a new creative outlet. I sifted through my phone notes and landed on an idea that I really liked: to photograph a CTA bus driver at every stop as they opened the door looking at the passengers outside. But with about 10,000 stops in Chicago, the “L” seemed like a better option, with 194 stops. In hindsight the “L” was even more near to my heart, given how many hours I’ve spent photographing classic shots like the Merchandise Mart and the Adams/Wabash overpass.
As I went about my work, kicking off each day with my morning coffee, I started to consider how the local barista becomes a friendly face in my morning routine. It occurred to me there's no reason the CTA staff shouldn't be embraced in the same way. It can make such a difference in someone's day to get a smile from a familiar face. I got excited thinking how a collage of 194 different operators could encourage the riders to connect with the workers. At the very least it would literally force Chicagoans to register the idea that these iconic trains don't drive themselves. It’s an obvious but often overlooked fact.
As I went about the project, I was amazed at how many times an operator - who I previously photographed, would appear days/weeks/months later at a different stop. It was serendipitous to see, even with such a sprawling organization, I might cross paths with these people over and over. In fact, the very first operator I photographed, Calvin, was spotted 3 times before I finished the project.
In rail transit, a “meet” is a situation in which a train traveling in one direction "meets" another traveling in the opposite direction. Growing up, I was pretty shy, so my family would encourage me to push outside my comfort zone, stressing the importance of meeting new people. “You never know who you’re going to meet…” implying at any moment, you can make friends with a stranger who may become the most important person in your life years later. On a micro level, this project proves that to be true.
I ended up leaving many of the duplicate people in the final collage to reinforce the lesson I was taught growing up, and during the project- treat every stranger you meet as if you will meet them again.
Sorry, but a blog post doesn't really do the collage above justice, but I know you'll get the idea! Check out “Familiar Faces” on instagram.com/statestreetphotostudio .The posts are more visible and the “Familiar Faces” highlight shows BTS/ video content as well.
Intro by Skip Cohen
I've shared this post several times over the years, and always at this time of year. It's one of my favorite guest posts by my good buddy Scott Bourne. This year after dealing with the pandemic and ALL of us graduating back into a bit of normalcy over the last month, Scott's words are even more appropriate.
His original target with the post was the new artist just coming into the business after graduation, but take a second and think about his advice. We've all experienced some level of hitting the "hold" button over the last year. His advice is the perfect reminder of the things we need to do like marketing, business, technology, and social media to get back into full swing.
We're all never-ending students! And, to Scott's point about relationships - Relationship building is your most valuable marketing tool!
by Scott Bourne
Commencements are coming up all over the country in the next couple months. As someone with gray hair, I can’t help but have a very different perspective on photography than someone of college age. I am often asked what advice I’d give someone just breaking into professional photography. The usual response goes something like this…
“Be prepared for lots of hard work – sales and marketing should dominate your day – show the work every chance you get – network like crazy – shoot what you love – repeat.”
But while that’s all good advice, there’s more I would say if I were speaking at a commencement.
I’d talk about understanding the high degree of importance graduates should place in each and every relationship they engage in during their career. Whether it’s the mailman or the recent client, these relationships are really all that matters. I didn’t know this when I was young and it hurt me…both personally and professionally.
So obsess over gear and f/stops if you must, but if you really want to succeed, pay attention to the people in your professional life. Build solid, long-term relationships with them. Care about them. Help them. Put them and their interests ahead of your own. You never know where that will lead. You might be dealing with that person 30 years later. They’ll remember how you valued (or didn’t) the relationship when you were young. And so will you.
If Scott isn't already on your radar, check out his blog; his website and follow him on Facebook. Plus, check out his field workshop and portfolio reviews.
by Skip Cohen
It's a typical Sunday, and while I'm off-track from marketing and business, my thoughts this morning will hit home with many of you.
One of the only publications I read anymore, which comes in hard copy every week, is The Week. My Dad got me started years ago, and it's my ongoing link to the outside world. In last week's publication in their regular feature called "The Last Word," the article shared profile stories of what people feel after a year in isolation.
The article originally appeared in The Washington Post and was used with permission in The Week. The title of the article was "One year of isolation," and the subtitle says it all:
At the anniversary of the pandemic, said The Washing Post, we have all had to get used to living apart. These are some of the stories of a year in which travel, school, ceremonies, and even touch disappeared.
I'm sharing only the subtitles related to each person in the article to set the stage for my point this morning.
