by Skip Cohen
As the pandemic continues, the importance of Throwback Thursday just keeps growing. I find myself often wandering through my files, along with albums and shoeboxes, in a therapeutic way, looking for something that makes me smile and reminds me of life pre-Covid19.
Well, nothing captures a quicker smile these days than a scuba trip from the past. I'm not sure where we were, but this is around 2006. From location destinations to live-aboard trips, there was a group of us who headed off diving at least twice a year or more.
In terms of people you might recognize from the photo industry: me, Paul Fishkin now with the Mac Group, Bob Rose, now teaching at RIT, Kayce Baker (behind Bob) back in her FujiFilm Days, and Karen Hart, who you'll recognize from so many different companies she's represented, including Zeiss, Tamrac and Hasselblad.
Outside the industry, but often with us on every trip, Karen (blue blouse) and Bill Kuglar (yellow t-shirt) from Minneapolis, Tom Danielson from Chicago, and Mitch Rubinoff from NJ.
Tom Danielson and I started diving together in the early 90s. He was essential in helping develop the H38, Hasselblad's underwater housing back then as well. Somewhere during life's travels, we became the "Nitro-Boys." Between Tom and Bob Rose, we've been together on hundreds of dives over the years.
A few months ago, as a podcast guest, I was asked what I missed most - the answer was easy - people! Zoom, Facetime, and Skype are all wonderful for a temporary solution to physical distancing, but nothing replaces real-time with friends. And scuba is one of those sports that provides an incredible quality of time, and with each trip, the friendships, along with the stories, all grow.
So, as we hit the eleven-month mark of hunkering down, take my advice and use Throwback Thursday as an excuse to catch up to old friends and relive those special moments from the past. After what we're all feeling through the pandemic, you only have to go back a year ago to find the "good old days!"
Intro by Chamira Young
No matter how many years you've been in the game as a portrait artist, there's always something you can learn from your fellow photographers in the field. It's fascinating to see how they pose, interact with, and ultimately document their subjects' unique personalities. Being a photographer is a constant learning process!
In addition to the skillsets mentioned above, it's also extremely helpful to see the glass they used. In today's feature, photographer Michael Butler uses his 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens to take dramatic portraits of his subjects. Check out the post below as Michael describes his creative process. He gives valuable lessons we can all learn from. Also, click on the image to learn more about the lens Michael used.
We're all in this industry together, and it's for this reason we love featuring inspiration from the Tamron team. They're constantly offering the tools we need as photographers to make our work better than ever!
How to Take: Dramatic Portraits
Michael Butler reenters the world of portraiture with the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens.
By Jenn Gidman
Images by Michael Butler
In his early days taking pictures in his native Memphis, Michael Butler concentrated on portrait photography. He fell away from that a bit as he refocused his efforts on street photography, taking pictures at local restaurants (he used to run a local blog), and destination photos, but he recently decided to get back into portraiture with the help of the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens.
Although Michael typically used prime lenses for his early portrait work, he decided to try out the 70-180mm telephoto lens and immediately fell in love with it. “It’s so versatile—not only for my portraiture, but also for the street photography that I still do,” he says. “I can take it anywhere, because it’s compact, and it has macro ability, with a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.6. That makes it very useful when I’m shooting portraits in my studio, which is pretty small.”
His approach to taking portraits remains the same as it always has, with his main goal being to tell a story. “When someone looks at one of my pictures, I want them to think about what my subject is doing, or what they may be thinking,” he says. “I also like a more dramatic portrait, rather than the brighter, airier ones you might see on Instagram. I embrace shadows, and to achieve the look I want, I’ve been using one large, continuous light source with a modifier on it. When I’m photographing men, I’ll usually place the light directly overhead, because I want more shadow in their faces. For the women, I’ll angle the light a bit to bring out more detail in their faces.”
Read on to see how Michael used his 70-180 for some recent portraits around his hometown in Tennessee.
I had just received the 70-180 lens, and this was my first-ever portrait taken with a continuous light source. I had seen another photo my buddy Dalton had taken of himself against a pink background, so I asked if I could use him as a model against that same background. It was hard to stay serious, because we’re friends and were laughing and joking around during the shoot, but I didn’t want him smiling in the photo. I wanted a more rugged, serious portrait of him—especially against that pink background, which I think made his ruggedness and masculinity stand out even more.
I used the same pink background for this black-and-white photo of my girlfriend (I shot both of these images the same day). She hates having her picture taken, but I convinced her to do it—I promised her I’d guide her the whole way. To pose her, I showed her a picture I love of Halle Berry, where Halle is framing her face with her hands like that, and she absolutely loved that look. It made it much easier having a pose she could reenact.
I had a shoot scheduled on this day, but it unfortunately got canceled at the last minute. I didn’t want to completely scrap my plans, so I contacted a model I knew on Facebook who lived right around the corner and asked her if she wanted to meet me and take some pictures. She showed up with this gorgeous mask, and I decided to use as my backdrop an abandoned warehouse in the area to contrast and complement the mask. It was an easy, natural shot, taken in ambient light, with her simply leaning up against the building.
