06.09.10 Photography

Stargazing : Skip Cohen

I
'll never forget the first time someone looked me in the face and told me what was wrong with my pictures. That someone was Skip Cohen. And I completely adore him for it. In fact, he STILL tells me what I'm doing wrong! ;) In all honesty, Skip just tells things how they are and he's become an icon in the photo industry for his leadership, foresight, and chutzpah.

Skip is president of his marketing consulting firm, and is revered in the industry for his opinion, so when I had the chance to chat with him last week, I picked his brain. Then asked if he'd be interested in sharing his knowledge with my readers...ahhh, yes...there's nothing better than being put on the spot!

I hope you enjoy this Stargazing interview and help me welcome, Skip Cohen...


What is the best way to jump start a photography business?
I guess we have to start with the definition of "jump start".
If you're talking about a business that already exists and you've simply stalled and need a jump start, then it all begins with you getting focused on what it is you want to do. You've got to get yourself psyched up and be not only excited, but really motivated and proud of your career choice in photography. Specific things to do are everything from attending a few workshops taught by photographers you admire to launching your own PR campaign, getting involved in the community, creating buzz for your business. A children's photographer should launch a new promotional opportunity. A wedding photographer needs to do a mailing to all his/her past clients about "expanding", new products e.g. albums etc. anything that creates a little noise.
Now, if your definition of "jump start" is kicking off a new business then it's about networking, publicity and being involved in the community. Remember, I'm assuming that you know what you're doing in terms of photography/imaging and that you know how to photograph and deliver a finished product.

What's a common mistake you see photographers make when running their business?
They don't run it like a business. They think they can do it all themselves instead of hiring an accountant, having legal counsel if you need it and farming out those aspects of the biz they have no expertise in. Plus there are lots of places to go for help - just on the writing and marketing side I'm really proud of what we're doing at GhostRighters.com. There are also too many photographers who think they'll fix it in Photoshop later - because they don't understand photography, exposure and composition they're spending too much time behind the computer cleaning up images when they should be out promoting themselves!

What do you suggest to photographers who are just staring out and trying to build a business?
First, get to know photography and your gear. Know it cold so you're producing great images right out of the can. Second, attend a few workshops on marketing and business...follow a few blogs that offer help. I know it's self-motivating here, but I'm really proud of all the information on SkipsPhotoNetwork and what Scott Bourne and I are doing on GoingPro2010.com, especially the podcasts. Third, build your network. That means attend every possible program/workshop you can. Get to know the photographers in your area. Get involved with PUG (Pictage User Groups) and local chapter/guild meetings of PPA for example. I just spoke in Dallas a few weeks ago at the Dallas Professional Photographers monthly dinner and it was an amazing group of talented people all their to help each other.