Well, the article was incredibly reflective. It got me thinking about the last year and what I've missed the most. We're an industry built on a foundation of capturing memories. Yet memory-making moments suddenly became so limited. There were minimal opportunities to capture. But for me, most of all I've missed contact with friends.
It's that excitement in the air at a convention and the hugs that come with seeing people you've missed. I've mastered Zoom, Skype, and even Facetime - but nothing beats a live hug. Nothing tops the laughter and pure joy of reuniting with people you love, respect, and have shared chapters of your life with.
But over the last year, the glass was always half full, and in place of that time directly with friends, Sheila and I found we grew a little closer every day. We got to know each other better, and the two pups became a project to maintain the change in lifestyle and loss of freedom.
So, what's the piece of the puzzle over the last year you missed the most?
The pandemic's grip is slowly loosening, and we're getting back to normalcy, but I'm not sure what normal really is after the last year. There's certainly a deeper appreciation for so many things we took for granted.
Wishing everybody a day to recover those pieces of your puzzle you've been missing for the last thirteen months. Make it a day to bring back great memories and, most important of all, more smiles in your life. And let's get back to those eleven-second therapeutic hugs I used to write about.
by Skip Cohen
It's Sunday, and if you've followed me for even a short time, you know I'm about to run amuck from the topic of marketing. Sunday is my day to step into the world outside business, and with the pandemic slowly (very slowly) moving behind us, I was thinking about how Sheila and I got through it.
Like most of you, we've been isolated from friends and family for over a year. We chose to hunker down and ride out the storm. I have fewer respiratory issues than Sheila does, so I've been doing the food-shopping, typically at 7:00 am on Sunday mornings - before the no-mask wonders show up. We've cooked every meal at home, mastered a couple of fun cooking techniques, and put on the "Covid 15," which we're walking every morning now, trying hard to shed.
Through this entire nightmare, it's time I paid tribute to our therapists, Dr. Lucy and Dr. Belle. I wrote about losing Molly the Wonder Dog in February 2019. Like everyone who loses a dog, I was devastated. Nine months later, we decided it was time to get back into the dog world - only this time it was two fur-balls joining the family.
For the first three months, just about every day, I questioned our decision. Most of the time, Sheila and I would look at each other and say, "What made us think at our age we could handle two puppies?" Then we'd laugh and refocus on training.
When the pandemic hit in full force, the four of us really did become a family. Our days kicked off with getting the girls out, typically our morning walk around the neighborhood, and on and off through the day, it was puppy playtime. They've filled our life with chuckles and an occasional scream - but big smiles every day.
Over and again, I've thought about how lucky we are to have them with us, and the love for these two knuckleheads just keeps growing. I thought our experience was pretty unique until I called our vet to get them in for their annual checkups and shots. I was told that through the pandemic, "Everybody got a pet!" As a result, they're five months behind on available appointments.
That brings me right to my point - our pets help fulfill our lives. While there are no words to describe how much we've missed friends and getting together, our "therapists" have kept us focused on laughing and smiling every day.
Sheila and I got our second vaccine shot this past week, and there's finally light at the end of the tunnel. But over the last year, it was Lucy and Belle who helped us stay focused on our hearts and, in fact, each other.
Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole!
Wishing everybody a day loaded with smiles and hope for the future and a return to some level of normalcy. It's going to be slow, but still faster and the right direction away from what we've all dealt with for the last twelve months. And if you've got a pet therapist, dog, or cat, they deserve a couple of extra treats today because they guided you through the storm.
Happy Sunday...or Monday if you're on the other side of the world!
We can't always control the timing of our plans, but we can have fun along the way.
Friends don't care if the project is finished; they just want to be a part of the magic of life.
Look at things from a new perspective. Laugh. Be grateful you're where you are at this moment.
Don't worry about trying to hurry the future along. Look for the joy in life now.
by Skip Cohen
Part of the fun of writing Sunday Morning Reflections is simply heading into any topic that moves me at the moment. Well, I just spent almost an hour staring at my computer and thinking. Along the way, there was plenty of procrastination as the pups wandered into my office to play. I got down on the floor to participate in the pure joy of a let's-abuse-Dad moment.
That's when it hit me, how downright awful the last year has been, but how proud I am that we made it through it all. And while it's still not over, we got our first vaccine shot, got out yesterday to the mall, and did a few errands. It was a day of just routine chores, but it was part of Melody Beattie's "magic of life."