Read the rest of the post here.
by Skip Cohen
We may not be getting together at conventions, but that doesn't mean there aren't some great opportunities to still get inside another artist's head and understand how they captured an image, or what makes it special.
Jordan Bunch is a LUMIX Ambassador and no stranger to "Mirrorless Monday" posts. He's also a wedding photographer and sent me the image above. Along with the photograph he wrote:
This one's different from ones I normally share with you but I got a compliment on it from one of the 3 WPPI Grand Masters so I figured it was worth sharing. Haha
I shot it with the new Lumix 85mm f1.8 which is freaking amazing by the way. This is the first time I got a chance to use this lens and I fell in love with it so quickly. I ended up shooting 90% of the wedding day with it.
The 85mm is the perfect balance of beautiful compression and usability on a wedding day - Not too long, not too wide. It allows for incredible depth and separation of foreground and background while still getting a sense of the environment of the space you’re in.
This moment was during a toast being given by the maid of honor. I had 2 lights on 12’ stands. One light across the room about 45 degrees to my right from subject and the other you can see pouring in, to the couples left. When I noticed the sun was still warming up the sky, after it set a bit, I made my way over towards this area.I slowed my shutter speed down to pick up the warmth in the sky.
Then I used a technique I've often called “zero tilt” when I get my camera on the same level as my subject's face so the lens is parallel to the ground. I wanted it to be at a strong enough angle from my light, with the sunset in the background and have a feel for the environment, so shooting through this table in front seemed like the perfect perspective. Then I just waited until the maid of honor made the couple laugh and snapped this little gem.
Note: The exposure triad for Jordan's image above was f1.8 @ 1/80 ISO 1600
After I posted this, and knowing how sensitive we all are, Jordan sent me an IM about why people were without masks...This was during the meal and people actually were doing a good job of being masked and distancing for the wedding. The bride and groom are both MDs so they made sure everyone was respectful of those guidelines...People only had their masks off because they were eating at this time.
Click on the thumbnails below to learn more about two of Jordan's favorite creative tools. Visit his website to see more of his work, and then get to know the rest of the Ambassador team. They're a pretty amazing crew, and regularly sharing great content on their own blogs and websites.
The bad news is time flies, the good news is you're the pilot
by Skip Cohen
It's Sunday morning, and I always run amuck from my usual topics. This morning I'm wrestling with trying to understand where the years have gone. Tomorrow is fifty-one years since I came into the industry, and except for my body creaking for ten minutes before Sheila and I walk every morning, I don't feel older. And according to her, the only maturity I've shown is in my hair turning gray.
Somebody recently told me it was easy for me to write about business and marketing because "I'd made it already!" Well, while I've always had fun in most of the jobs I've had, but it sure didn't start as a career I'd grow to love.
I've been working on a fun book about my journey, which still hasn't slowed down. Here's where it started.
It's 1970, and I'm trying to find a job. Time Magazine has a picture of a college grad in cap and gown pumping gas! There are no jobs, and I've just completed 2 ½ years of being every parent's worst nightmare as a college student. I spent more time perfecting my pinball game than opening a book. I'd be on suspension, afraid of getting booted. I'd buckle down, get the grades, then start the cycle all over again. I wasn't stupid, just lazy, unmotivated, and unable to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up – No, I just didn't want to grow up!
Finally, they suspended me, and I needed to figure out what to do. I decided it was time to leave the nest. Say good-bye to Ohio and hello to New England. Found a job at Polaroid at $2.89/hour washing bottles in their research lab. It was the most I'd ever made, and it paid the rent on my basement apartment in Boston's Back Bay, which I shared with a few other tenants, 100,000 cockroaches!
I remember a quote from an article in the Boston Globe that year: "The cockroaches were in Boston before man, and they'll be here long after man is extinct!" Cuffed pants were the style, and before I left my apartment, I'd shake the cuffs to make sure I wasn't bringing my "roommates" with me to work! And these were the big ones, the kind you could jump on and skateboard down Newbury Street.
I owe so much to Polaroid and everything I learned over 17 1/2 years of working there. From going back to school nights on their tuition reimbursement program, to jobs in R&D, HR, Customer Service, International, and marketing, there wasn't a day that went by I didn't learn something about myself and business.
Here's my point this morning - take the time to appreciate your roots. Regardless of the path, you took to get to today - you've got time now to appreciate it. There are no guarantees on tomorrow, and you can't change what happened yesterday.
But there is something extraordinary as you look back on your roots in this industry. Do an inventory of everything you've learned over the years. For me, it's volumes and all thanks to an incredible collection of people I've met and worked with since I started.
Polaroid as a Fortune 500 company may no longer exist today, but the memories and the friendships are still around. I still can't answer the question of where all the time and years went, but then again, who cares? Time really does fly when you're having a good time.