What's one thing you'd change about the current state of the photo industry?
I'm so tired of photographers thinking because they know Photoshop they think they can run a business. I'm talking about the crew that comes in and puts out a low ball price on a lousy quality CD of images - they're doing the industry an injustice, but more importantly they're hurting themselves and leaving a lot of potential business on the table, not to mention giving nothing to the bride. Remember, my point isn't about low pricing, but low quality and no added value in albums, frames, canvas prints etc. Their quality is so bad that it fuels the average consumer into thinking if they just get a decent digital SLR they can shoot the wedding themselves and *poof* another "Uncle Harry" is born.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Got a couple of them..."To thine ownself be true" - photography is a career choice where everything has to come from your heart. If your heart just isn't it you'll only live a life of disappointment and frustration. "Only touch each piece of paper once!" it doesn't apply as paper anymore, but think of it as email and phone calls. Read it and make a decision and take action - don't drag things out.
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Barbara Yasuhara - I LOVE Skip and I LOVE how he says what he means but mostly because he means what he says! As a previous guest blogger on Skip's blog, I have to say that the brief conversations I had with him had me singing "at first I was afraid...I was petrified!" As a new blogger, I had no idea how to present my thoughts into writing. Skip not only helped me "get over it", but he dealt with me in a way that made me say "yes I can!" And I did and I cannot wait to meet him in person so I can give 'em a good ole fashion Cuban mama squeeze! He is much more than I had ever imagined, if you can imagine that! Thanks Jasmine for sharing Skip and this interview with the world.  06.26.10 - 6:52am
Krzysztof Mazurkiewicz - Thanks for the good advice. I just opened the company. I created a web page and now working on a portfolio.  06.23.10 - 6:06am
harrison - really helpful information, thanks for posting this! it's always an inspirational kick in the butt to read short interviews like this. Skip is the man.  06.15.10 - 5:41pm
Andrew - Great info. Skip has really driven the photography industry to new heights. His work with WPPI has change the views of photographers everywhere.  06.14.10 - 2:46pm
Jessica - Thanks for snippet with Skip Cohen! I'm also a "newbie" at this as I graduated college in graphic design 12 years ago but put it all aside to start a family and travel the world. Recently returning to the States and seeing an old friend pay some Joe with a digital camera for low quality photos inspired me to get back to those roots. I'm nervous, but confident and motivated. Thanks again for the great post.  06.14.10 - 10:31am
cheryl mcdonald - I just ordered a book from Skip... he emailed me personally (crazy!) and I told him about my rut.. amazingly he decided to send me something else that would be better. He didn't have to go the distance, especially to a random internet person. Photogs who teach and push the newbies to excel are amazing, amazing people. Loved this interview.  06.13.10 - 7:39pm
Jenna - Thanks so much for this! Great advice!  06.12.10 - 7:57pm
jess epstein - jasmine, nice post.   06.12.10 - 11:35am
cassandra-m - Awesome interview Skip! Thanks for sharing and I love your last advice with the quotes.   06.11.10 - 11:13pm
Tami - Curiosity is spiked...What was it that Skip told you was wrong with your photos? :)  06.11.10 - 8:42pm
Skip Cohen - First, all of you guys have just made my day. It's so hard wanting to share a few thoughts here and there and not wanting to sound like a know it all. Trust me though, it's taken me my whole career to learn this stuff and if you can figure it out earlier than I did you'll enjoy a whole lot of smiles in your life. Second, thank you Matthew on your comment. That's exactly what I meant. I guess it's a given to me...if you're out there promoting yourself you'd better make sure you have an outstanding skill set and understand the craft first. And to Ariane - write to me at skip@mei500.com and give me some contact information. I'm happy to try and help you sort out what you're trying to do. The good news is that you're not alone, but here's what happens to all of us - we're all too close to our own business. Sometimes the most obvious solution is easily spotted by somebody outside. Let's see if I can help.  06.11.10 - 12:03pm
Simply Natural Photography - This is just what I need! Thanks so so much for sharing! katherine  06.10.10 - 1:18pm
Chris - Great adivse here! Thanks for this.  06.10.10 - 10:52am
kate callahan - what a great post! thanks for taking the time to do this : )  06.10.10 - 9:09am
Christa - "Only touch each piece of paper once!" What a great piece of advice!!!!!!!!  06.10.10 - 6:56am
Gary - Sharing this kind of advice is invaluable. Fanastico!   06.10.10 - 2:14am
Truc - Excellent advice! Thanks for sharing, Jasmine.  06.10.10 - 1:57am
nena - Such a wonderful post and I think Skip is smart and handsome! =-)  06.10.10 - 12:52am
Denise - We don't know each other... but I'm sending you a big **Muah** this was just what I needed today.  06.10.10 - 12:25am
Stephanie Rose - That's pretty dang helpful!   06.09.10 - 11:00pm
Lori Nicoli - Thank you, Jasmine for this post. You are such a wonderful photographer and so generous in helping others. Thank you, Skip Cohen, for the information. I appreciate your forthright manner and advice and have your web-page bookmarked.   06.09.10 - 10:14pm
Jackie - This is so wonderful! Thanks to Skip and Jasmine for sharing all of this with us fellow newbies. I totally agree about the low price and low quality being a trend amongst newbies.   06.09.10 - 3:30pm
Rebecca Allen - The last two pieces of advice are the best. If you're true to yourself and take action, the rest is much more attainable and worthwhile. Thank you!  06.09.10 - 1:58pm