Two days ago, we met a neighbor for the first time. We've been waving and nodding to each other for years but never actually talked directly. We were out for a walk, and so was he and his wife. It was great to finally meet him, and as we walked away, I looked at Sheila and said, "Oh my God, we shook hands."
Just go with me on this. Think about the last year and the level of isolation we've all been through. Even though we immediately grabbed the hand-sanitizer when we got home, we'd shaken somebody's hand! It was terrific and seems so damn stupid to write about.
Here's my point - all we've got is RIGHT NOW. It's this very moment in time we need to appreciate. We can't do anything about the mistakes we made yesterday, and spending time wishing we could turn back the clock only wastes the energy we could use to live today to its fullest. I still love looking in my rearview mirror, but only to give me the energy to create more memories.
Two of our honorary "kids" sent us the picture of Sheila and me above. It was an all-u-can-eat snow crab night at a restaurant in Sarasota. The four of us were out together. It was two years ago, and it helps set the tone for today - Smiling more and bitching less.
There's so much we all took for granted before the pandemic. Now is the time to appreciate the pure joy of the littlest things - from a handshake to just a run to the market. Like everyone else, I know I've wasted time wishing things were different. I miss friends, family, and freedom - but as it all slowly starts to come back, I'm not going to waste a minute not smiling.
Wishing everybody a Sunday filled with time to feel great and appreciate the moment - right now!
You can dream a little dream or you can live a little dream.
I'd rather live it, 'cause dreamers always chase but never get it."
"No Regrets," Aesop Rock
Happy Sunday or Monday if you're on the other side of the world. Wherever you are don't waste time on yesterday and tomorrow isn't here yet. Just savor today!
“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts the sail.” William A. Ward
by Skip Cohen
A few months back, Sheila and I got in the habit of each picking a motivational writer and, over breakfast, reading a short thought for the day. While it's not something I ever thought I'd enjoy doing, it's terrific. It gives us a daily anchor, especially through the last year of being somewhat isolated.
This morning, Melody Beattie really hit home, tying into something I've noticed repeatedly with many of you over the last few months.
"There is always someone else to take the fall if our plans don't work out: "I would have been more successful, but the economy was slow this year." "Well, that sounds nice, but my therapist says that I should avoid too much stress." "I wanted to do that, but my husband didn't like the idea."
What a frightening prospect it is to take your life into your own hands, to decide whether or not you will accept full responsibility for all of your actions and choices.
What an amazing - and sometimes terrifying - freedom complete responsibility for actions brings! Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we stumble and fall. But oh, the feeling when ou finally get it right, when you decide to take that step and it works! That when you discover that those fragile butterfly winds on your back are not there just for ornamentation. You can Fly!
Take charge of your life. Take responsibility for your actions. Ultimately no one chooses what you will do but you, anyway. Enjoy the freedom. You've had it all along."
And here's my point: I'm tired of photographers who blame everything on the pandemic. I'm not suggesting business hasn't changed, or for that matter, that revenue didn't disappear. But I'm seeing so many artists who continued to build relationships with their clients, offered support during the toughest of times, and worked to expand their skill set. Now, as things slowly change and we get back a little normalcy, they're in the perfect position to bring back some of the last year's business.
Hunkering down is about your health - NOT about your business! And there's time now to rebuild and regain the momentum you had before the pandemic.
by Skip Cohen
Sunday Morning Reflections has become a significant part of my routine. What I write about is often as much for my benefit as I hope it helps you.
This past week I've been struggling with the pandemic. While I've got this reputation of being the industry cheerleader, and many good things are going on, there are times when it's hard to focus. Like so many of you, I miss time with friends, and I miss the freedom to go out anywhere I want. Zoom, Facetime, Skype - they're all great for keeping in contact, but they don't keep us in touch.
As I sat down to write this morning, I struggled with needing to simply hug a friend. One of those big bear hugs, or bro-hugs, or the hugs I used to write about - long hugs lasting at least eleven seconds and proven to be therapeutic!
Stuck for a topic without sounding like a pandemic victim and whiner, I turned to Melody Beattie. Today, November 22, she wrote a piece called The Magic of Gratitude and Acceptance. Here's an excerpt:
Gratitude and acceptance are two magic tricks available to us in recovery. No matter who we are, where we are, or what we have gratitude and acceptance work. We may eventually become so happy that we realize our present circumstances are good. Or we master our present circumstances and then move forward into the next of set of circumstances.
If we become stuck, miserable, feeling trapped and hopeless, try gratitude and acceptance.