And if there's one lesson I've learned - if you're unhappy with something, then change it! It's not easy, but you've only got one life, and it's not a rehearsal.
Wishing everybody a day with no regrets and time to appreciate where you started right through to this very moment. And with Super Bowl today - I'm all ready - Go Bucs!
Happy Sunday...or Monday if you're on the other side of the world!
PS The shot of my first apartment in Boston was one of my first LUMIX images - captured with a GH3 and LUMIX G VARIO 12-35/F2.8 with a slight adjustment in clarity using Luminar.)
by Skip Cohen
In a normal year, the first quarter would be convention time and we'd all be headed to live conferences and trade shows. While the pandemic has resulted in the absence of conventions, that doesn't mean there aren't still products you should know about.
This is a very short post this morning, hitting on the importance of product displays. Done right, the packaging for your client can become a significant part of the complete presentation.
I'm a big fan of PhotoFlashDrive's line, and here's a perfect example. With Valentine's Day right around the corner, their Luminous Photo + Flash Box is the ideal presentation product following a boudoir session. It's got a little mystery, and the lock and key add a touch of class to the photos' privacy and significance.
Now go in a more general direction as a package for a special client. I love this champagne gift box with room for a bottle, two glasses, prints, and a flash drive. Plus, you can customize the front of the box.
Visit the PhotoFlashDrive website with a click on their logo below. You'll find dozens of great ideas at virtually every price point, to enhance your presentations and exceed client expectations.
Their booth is always jammed at every convention - so, without a live convention to head to this winter, I thought I'd bring a couple of their products to you!
One final note - This is not a paid post. I simply love their products and have a lot of respect for what they've done to help raise the bar on the quality of imaging presentations.
by Skip Cohen
February is recruitment month for one of my most favorite nonprofits, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I'm going to be sharing several profile stories from their volunteers and hoping they pull on your heartstrings to get involved.
Since running the first guest post from a NILMDTS volunteer at least eight years ago, I've met so many incredible artists who use their cameras and skill set to give back to the community through the organization. While many of you think the concept is too gut-wrenching, every NILMDTS artist I've ever met talks about how involvement changed their lives - always for the better.
This story by Missy Thomas is the first in this month's weekly series. For more information about the organization and how you can be involved, click on the banner above.
by Missy Thomas
We call them ‘framily’…those friends that have become as much our family as the ones we were born into. We spend Thanksgivings and Christmases together, vacation together, watch each other’s kids grow up, and share in all the joys and sorrows.
It was April of 2014 and I was so looking forward to sharing one of those joys as my dear friends Peyton and Justin were preparing to welcome their third baby. After two beautiful little girls, I had my fingers crossed that they would get their little boy this time.
I was several states away, but Peyton’s mom kept me updated as labor progressed. I went to bed on the 5th just knowing that we’d have a baby by sunrise. While that did hold true, nothing went as we had hoped. There were complications, a crash c-section, and one perfect baby boy.
That moment – the one where we went from anticipating a brand-new baby to the one where we knew he wasn’t going to make it through the day – was so sudden and so tragic that I could almost feel the earth shake.
James died in Peyton’s arms a mere 18 hours after he was born
With my husband heading out the door for a deployment, I couldn’t get there for two more days. I never got to meet James in person. Peyton had hired a birth photographer, so although they didn’t get pictures from NILMDTS, they have a collection of gorgeous professional photos. So much of those few days didn’t seem real and it wasn’t until I saw those photos that it truly sank in.
He was real, he was here, and now he’s gone
Those pictures made real his entire 18 hours of life and showed me not only what he looked like, but documented the incredible amount of love he had surrounding him during his brief time here. I couldn’t imagine a world in which those memories didn’t exist, and I knew then that I had to do something to honor the little boy that I had come to love so much.
I applied to NILMDTS on what would have been James’ first birthday and haven’t looked back.
I’ve served in a few different roles in the organization, but my favorite is being a photographer. It’s hard to articulate how rewarding this work is. Yes, it can be absolutely heartbreaking, but this work gives back so much more than I put into it.
What I treasure most about being invited into those rooms is helping parents see and parent their baby, in whatever way possible in the short time they have. To help squeeze a lifetime of memories into a handful of hours.
I always make sure that I point out cute noses and tiny fingers.
Or crazy hair and crooked toes.I try to get them involved by doing things like dressing or diapering their baby. I can do those things myself – I do them all the time – but it makes such a huge difference for them to be able to parent their baby, even if it’s not how they had hoped to do so.
I always engage extended family in the room as well. Grandparents almost always just want to be helpful. They are watching their child lose a baby and they want more than anything to fix it. They love helping even in little ways like putting on a hat or wiping a nose. They just want to do something. When I see them, I always think back to James’ grandparents and how it felt to watch their hearts break, too.