Angel Canary - You can't see me, but I'm standing up clapping! Well said!   06.09.10 - 1:44pm
Bengi beebe - I love the last piece of info. I'm going to install that in my life. Only touch the paper (whatever) once, make a decision, take action! AWESOME!  06.09.10 - 1:15pm
Jeff Kathrein - This is a great post. Very wise notions, and helpful to anyone anywhere in the game of developing a photog business. Thx Jasmin and Skip! Cheers, Jeff  06.09.10 - 1:04pm
Shari - WOW. Such good advice! Thank you for sharing!!!!  06.09.10 - 12:38pm
Sarah Knight - Thanks so much for doing things like this Jasmine! This information is so valuable!  06.09.10 - 12:31pm
Justin - Great information! Thanks Jasmine and Skip.  06.09.10 - 11:47am
Juli L. - Thank you! Great post...very helpful! :)  06.09.10 - 11:34am
Matthew Saville - Skip accidentally juxtaposes the phrases "people don't understand photography, exposure and composition" and "they should be out promoting themselves" which makes it sound like he's promoting something he's NOT. (Compensating for a lack of photographic skill by focusing on self-promotion is a disservice to clients and the industry.) But I know that's not what Skip is encouraging, so he's off the hook. Clearly elsewhere in the interview he DOES encourage people to know their gear, and stop delivering mediocre images on a disc with no other products. (We heard Jerry at Escalate talk/scold the industry about that...) That's what Skip has always been about- A solid business foundation, and excellence in *every* aspect, not just one or two. (Read: Just because branding and "me-marketing" are now essential to survival, doesn't mean stunning images and a solid biz foundation can fall by the wayside...) Just my opinionated opinion, =Matt=  06.09.10 - 11:23am
Lydia - Just the affirmation I needed this morning as I look over my business and evaluate my branding!  06.09.10 - 11:09am
Inland Empire Wedding Photographer - I love his advice "Only touch each piece of paper once!" One of the best Star Gazing interviews!  06.09.10 - 10:58am
Doug - Awesome post (and totally relevant to many/most of your readers), would love to see more similar posts.  06.09.10 - 9:49am
Mireille - Thanks for another source of information. You can never have enough of those!  06.09.10 - 9:31am
alicia - Thanks for the post. Very informative  06.09.10 - 9:10am
Stephanie Stewart - Loove this! Just what I needed today, a little extra kick in the pants, some solid motivation! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  06.09.10 - 8:59am
angel pope - LOVE the very last section. To thine own self be true! It comes at a perfect time when I finally got the nerve to charge what I think I'm worth and my first order just rolled through that has exceeded my wildest dreams! Thank YOU so much, Jasmine, just for the little nudges you've given me!!!  06.09.10 - 8:55am
Dallas - Thank you so much for asking these questions, Jasmine. Skip, thank you for sharing your wisdom with those of us just getting started!  06.09.10 - 8:50am
laetitia - "Uncle Harry" made me laught and I never thought about it this way. But yes, there is a lot of "uncle harris"... am I one?  06.09.10 - 8:49am
Elisabeth Carol - So very helpful! Thanks for sharing Jasmine!   06.09.10 - 8:49am
Julie - Thank you for the article and advice. I feel empowered to keep going.   06.09.10 - 8:43am
Nicole Wolf - He is the best in the business! I heart Skip and everything he as done for me!!!  06.09.10 - 8:38am
Candace Prokopets - Thanks to Jasmine and Skip for sharing such great insight!  06.09.10 - 8:31am
Romonia - Thank you Skip Cohen and Jasmine* for this amazing Q&A Stargazing moment. Great advice and tips Skip.  06.09.10 - 8:27am
Cathy Crawley - OMG Skip is so spot on it hurts my mind! How I wish I had heard this sound advice when I was starting out almost 3 years ago, I would have saved myself many hours of stress and confusion. Thanks for sharing Jasmine and for always being such an open book and beacon of light and love :)  06.09.10 - 8:18am
Janelle Vano - Great advice and great information! Thanks for introducing us to Skip, Jasmine!   06.09.10 - 8:04am
ngarie - Great info thanks  06.09.10 - 8:02am
Melissa Papaj Photography - Skip is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing!  06.09.10 - 7:58am
Josephine - great eye opener and guide! thankful for this jasmine! xoxo  06.09.10 - 7:57am
Jessica Williams - Very, very helpful and inspiring to do more with my business and do it better. Thanks as always Jasmine!  06.09.10 - 7:55am
Ariane - Very insightful! Thank you so much to Skip and Jasmine for sharing. I started my photography business 2 years ago. The catch is, I also have a fulltime day job (uuggh). Because of this, I feel that I can't do 90% of the things needed to get my business fully functional and be completely dedicated to growing my business. What would be your advice to those who are in this situation. Learn to juggle both day job and photog business or "take the leap" and plunge into my passion. :)...Thank you!!  06.09.10 - 7:53am
terri z - thank-you jasmine and skip .... love the last 2 pieces of advice ! so true.  06.09.10 - 7:49am
dawn beirnes - amazing stuff to read! I can't wait to look at his site! Thanks!  06.09.10 - 7:34am
Jess - Awesome! Thanks for sharing!  06.09.10 - 7:31am
Caron - " photography is a career choice where everything has to come from your heart". This couldn't be more right. I remember a shoot I was on a while ago. As I was framing out my friend & her new husband I began to cry. I cried because I knew her story, I knew what she wanted & I knew that I was capturing that for her. As always, Thank you Jasmine for sharing so much!  06.09.10 - 7:29am
Thomas Lester - Thanks Skip! Thanks Jasmine for posting this. Great words. Also big thanks to you (Jasmine) for the video floating around from the "Free to Succeed" tour. I saw you at WPPI, but seeing the video was a nice kick in the butt to finish a few things that I started after seeing you at WPPI.  06.09.10 - 7:27am
erica clark - Great advice. Thanks to you both!  06.09.10 - 7:21am
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