Once again, Beattie came through - and remember, she wrote this in 1990, but the message is timeless. And while you might think it's a little too simple and even trite - we all need a reminder of where to set focus when a camera isn't in our hands!
So, I had a choice - I could remain stuck, miserable, and trapped or look around me and take a big breath of appreciation. It's going to be a strange Thanksgiving this year, but even the pandemic can't take away the gratitude I feel for the life I have, Sheila, my family, friends, two very special puppies, and all of you. That means I have no choice but the winning combination of acceptance and gratitude.
And regardless of how spiritual you may or may not be, Melody's close was so relevant:
Today, God, help me let go of my resistance. Help me know the pain of a circumstance will stop hurting so much if I accept it. I will practice the basics of gratitude and acceptance in my life and for all my present circumstances.
We're all struggling with variations of the same circumstances - leaving us two great options, accepting the challenges in our lives and gratitude for everyone and everything that will get us through this.
Wishing everybody a great day ahead and a pre-Thanksgiving week that helps you stay focused on everything you have in your life instead of what's just beyond your reach.
Happy Sunday or Monday if you're on the other side of the world.
by Skip Cohen
It's Sunday morning, and I'm definitely not in my usual mode of being off the topic of photography.
The pandemic has changed everything in our lives and not for the better. But it's also created some unique leadership opportunities in creativity and support to your clients and community. I know it's been an ugly year for virtually every business, but I also know there are ideas out there to help you get back on track and jumpstart your business.
ClickCon Nation kicks off today with an all-star cast, but more important than the educators/speakers is the timing and the topics. For example, I'm doing a program at 10:15 CST called "My Business Has Disappeared, Now What?" In one hour, I'm going to pack in 2-3 hours of material - one after another of things photographers can be doing RIGHT NOW to capture the seasonality in business.
And check out the company I'm with below.
The program is FREE - all you have to do is download the ClickCon Nation app, and you're in. I know this doesn't apply to everybody, but there are too many of you who have been crying the blues over the decline in business and not doing anything about it.
Remember that line of "God helps those who help themselves?" Well, regardless of what you believe spiritually, there's so much help in this industry. But you've got to make the first move - open your mind and join us!
Wishing everybody a day filled with ideas and opportunities to be a leader in creativity and business. The year isn't over yet. As I've written so many times in the last nine months - hunkering down is about your health - NOT about your business.
by Skip Cohen
As my day got started today, I was determined to write about anything but the election results, which will go on for the next few days. So, I decided to finish a post I started a month ago that was sitting in my draft folder.
While I hate writing about anything to do with the pandemic, at the same time, it's the new norm we all deal with. Like everyone, I have good days and bad. I miss time with friends and the freedom to simply go wherever we want, whenever we want.
But there is something that's helping Sheila and me through all the challenges: making a conscious effort to do something fun, even if it's only for a short break.
I've written before about the two new members of the family, Lucy, and Belle. They've been with us for a year. Their crate's now gone, and they have almost full run of the house. They've been instrumental in keeping us focused on staying optimistic. And while the first ninety days were horrible, they're now fully into life with "Mom" and "Dad."
Combining two passions, the pups, and photography, I decided to have a little fun in the water. Lucy's a Mini-Goldendoodle, and loving the water is in her gene pool. Belle's a Havanese and can swim, but she's the princess and prefers to be a spectator.
I set up my LUMIX G9 on a Platypod Max and started shooting video. These were still frames from the video. The video itself was pretty dull and pointed out my need to develop better editing and cinematographer skills. (Click on any of the thumbnails below for more info on my gear setup.)
But here's the fun thing about doing a mini-project like this - it captured a moment I cherish. It's even more relevant as a reminder of the importance imaging plays in our lives, even when it's DIY. Lucy's enthusiasm and trust with "Dad" and Belle's contentment to be a bystander pretty much says it all about their love for the water. Lucy is in, the minute I say "Jump," while Belle races up and down the sides of the pool following Lucy, but won't go into the water.
Here's part of my point today: One of the most respected physicians in Sarasota, at a Zoom meeting I was on, the other day, gave us a little pandemic insight, which I'm paraphrasing.
It's not going away, and the best prediction of a vaccine is now in the Spring. There's a spike predicted in new cases in Florida as the snowbirds come back and bring more than just their suntan lotion. And we were all advised to get our flu shots and follow the rules of wearing a mask and physical distancing.