I can always feel a shift once families are brought into the process more. When I get there, baby is usually in a bassinet somewhere in the room. Everyone is in shock. But if I do my job right, by the time I leave they are almost always holding their baby and checking him or her out. Dad might be so proud because the baby has his crooked toes or mom might be beside herself because she KNEW the baby was going to have red hair. To be able to lead them to that is the greatest gift I can think to give someone.
And all the while, I’m quietly capturing it on camera.
These families may never remember me or a thing about me, but I’ll never forget a single one of them. And while I’ll always wish more than anything that James was still here on this earth, I’m so humbled by the experiences that his death has brought about in my life as well as the lives of others who loved him.
His memory lives on both through my work with NILMDTS and through the nonprofit that Peyton and her friend Carol co-founded, Gathering Hope. That nonprofit, honoring both James and Carol’s son Matthew, has reached thousands of grieving mothers through their events in Texas, Oklahoma, and Delaware.
About Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
NILMDTS is seeking volunteer photographers and digital retouch artists (DRAs) to volunteer. Even during the pandemic, many hospitals look to NILMDTS photographers as essential workers. If you are comfortable or able to go into hospitals, we need photographers to capture the only moments parents will spend with their precious babies. NILMDTS is also in need of DRAs where you can volunteer from your home. Since the pandemic, retouching sessions have increased by 132%. This includes medical providers and bereaved parents submitting photographs for retouching.
Since 2005, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep has gifted complimentary remembrance portraits to parents experiencing the death of a baby. For many, these priceless images serve as a critical step in the healing process.
Having done over 40,0000 complimentary portrait sessions, NILMDTS works with photographers and digital retouch artists from around the world to offer grieving families the gift of photography to honor and validate the legacy of their precious babies.
by Skip Cohen
Downtime during the pandemic has definitely raised the bar on my "Throwback Thursday" game. Every week I spend at least half an hour wandering through old photographs, and while most people would say I'm not being very productive - I'll argue just the opposite.
The older the photographs, the more great memories come back. Along with those memories comes a reminder of the value of imaging. From pictures that only go back to before the pandemic to ones like above, of me at age four, each photograph has a backstory. Turning back the clock is like a giant vitamin boosting my emotional immune system, helping me stay focused on today as well as the future.
We all know how dog years are 7:1 to humans. Well, life during the pandemic at times has felt the same way. It's almost a year since we hunkered down, but it feels like seven! The smiles old photographs generate offsets so many of the issues with the pandemic...at least emotionally.
So, the backstory is I loved every cowboy series I could find. Between Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers, I had the guns, the outfit, and obviously the horse! Now think about how times have changed - if a kid pointed a gun like that at you today, the kid would be tossed out of pre-school, some fool would call Child Protective Services, and the parents would be arrested.
But that doesn't change the value of the trip down Memory Lane. At bedtime, my Dad would sit on the edge of the bed and be the bad guy, talking in a low voice about robbing the stagecoach. I'd sneak up behind him as Hopalong or Roy and wrestle him to the ground, stopping crime and scoring a point for the good guys.
Wishing everybody a great Throwback Thursday. Take the time to wander back to the good old days. And if you're an old westerns fan, you can find anything on YouTube, like the William Boyd tribute below.
Intro by Chamira Young
When fine art and photography intersect, a lot of creative magic can happen. It's always inspiring to see a photographic artist create a unique workflow that transforms their raw images into final pieces with their own style. That's why we're excited to feature the work of photographer Ed Kelly in today's post!
With a background in commercial advertising photography, Ed found a new passion for aviary photography when he moved from New Jersey to South Carolina. By adding a twist to his editing process, he's been able to create his own unique signature style with his bird photography. In the excerpt below, we get a glimpse into the creative process of this creative image-maker as he creates fine art using his Tamron SP 150-600mm VC G2 lens.
Click on the image to learn more about the lens Ed used. The dedication of the Tamron team is a tremendous asset to the photography community. They are constantly supplying us with the tools we need as creative artists to up our game! Check out the post below.
Fine Art, Avian Style
By Jenn Gidman
Images by Ed Kelly
Ed Kelly doesn’t just create bird photos with his Tamron SP 150-600mm VC G2 lens—he transforms them into Audubon-worthy pieces of art.
Ed Kelly had been a commercial advertising photographer for many years when he moved from New Jersey to a more nature-oriented area in South Carolina. In his new environment, Ed found himself gravitating more toward bird photography, which he continues to this day, documenting his feathered friends both around the Palmetto State and in other bird-friendly areas like Florida’s Merritt Island.
There’s a twist to Ed’s bird photography, though, involving a post-production process that turns his images into works of fine art, which he includes in his “Coastal Dream Series.” “The process is fairly straightforward in most cases,” he says. “I eliminate the background or alter it in some way, then add layers of complexity to the background and onto the main subject.”
Before the editing process can begin, Ed has to capture the photos—which he does with the Tamron SP 150-600mm VC G2 telephoto zoom lens. “The autofocus is faster and the color and contrast were enhanced over the previous 150-600 I owned,” he says. “The image stabilization offered via the Vibration Compensation (VC) technology is also very helpful, since I’m often shooting early or late in the day, when the lighting may not be optimal. With the 150-600mm, I’ve taken photos of birds handheld at 600mm at 1/15 of a second and achieved super-sharp images. I also like being able to get out of my car and start wandering the nature preserve with a lens that doesn’t weigh me down all day.”
Ed envisions how he wants the image composed before he even sets the bird in his frame. “Even though it’s not the focal point of the image, I’ll know exactly how I want the branch, or whatever else the bird is perching on, to come into the frame,” he says. “When the bird finally sets down, I just wait for it to turn so that it looks as close to the way as I saw it in my mind as possible.”
When it comes time to transform his images into fine-art photos, Ed first considers the background and how he wants to alter it in the editing process to sync with the coloring of the bird. “I consider the overall color temperature of the shot, then think about complementary colors based on the bird’s appearance,” he says. “I’ll figure out what colors in the background will make other colors in the bird pop, then adjust it accordingly.”
Next comes the overlay process, where Ed will add layer upon layer onto the main image until he achieves the texture or pattern he’s looking for. “It could be tiny specks of sand or scratches on a piece of paper placed on top of the initial image, which I then massage until it looks the way I want it to,” he says. “Or it could be two or three skies blended together. I also tend to add noise to the image at the end of the process to make it look more realistic. I want my photos to match the mood I’m trying to convey, and having an image look too clear and sharp doesn’t do it for me. I want my photos to look a little rough and grainy.”
Read the full post here.
Images copyright Todd White. All rights reserved.
by Skip Cohen
Today's "Mirrorless Monday" isn't perfect because it's captured with mirrorless technology, but it was created while maintaining physical distancing and safety. LUMIX Ambassador, Todd White, shot these images as part of a commercial assignment for a client, 600 Degrees Pizzeria, and it's a great reminder for many of you to use this downtime to fine-tune your still life skillset.
Todd's gearbox included the LUMIX S5 with the LUMIX S 20-60mm lens. When I called Todd for permission to share these images, I love what he said about the shoot:
"I love keeping it simple! I shot this with natural window light, camera left with $3.00 of foam core from Target, bounced on camera right, just to give me a little fill. And I used the table in the restaurant while standing on the bench seat."
Todd's exposure triad: f4.5 @ 1/160 - ISO 800 at 36mm
Besides the fun of keeping in touch with what Todd's working on, today's post is about not slowing down. The pandemic challenges have impacted all of us, but as I've written numerous times this past year, hunkering down is about your health, not about your creativity, skillset, or business!
Panasonic LUMIX S5, 4K Mirrorless Full-Frame L-Mount Camera, LUMIX S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 Lens
Click on either thumbnail for more information
And to help you get to know Todd White a little better, along with the LUMIX camera S series line, check out the short video below. Make sure you follow Todd on Instagram; he's always sharing great images. Visit his website too.
And, you'll find more information about Todd with the other LUMIX Ambassadors on the team page on Panasonic's website. This group is one of the most diverse and creative teams in photo. All the ambassadors regularly share outstanding images and information about LUMIX.
LUMIX artists all over the world are sharing their images on the LUMIX Photographers Facebook page. There's new content being shared by over 11,000 members regularly!
by Skip Cohen
I can't think of a better post to kick off the week, than to share information about one of the very best resources in imaging to help you build a stronger skill set and raise the bar on your business. The Slanted Lens is about ideas for a rock-solid foundation as an imaging artist...with or without a pandemic!
Nobody does it better than Jay P. Morgan when it comes to great educational videos. He and I go back to my Hasselblad days, pre-digital when he was shooting on movie sets, creating many of my most favorite images. (I screen grabbed one of my favorites, but check out his website for more.) Little did I realize, years later, he'd become one of the industry's leading educators.
Check out The Slanted Lens, an incredible resource, today home to 565 videos, covering photo, video, and lighting lessons along with tutorials, equipment reviews, plus photography and videography business lessons. There is an incredible amount of helpful content, all in easy to understand and ENJOY videos.
Think about it - dealing with the pandemic is tough enough, but now we're in the slow season. The good news is you've got time to raise the bar on both your skills and your business. Click on the banner below to link to Jay P's video channel, then subscribe, and start expanding your imaging horizons.
"Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Dark Of Night
Shall Stay These Couriers From The Swift Completion Of Their Appointed Rounds."
by Skip Cohen
It's going to be tough for today's Sunday Morning Reflections to not sound like a rant. But I'll do my best to at least be relevant. The topic is the USPS, and I wonder if the quote above, known as the Postman's Oath, is still valid.
Yesterday I went to the mailbox, and there was a holiday card from our good buddies Mark and Tony in Cleveland, mailed on December 23. The good news is in two parts - first, I got it. Second, it was the stimulus for a call to them to wish them a happy new year and find out what they've been up to. However, 5 1/2 weeks travel time for a card from Cleveland to Florida?