There's no light switch about to be flipped to end the nightmare of the pandemic, but there is a switch you can turn on and off whenever you need a break from adjusting to the new norm: DO SOMETHING FUN!
Walk away from the business you're working so hard to maintain and do something that makes you smile. It might be a phone call to a friend you miss, taking a walk, looking through old photographs, or taking your camera gear and shooting just for you. If you take the time, you'll find the list is endless, even with the appropriate restrictions.
There are two great Zig Ziglar quotes that fit right now:
"If you can dream it, you can achieve it!"
"Your attitude not your aptitude, will determine your altitude"
If you want to beat the pandemic, don't give up on your dreams. Make time for things you love doing - things that make you smile. Use those core members of your network who you know you best for support, and keep your attitude at high altitude!
by Skip Cohen
This post is a combination of a thanks and an observation about one of the things I love most about being in this industry. It's about how connected we are to each other, and like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game, yesterday's post was pretty remarkable.
It was Throwback Thursday, and I shared an article from Hasselblad's newsletter in 1987 about Dean Collins. Over the next 24 hours, sixty-four people would comment on Facebook and share their thoughts about Dean.
This is a short post today - here's my point:
I miss Dean a lot. Whenever there's an industry challenge, I think about my old buddy and what he'd say or be doing right now. In 2005, just a few weeks before he passed away, Nick Vedros and I drove down to spend some time with him. His spirit was incredible, and we actually believed he was going to win his battle with cancer.
When I shared the post yesterday, I had no idea how uplifting everyone's comments would be. Each comment brought back a memory and a smile. I was reminded of the reason I've loved this industry and been in it so long - it's the people! As sappy as it sounds, it's the way we're all connected, and the love we all share for the craft and watching each other's backs and the support.
There are no words to describe how much I've grown to miss conventions and contact with so many of you, but the challenges of the pandemic disappeared just a little bit yesterday as Dean pulled us together for some great memories.
So, thank you to all of you who commented and put one of our best in the spotlight again. And to Dean - we sure do miss you, buddy!
You only find out who's swimming naked when the tide goes out.
by Skip Cohen
It's a typical Sunday, and as usual, I'm stepping away from marketing and business, but staying focused on something I've noticed over the last seven months of being hunkered down.
It all starts with one of my favorite quotes above. While there are still a handful of idiots who think Covid-19 is a hoax, most of us recognized early on the necessary changes we had to make in our lives to ride out the crisis. (I'm trying hard to make today's post about believing in yourself and NOT the pandemic.)
I've been surprised by people I respect and have looked up to, who, when the pandemic hit, were "swimming naked." They hit the panic button and withdrew. From not knowing what to do about their business and disappearing, to not having the self-confidence they've always displayed in public. They stopped believing in themselves because so little they've done in the past prepared them for the new way they had to do business.
I'm not suggesting seeing revenue streams dry up isn't a reason to panic. But I think about my buddies Joe and JP Elario. Besides being great photographers and two friends I cherish, their business was almost exclusively weddings and events. But when things turned upside down, JP starting doing Face Time portraits and found a new revenue stream. I wrote about it a couple of months ago.
And that brings me right to my point - the pandemic has changed everything in our lives, but when it comes to business, you have to listen to your heart and not lose your ability to believe in yourself. The pandemic has created some unique opportunities for artists to demonstrate their communication skills and their ability to keep building relationships.
Hunkering down is about your health, NOT your business. You have to keep in touch with your target audience. When this crisis is over, and it will be eventually, people will remember you for the support you shared, by merely being present.
Wishing everybody a Sunday where you kick back and listen to your heart for the day. Take a little time to inventory your internal assets - not your camera gear, but all those great ingredients that make you unique. And as sappy as it sounds, your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn, Winston Churchill.
Happy Sunday, everybody - do your best to make it a fun one!
I have a single track mind. I work on an idea for a long time.
It's like getting acquainted with a person. And I don't get acquainted easily.
by Skip Cohen
I'm not sure when multi-tasking became a lifestyle, but we all do it, some better than others. At the same time, there's something to be said for people who can appreciate each moment and each project. At the very least, I admire people who can identify those times that deserve to be savored, and NOT thrown into the urgency of the multi-tasking heap!
Sheila brought Melody Beattie into my life, and each morning it's another passage to think about. Yesterday's was below, and the beauty of its simplicity makes so much sense.
Letting Go of Urgency by Melody Beattie
One thing at a time.