I bought Sheila something for the holidays and ordered it online around December 1. From December 15 to January 12, the tracking information showed the expected 12/15 delivery date and simply said, arriving late. The company I ordered from was doing their best and about to issue a refund when it finally arrived.
One of the hats I wear is CMO for Platypod. I'm very proud of our fulfillment department because they haven't missed a day since the pandemic started. Also, orders in by early afternoon almost always ship the same day - but then the mystery begins. And 2-3 weeks after that correspondence from our customers starts, as people inquire about their orders.
So, here's my point, and it's one we all need to remember. I know the pandemic has turned shipping upside down. Tracking information is rarely right because it's not being updated regularly. And if you're outside the US, carriers are limited by the availability of flights. For example, in the early days of the pandemic, I was told there had been a 75% reduction in flights to Australia.
One side of me understands the challenges the USPS, FedEx, and other carriers have had to deal with. Let's face it - this wasn't a year that thousands of people were going to be waiting outside Walmart for the Midnight Madness sale on Black Friday! But the other side of me can't help but feel these carriers completely underestimated the pandemic's impact on consumer buying patterns this past season.
As I asked the postmaster at my local post office in mid-January, what was going on, he looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "I've got packages I'm still waiting for!" And if you Google USPS delays, you can take your pick from dozens of articles and videos talking about the backlog, which, based on my card from Cleveland yesterday, they're still dealing with.
And that brings me right to the bottom line. It's not the fault of your mail carrier, Fedex or UPS driver or the companies you've ordered from - Don't shoot the messenger!
Wishing everybody a Sunday loaded with plenty of on-time deliveries of memory-making moments. While the pandemic has created an excess of time, don't waste it on things that don't really matter. Let those people most important in your life know they're on your mind with a phone call, text, IM or email - just don't send a card.
Happy Sunday - or Monday if you're on the other side of the world!
by Skip Cohen
These days you don't have to go back very far to find a memory-making moment that's perfect for sharing on a Throwback Thursday. This is just two years ago at Photoshop World in Orlando. It's at the Hyatt, and it's four great friends about to grab breakfast. That's Robert Vanelli, Levi Sim, me, and Dave Moser.
But there's more to today's post. For years I've written about the best thing in this industry: the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft. Until the pandemic, while I wrote about it, like most of you, I never really appreciated all those "let's catch up" moments that happen at every convention. Plus, I've referred to myself as the industry's biggest lunch slut for years. Well, Moser's just an hour away, Vanelli two hours, and the last time I saw Levi was at WPPI last year. The pandemic has put a hold on all those moments...and I miss these knuckleheads along with dozens more of you.
The phone is excellent - Zoom is great - texting, email, Facebook are all great - but NOTHING BEATS THE REAL THING. A few months ago as a podcast guest, I was asked, "What do you miss most?" My answer, "Bumping into people, literally."
While there's light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine becoming more available, we still don't know when a level of normalcy will return. It's frustrating, but at the risk of sounding like the old fart that I am, we've got no choice but to keep our eye on the prize - all of us being able to be together again!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
by Skip Cohen
This is the seventh installment in the Building Blocks series. I've hit on key points on your website, blog and blog topics, partnerships, relationship building, and a long list of peripheral things to do now. Even though post-pandemic normalcy seems like it's right around the corner because of the vaccine, that doesn't mean your business can survive if you're complacent.
So, here's one of the most essential brand-builders to consider RIGHT NOW: Community involvement! And it's so easy for you to stand out as a leader.
The pandemic has everyone hunkered down. Fund-raising events you would have supported in the past are few and far between. Live events aren't happening - but that hasn't changed the need for volunteers and support in your community. From being directly involved with a non-profit you believe in, to helping spread the word about upcoming fundraisers, there's so much you can do.
There are local groups and national programs, and it doesn't matter if they're photo-centric or not. You're looking for things you can do to help, with or without a camera in your hands. For example, here's one that's national and carries with it a huge client responsibility but an even bigger payback when it comes to tugging on your heartstrings - Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.
NILMDTS launches its February recruitment campaign next month, and I'll be sharing more great information about this group in the weeks ahead. I'm a big fan of the support they provide to families when they need help the most. And while some of you may think it's too gut-wrenching or morbid to photograph a dying child, read this post.
"I've never heard a thank you that left me so sad, and yet so proud. I walked out knowing that the images I had taken weren't just pictures - they were someone's memories. They mattered."
Cyd Lapour, NILMDTS Volunteer
My point is about giving back - at any level. NILMDTS is a wonderful organization, but there's no such thing as an effort too small.
From mentoring a photographer just starting out to working with the local high school on a better yearbook, there's something or someone in your community who needs help. Even easier, being involved in your community in some way doesn't have to involve photography, just a little effort and your time.
Use your blog to raise awareness with posts about the need for volunteers and support for various community groups. Share a community calendar about upcoming nonprofit events. Be a leader in giving back!
I'm so surprised by the number of people who do so little and think that a donation to a particular charity once a year is enough. When put on the spot, they'll respond with something about looking for the right charity. You're not buying a car, just getting involved in helping people.
Remember, people like buying products and services from companies they perceive are giving back to the community. You're looking for the community to be good to you - so you better make sure you're being good to your community!
Intro by Chamira Young
Want a fun way to foster your unique creativity, build your skillset, and stoke the fires of your passion for photography? Then take time to brainstorm and execute visual projects that interest you personally. Whether you're a portrait photographer, wildlife photographer, or anything in between, you should make time for the subject matter that most interests you - whether you're working with a client or not!
That brings us to today's dose of inspiration. In the short video below, Charley Voorhis shows us how it's done as he heads to the wilderness of central Washington in search of elk for video footage with his Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens and 2x teleconverter. Check out how he uses this amazing lens to methodically and patiently search for these beautiful creatures.
The video is below. The dedication of the Tamron team is a tremendous help as we all kick off this new year together! They are constantly making amazing glass to help all of us up our creative game. To learn more about the lens Charley uses, click on the image above!
by Skip Cohen
I'm not sure there's anything my good buddy Shiv Verma hasn't photographed, but the beauty of the still-life image above is a testimonial to his diversity, skill set, and love for the craft. He recently shared the photo on his Facebook page, but there's more to the backstory.
"I was supposed to do the shoot at the Boston Library, but because of the pandemic, it had to be done at home."
Shiv's gear included a LUMIX S5, LUMIX S 20-60 f/3.5-5.6 lens, and a Platypod Max. The Max was set up with two goosenecks and LitraTorch 2.0 lights. The exposure triad was f7.1 @ 1/15 ISO 400.
Click on Shiv's image above to see more of his work, and put his workshop schedule on your radar. Because of the pandemic the schedule is temporarily on hold, but he's an outstanding educator. As soon as things are back to a level of normalcy, you'll see him back to teaching.
You'll find more information about Shiv with the other LUMIX Ambassadors on the team page on Panasonic's website. This group is one of the most diverse and creative teams in photo. All the ambassadors regularly share outstanding images and information about LUMIX.
And don't miss out on great images being shared by LUMIX artists all over the world on the LUMIX Photographers Facebook page. There's new content being shared by over 11,000 members regularly!
Looking for the best information about the LUMIX S5? Just click on the banner below!
Panasonic LUMIX S5, 4K Mirrorless Full-Frame L-Mount Camera,
LUMIX S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 Lens
by Skip Cohen
While I'm always off-track from photography on Sunday mornings, today's post is more photo-centric. I want to give you something to think about in terms of your own family.
If there's one thing the pandemic has given us, beyond the challenges and frustrations of the virus, it's TIME! I've had an album of pictures of my folks on a shelf for years, and yesterday took the time to look through it.
I've pulled a few of my favorites, but let's get right to the point this morning. Photographs are about capturing memories, intangible moments that turn into something you can touch. Great pictures allow you to feel and transport yourself to times when life was different.
The album is essentially a day in my Mom and Dad's life, captured by Bambi Cantrell. She spent the better part of a day with them. Now, seven years after my Mom's been gone and five since Dad passed away, the book has become an incredible treasure.
When was the last time you captured images of your own family? While we always think about the kids growing up and changing, your parents aren't getting any younger. When they're gone, what photographs will you have to tell their story?
I know I've shared this quote a dozen times in previous posts, but there isn't one better:
This is what I like about photographs.
They’re proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat,
everything was perfect.
Here's my point - Stop procrastinating and take the time to capture those moments that years from now will have such incredible meaning. You're photographers, and the line about "shoemaker's children always need shoes" couldn't be more appropriate when it comes to photographers capturing their own memories.
Wishing everybody a terrific Sunday and the time to create a few memories to capture.
Those we love don't go away. They walk beside us every day, unseen, unheard, but always near...
still loved, still missed and very dear.
Happy Sunday everybody, or Monday for friends on the other side of the world.
by Skip Cohen
J. B. Sallee is no stranger to SCU. We've shared so many of his guest posts, an episode of "Why?' and different programs he's been involved with since starting this blog eight years ago. He's one of the most diverse portrait artists in your industry, and his track record, especially in WPPI Print Competition, is becoming legendary.
But the fun of a podcast series like this is about what's ahead for the future more than things the guest has done in the past. Even through the pandemic, JB's not slowing down and talks about how he's maintaining relationships with his clients and building a foundation for a successful new year.
I met JB at the very start of his career, presenting him with the Hy Sheanin Scholarship at WPPI many years ago. Over the years, he's not only grown his skill set as an artist but as an educator. Right now, he's focused on a brilliant post-pandemic workshop with his Campfire series, essentially an overnight summer camp for adults focused on raising the bar on the quality of your images while still maintaining physical distancing and safety.
We covered a lot of ground in this podcast...