That's all we have to do. Not two things at once, but one thing done in peace.
One task at a time. One feeling at a time. One day at a time. One problem at a time. One step at a time.
One pleasure at a time.
Relax. Let go of urgency. Begin calmly now. Take one thing at a time.
See how everything works out?
Note: The image is the view from Georgia O'Keefe's office window from her house in Abiquiu, New Mexico. It's no wonder she loved it so much.
by Skip Cohen
While parts of this post are out of the SCU archives from many years back, with the challenges created by the pandemic, it's even more relevant today!
There must be a hundred quotes we've all read related to determination. Most of them talk about falling down and how quickly you get back up or some facsimile. The more you read the more trite they become. For whatever reason, this one really hit me hard:
"How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win."
Let's call "losing" what we're all feeling with today's challenges and everything outside our control. Although I'm hearing some excellent stories about things coming back, business pretty much disappeared for the last few months.
All of us went into the new year with the usual optimism, anticipating a year of growth for the business, new friendships, and opportunities to expand our networks. WPPI in February was the last live conference any of us would attend for a long time. Like deer caught in your headlights, we simply didn't know what to do!
Here's the critical issue - it's entirely appropriate to be frustrated over everything that's happened. It's been a constant emotional energy drain, but what's wrong is giving up. It's mid-September, and we're about to go into the seasonality of the fourth quarter. You don't have time to be gun shy in today's environment.
Here's are some ideas to start thinking about:
Last but not least, do what you need to feed your own heart and soul. Take this weekend and be a slug, if that's what you need. Build up a little energy to tackle a more positive attitude. Pick up the phone and call a good buddy. Get involved in your favorite forum on Facebook with other photographers. Look for partnerships to promote multiple products, like a photographer and florist working together this holiday season.
I'm not suggesting it's going to be easy, and this isn't about me being one of the industry cheerleaders. Business will come back, and as long as it might take, people are still in need of your help in capturing memories and sharing them!
Good things come to those who believe.
Better things come to those who are patient,
and the best things come to those who don't give up.
This is very important - to take leisure time. Pace is the essence.
Without stopping entirely and doing nothing at all for great periods, you're gonna lose everything...great pauses between highs, where you do nothing at all.
You just lay on a bed and stare at the ceiling.
This is very, very important...just to do nothing at all.
by Skip Cohen
Even being hunkered down for the last six months, it's hard for me to believe it's Labor Day weekend. The last six months have been tough on everybody, and I'm going to make a suggestion that will be considered by some to be a waste of a blog post...take the weekend off!
Most of you have seen a dramatic drop in business, with an almost constant level of stress trying to think of how to rebuild and get things back on track. My suggestion is - take a break from it all. Use the next three days to clear your head; spend time with your family; chill - in other words - make it a slug weekend!
Sheila introduced me to the concept years ago, and it works. Sometimes you need to walk away from everything and simply relax - be a slug. The pandemic challenges aren't going away, but you need to be fresh to find the creativity necessary to get back on track.
Two nights ago, I needed a break. I had forgotten about the crystal focus ball I bought a year ago. So, I headed to the beach with a LUMIX G9, the 14-140mm lens, and a Platypod. Lying on the beach and watching the sun go down, I realized just how much I needed to step away from work.
Take this weekend to wipe the slate clean. Spend as much time as you can finding things to laugh about, and come back on Tuesday ready to fire up ideas for the fall seasonality and the holidays. The pandemic isn't going away as quickly as any of us would like, but that doesn't change the importance of clients who still have memories to capture, kids growing up, and families in need of a new portrait.
Chill over the weekend - join Sheila and me for a slug weekend and come back fired up on Tuesday morning. This is a time when wasting time couldn't be more valuable to help you get your head back in the game and energize.
Wishing everybody a safe and healthy Labor Day weekend!
by Skip Cohen
Lately, it seems like every post I write starts out referencing something different in our lives because of the pandemic. Like you, I'm taking a look in the rearview mirror more often than in the past, and it's become part of my daily routine.
I miss the total freedom all of us took for granted. I miss friends, planning for the next convention, and thinking about where Sheila and I might go for a long weekend. Everything has changed, but here's a good thing I'm learning to appreciate, my photographs.
I'm spending more time looking at past files and immensely enjoying Skylum's Luminar. They do not pay me, and I'm not an active affiliate, but I appreciate the simplicity of understanding how to adjust an image and make it a little better.