The Beyond Technique podcast is thanks to Platypod.
You'll find a never-ending stream of great content on the Platypod blog, all with images being shared by talented artists from around the world. Platypod is your tripod's best sidekick and can take your creativity places that tripods just can't go.
Plus, while supplies last, they're doing an inventory blowout of their Multi-Accessory kit at 50% off and Free with the purchase of their mainline of primary products. Click on any of the thumbnails below for more information.
Click on any thumbnail above to visit the Platypod store.
As always, we couldn't produce this podcast series without the nonstop support from the team at Photofocus.com. They never slow down in their support of the photographic community. Check out all of their podcasts and an incredible archive of great content, growing more and more every day! Just click on the banner below and take advantage of one of the very best resources for photographic information!
by Skip Cohen
Sometimes the fun of a Throwback Thursday image isn't just the photograph's subject but everything else.
Heading off on my weekly search through old pictures, I found this one of me around age six. Here's the trip this one image took me on:
And there you have it - the pure fun of a look in the rearview mirror and a moment of connecting with the past. In all honesty, I miss the simplicity of it all.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Customer Service - Going the Extra Mile
"The professional takes that extra step - they follow up, even when they don't have to!"
by Skip Cohen
I'm a huge fan of Shep Hyken's and his focus on Customer Service. Shep's a Hall of Fame Speaker, NY Times Best Selling Author, and a Customer Service and Experience Expert. He walks the talk with his regular closing line of "Always be amazing." The short version of our friendship is, I shared a quote of his on Twitter. He responded; I called him, and he took the call. Since then, we've been on each other's podcasts, and even caught breakfast together in St. Louis two years ago.
I have so much respect for his expertise in Customer Service. Chamira Youngs and I recently had him on as a guest on the Platypod sponsored podcast Beyond Technique.
As I was thinking about 2021 and my realistic optimism for the new year, I started thinking about the role excellent service can play in the months ahead. It's simple - your success is about going the extra step and staying in touch with your clients, even when you don't have to.
As we all work to get out of the pandemic, now is the perfect time to keep in touch with your clients and your audience. It's about giving back, being helpful, and growing your strongest marketing tool, relationship building!
Excellent Customer Service isn't just about solving problems. It's about being proactive and creating top-of-mind-awareness with your audience - so whenever they think about photography, your name is right on top.
There are over 800 videos on Shep TV on YouTube. Here's the link, and it's jam-packed with content to help you rebuild your business in the new year. I wanted to share the short video below because it's so perfect for what your mindset should be right now!
Hunkering down is about your health, not about your business, skill set, relationship building, or CUSTOMER SERVICE! Start being proactive with your audience, especially your past clients.
by Skip Cohen
It's almost twelve years ago I made the decision to step away from Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI. It was 2009 and we were in a recession, and both friends and family thought I was nuts. I was giving up a great job and heading off into the unknown.
This is also about the time I picked up my mantra:
I do it because I can.
I can because I want to.
I want to because you said I couldn't.
Skip's Summer School started that first summer, and while it became incredibly labor-intensive after the 2013 session, it was a great run. However, during those summer programs and consulting for a number of different companies, my network grew, and so did my understanding of the challenges each photographer faced in establishing their business.
On January 19, 2013, eight years ago today, I launched Skip Cohen University. It's hard to believe how much it's grown since then, or the diversity in topics and the number of other photographers who shared guest posts and images along the way. I remember one great discussion with Scott Bourne as we talked about what to name the blog.
I wanted to call it something lofty, like "The Photo Resource Hub," but Scott gave me an incredible lesson in branding. He felt since my career on the industry's professional side had always focused on some aspect education, whatever I was about to build needed my name on it.
He had an idea, "Just trust me on this and let me put out a tweet before you launch." I trusted him completely, and that first tweet was "Skip Cohen is back!" We later linked it to the early posts on SkipCohenUniversity.com. But along the way, there were some funny responses, like, "What do you mean he's back - I just talked to him yesterday." And speaking at a publishing conference in Orlando, Scott Kelby walked into the room and said, "Oh, I heard you were back," and Guy Kawaski, also speaking at the same event, wanted to know where I'd been.
Scott Bourne stayed right on top of everything I was doing and helped me build the foundation for SCU. He also taught me to ask for help when I needed it. There were so many times when I thought I understood the programming and could just cut and paste my way through some of the architectural changes. Each time I pulled a DIY, he'd yell at me after he fixed what I screwed up and simply say, "Will you please call me next time before you touch anything?"
So, it's eight years since this blog started. Now, thousands of posts later, I'm here to thank so many of you who shared your feedback and gave me one idea after another to keep it going from my own posts to guest posts, to YouTube videos, podcasts, and companies who believed in me. What a wild ride it continues to be.
I know it sounds pretty sappy, but this industry really has become a family. A huge thanks entirely from my heart to my readers, supporters, and friends. To paraphrase the Beatles, "I get by with a LOT of help from my friends."
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.