I also enjoy getting to know the various filters as I adjust an image to my taste. And for those of you who want to criticize what I did in the above photo, remember, "Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder," and in this case, I'm my own client, and the checkbook holder.
In May of 2019, Sheila and I spent ten days in New Mexico and fell in love with so many different areas. We started in Albuquerque, then drove to Santa Fe and finished in Taos, making stops all along the way. One of the most interesting and poignant was Taos Pueblo. Acting like total tourists, we took the reservation tour, at that time still inhabited by a half dozen full-time residents.
There's a story behind the graveyard and church above:
From Craig K. Gowens page on Flickr in 2009
The original San Geronimo Church was built in 1619 when the Spanish settled the area and began forcibly converting the Tiwa people of the Taos Pueblo to Christianity. The Church was destroyed in the 1680 revolt that drove the Spanish from New Mexico, but rebuilt after their return a decade later. The second destruction of the church occurred at the hands of the U.S. Army in 1847.
During the American military occupation, the native Americans again made a bid for their own freedom, rejecting the authority of the new American territorial governor of New Mexico, Charles Bent, assassinating him in his home in Taos. The U.S. Army retaliated against the Taos Pueblo as one of the leaders of the revolt was a Tiwa native. Hundreds of Tiwa, mostly women and children, had taken refuge in the church during the attack and were killed when the Army bombarded the church with artillery. The bell tower of the church has been restored and serves as a remainder of lives lost in the attack.
One of the features I enjoy most with Luminar is my ability to see the before and after as I'm working on an image. I grabbed a screenshot of one small section of the picture. That bar down the middle slides left and right, allowing you to see each part of the image and the impact the changes you're making have on the finished product.
In this case, I used the one-touch clarity booster, gave the saturation a slight tweak, and then used the structure filter, which enhances clarity and micro-contrast in surface area between edges detected in an image, improving perceived detail and making photos stand out.
Besides sharing a small history lesson from New Mexico, and intro to Luminar, if you haven't used it - there's an even better bottom line.
The need to hunker down is wearing on all of us. Don't let the pandemic's challenges get in the way of the love you have as an artist and business owner. Business is out there, and it will come back - but in the meantime, keep working on your skill set.
Wander through your files and appreciate where you were a year ago. Use your photographs to keep your creative juices flowing, and that passion you have for imaging alive. Keep in touch with friends, stay active in social media, and keep your eye out for moments of inspiration from the people you respect most. Most important of all, don't let go of your dreams.
And one more thing to think about - It's that first convention we're all going to attend LIVE. What a celebration that's going to be. I'll meet all of you in the bar of the host hotel that first night in town...wherever that might be!
Intro by Skip Cohen
Time is our most valuable commodity, but so often we throw it away worrying about what other people will think. Even when we've done our very best, we worry about criticism and outside opinions.
Well, it's Sunday morning and if you've followed me for even a short amount of time, you know I love to go off-topic from the business and marketing of photography once a week. Before I even thought about what I wanted to write about today, I got side-tracked with the post below from my good buddy, Scott Bourne.
It's too good not to share beyond his Facebook page. The best things about great friendships are what you learn from each other. Over the years he's been my sounding board on so many different ideas, and what he wrote this morning, once again hit home.
It also reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Dean Collins:
Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!
Remember that often, especially when you're creating for your own enjoyment, you're the checkbook holder!
by Scott Bourne
People ask me how/why I produce so much content. It doesn't matter whether it's photography, painting, writing, music, etc. It's always the same simple answer.
I've come to realize that my own effort is the only thing I can control in this life. Period.
I can't control what people think of my effort or of me for that matter. I can't control what others say about my effort or about me for that matter. So why worry about it?
I spend 100% of my time on that which I CAN control. My own effort. I do everything I do with gusto. I don't ever go half way. I don't ever ask for permission. I just go for it. For me it's always pedal to the metal, from sun-up to sun-down, seven days a week. And that's the way I like it.
As artists, it's none of our business what others think of our art. That's a rabbit hole and if you go down it, you'll never know how much work product you lost and time you wasted searching for empty compliments and dealing with vapid trolls.
So my advice is direct and to the point. Just do the work. Throw yourself into it 100%. Express yourself. Give the world your point of view without fear. Don't look back. When others hate. We create.
That simple philosophy has served me very, very well for more than six and a half decades. I hope it will serve you too.
Scott should be on your radar. His blog is just a click away, and you'll never be disappointed in the content he shares.
Wishing everybody a terrific Sunday - a day filled with peace, minimal frustration with the pandemic, politics or anything that interrupts your ability to be creative. Smile more, bitch less and appreciate everything that's working right in your life, even though these days it's sometimes tough to recognize!
And to my pal Scott - thanks buddy. I needed this!
Happy Sunday everybody!
Always remember, your focus determines your reality.
by Skip Cohen
With all the challenges in our lives these days, it's often tough to stay positive. From the pandemic to politics, there seems to be something new every day, adding to the struggle to stay focused and on track. Even the most confident of us feel the pressure to second guess everything, from maintaining our health to rebuilding business. The result is most often a little damage to our self-confidence.
It's Marketing Monday, and this is going to seem simplistic, but maybe it's time we developed a check-off list of things to do to help stay focused. You know how to focus your camera, but do you know how to hold the focus on the passion for your career?
This is only a partial list, and I know there are a lot more things you can do that I haven't included here. So, feel free to let me know what I've missed. Most important of all, if you're feeling discouraged or frustrated, there are a lot of us willing to help.
Don't get sidetracked by people who are not on track!
Life is short, live it.
Love is rare, grab it.
Anger is bad, let go of it.
Fear is a mind-killer, face it.
Memories are sweet, cherish them.
by Skip Cohen
I'm in one of those sappy moods, so don't give up on me until I'm done with this post.
Thirty-three years ago this weekend, I was sitting in a hotel room nervous about starting a new job on Monday. It was my first day as President of Hasselblad USA. I'd been in the industry for almost twenty years at that point, but I look at that Monday as the real start of my career in photography.
We had a fantastic team at Hasselblad, and I'd experience so many incredible memories over the next twelve years. Many of my very best friends today came into my life during those early years. While I've always loved the imaging world, it's thanks to so many of you today that make getting out of bed such a kick every morning.
The pandemic has created a new norm we all have to deal with, but I can't think of a more incredible industry to weather the storm and help the world stay focused on what's most important in life.
Over the years, I've been accused of being the industry cheerleader, wearing rose-colored glasses too often. Well, maybe more people need a pair of those glasses! I love this industry, and if I can help you find a new direction to help rebuild your business, you know where to find me.
Together we can make it through any mess the world throws at us - and I know what a simpleton I sound like when I say that. It's tough right now, and even worse, it's scary. I find myself worrying about Sheila, family, and friends who are all vulnerable. That fear, if not controlled, would turn into procrastination, complacency, and depression. It's a roller coaster of emotion these days, and it takes work to smile from the inside out. Anybody can smile on the surface, but you have to dig to stay happy.
Ironically, it's Independence Day, and we're all fighting to be free of the pandemic. So, stay safe, listen to the doctors, NOT the politicians, cherish your skill set, and ability to help people continue to capture memories. Last but not least, my offer to help is in the foundation of virtually every post I write. But I'm not alone - I'm joined by hundreds of other community members who all share the same love for the craft.
Last but not least, thank you for being a reader, an artist, and for many of you, a great friend.
Intro by Skip Cohen
After I posted a short rant a few weeks ago, which included projects several photographers have been doing, Steven Gotz wrote this as a response on Facebook. It really hit home, especially his last line:
The less time I feel sorry for myself, the better off I am.
I immediately caught up to him on an IM for permission to share what he wrote.
Unless you work for a company like Zoom, there is no silver lining to the challenges the pandemic has created. But there are things to have faith in and a reason for hope as things slowly return to some level of normalcy. Our definition of "normal" will continue to be different, as most of us miss the freedom to simply be out and about.
So, Steven, thanks for today's dose of inspiration. This is good stuff, and maybe it'll spark a few ideas with other photographers about things they can do to start rebuilding their revenue stream. Most important of all, as Mark Toal mentioned, photography is a way to keep his sanity!
by Steven Gotz
It is extremely easy for us to start feeling sorry for ourselves. Income streams for many of the best of us have dried up completely. Some may end up giving up on or postponing their lifelong dream of being a full time working photographer. Some may have to go back to the type of jobs they did before they went full time as a photographer.
Some of us are getting mad that we have to wear a mask, some people are outraged at others for not wearing masks. (I am staying in, so far, so no mask for me.)
All this during an election year with many people having to hold their nose to vote.
My personal solution to keeping my sanity is simple. I have been working on projects to help other people. I don't know how creative that is, but it really helps.
As long as it is not about me, I can continue on a lot easier. The less time I have to feel sorry for myself, the better off I am.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.