The Dead Pixels Society podcast

The changing trends of photographer education, with Skip Cohen

May 29, 2021 Gary Pageau/Skip Cohen Season 2 Episode 44
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
The changing trends of photographer education, with Skip Cohen
Chapters
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
The changing trends of photographer education, with Skip Cohen
May 29, 2021 Season 2 Episode 44
Gary Pageau/Skip Cohen

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with industry veteran Skip Cohen, of Skip Cohen University (SCU). From his start washing bottles in a Polaroid Corp. lab, Cohen has crafted a long-standing career in multiple stages in the photographic industry. In this interview, Cohen talks about his varied career, starting his own company,  business practices for photographers, and what lessons can be learned from COVID-19.

Cohen is president and founder of SCU, founder of Marketing Essentials International, and past president of Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI. He's been an active participant in the professional side of photography since joining Hasselblad USA in 1987 as president.  He has co-authored six books on photography and actively supports dozens of projects each year involving photographic education.


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Show Notes Transcript

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with industry veteran Skip Cohen, of Skip Cohen University (SCU). From his start washing bottles in a Polaroid Corp. lab, Cohen has crafted a long-standing career in multiple stages in the photographic industry. In this interview, Cohen talks about his varied career, starting his own company,  business practices for photographers, and what lessons can be learned from COVID-19.

Cohen is president and founder of SCU, founder of Marketing Essentials International, and past president of Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI. He's been an active participant in the professional side of photography since joining Hasselblad USA in 1987 as president.  He has co-authored six books on photography and actively supports dozens of projects each year involving photographic education.


Mediaclip
Mediaclip strives to continuously enhance the user experience while dramatically increasing revenue.

Buzzsprout - Let's get your podcast launched!
Start for FREE

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/DeadPixelsSociety)

Erin Manning  
Welcome to the dead pixel society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. here's your host, Gary Pageau.

Gary Pageau  
The dead pixel society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Photo Finale and Advertek Printing. Hello again and welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Skip Cohen of Skip Cohen University. I really don't think Skip needs an introduction. But welcome Skip to the show. How are you today?

Skip Cohen  
Hey, buddy, I'm doing good. How are you?

Gary Pageau  
 Good. I'm doing great. For the five people in the industry who don't know who skip coding is. Can you share a little bit of your background?

Skip Cohen  
Oh, let's see if I let's do the two minute version as opposed to the 20 minute version. straight out of college went to work for Polaroid I was every parent's nightmare was actually asked to leave college several times. 

Gary Pageau  
What are you doing for Polaroid at the time,

Skip Cohen  
I went in as a $2.89 an hour lab tech washing bottles in the lab. But I fell in love with the company went back to school nights on their tuition reimbursement program, and was there for 17 and a half years. In fact, somewhere in there, I think you and I met. Sure when I was on the marketing side of the house. When I left. I was the photo specialty channel manager which meant all the camera stores were mine. It was about $120 million of business or so. So every camera shop, they carried anything from Polaroid. I was the marketing manager for it. Got a cold call one day from somebody who said he was trying to find somebody interested in a president of a small camera company. I thought it was my brother in law told him to kiss my tush. I'll see at mas for dinner later. And as I'm hanging up the phone, I hear this guy yelling No, it's legitimate call. Well, the job was President at a Hasselblad USA. And I left Polaroid halfway through 87 joined Hasselblad USA, and was there for 12 years and then left to go play on the internet for two and a half years with a company called Photo Alley.com. And just like seven to one in a dog's life. The two and a half years felt like 15. But you know, whenever a project fails, we always say the same thing. we rationalize the say,

Gary Pageau  
Yeah, but I learned a lot. Well, yeah, there was a lot of learning back in that in those Yeah, there was a lot of learning.

Skip Cohen  
And there are a lot of people when the internet imploded in 2000 2001. Around that time period, photo alley went belly up, even though we'd gotten over 30 million in sales, we still weren't in the black. And that's because that whole business model of we're going to go into business. We're going to get lots of customers, we're going to lose money for the next five years. Go public and you'll make millions.

Gary Pageau  
For you kids out there. That was how people did business back in the day.

Skip Cohen  
Well, even Amazon almost folded. I remember Pets.com. And we figured out that was the the TV commercials with a sock puppet of a dog, right. And they had great recognition. But when they were all done for the amount of money that they made or actually lost, they could have just taken all the dog food and dropped it in the Bay in San Francisco and taken the loss and they probably would have made more money. But the concept that all business model didn't work. It imploded. Amazon survived a few others survived. But photo alley disappeared. I went and stood in the unemployment line for six weeks because my accountant said if you don't collect unemployment now I'm going to put your name in and I'm going to collect it. And somewhere in there, Steve Shannon and I were friends he owned rangefinder magazine and W ppi. He said to me, why don't you come out and be I'll make you president, I'll be CEO or chairman of the board. And I'll stay out of your hair. And I was there for seven years and then in 2009 said no, I didn't agree with some of the things that he wanted to do and decided it was time to head out on my own and see if I could actually walk the talk. I mean, I'd had great jobs, great exposure. Everybody knew me. I mean, come on President of W ppi. And the show at that point was running around 15,000 attendees. We actually took over the Garden Arena at the MGM Grand in 2009 and had Blues Traveler in a party sponsored by Nikon. Well I think I was at that show probably were but that was that was it I headed out on my own in 2009. And here I am 12 years later.

Gary Pageau  
So what does heading out on your own actually mean? I mean, you start what what do you decide to because you you don't To start a trade show you don't start a magazine, you don't start a new camera line. So

Skip Cohen  
what is what is it they do for me, for me, and I remember wanting to leave I was I was unhappy. And even though people thought I had the greatest job in the world, and I'm making a good salary, and the show's doing well, the magazine was up to around 350 pages back then I had an unbelievably great team with people that you know, with dough herder and Georgia and akkus. And Arlene Evans. It was an amazing team, the five of us Oh, yeah.

Gary Pageau  
Well, I mean, from a PMA perspective, you are probably our biggest competition in terms of, yeah, growth, because, you know, we were trying to get photographers at the time. And, you know, they were either going to NW PPI, that's where that's where all the growth was back then. So you did a great job. They had a great team.

Skip Cohen  
It was it was definitely I knew that if one of us had an idea, and all of us agreed it was great. If one of us then idea and nobody agreed, then it was not. It just wasn't going to go. So the five of us were an incredible team. And we had a great team supporting all of us. Yeah, so that whole group, I mean, everybody thought that w PPI must be this huge company. It was it was like PMA, you didn't have a lot of players to PMA. But you sure had a big profile off, I go on my own. I didn't know what I wanted to do. All I knew is that I wanted to get out on my own and start consulting seeing what I could do. I started a thing called skip summer school that came together really well. It's an idea I had had a W ppi. And the the owners didn't like it. So I never went with it. And when I decided to do it, I remember him saying, Well, go ahead, do it. And I heard later on the rumor that that he thought it was gonna fail anyway. Well, we had 350 people in Vegas now in 2009. We were in a recession, people thought I was absolutely nuts. And I remember when I was trying to decide whether or not to leave, Sheila and I were dating, I'd gone through a divorce. And I remember Sheila saying to me, what are you worried about? What are you afraid of? And I laughed, and I said, I'm afraid of failing. And that's that hurdle that every photographer in fact, everybody in business can identify with her. But that first summer school came off well, in fact, because Vegas was in so much trouble that year, and we were able to do it, do it without a room block without a minimum food and beverage. Those are all things that make it very difficult. Yeah. To do a show these days. Yeah, definitely. And I we did it for the next five summers until we did it. Last one was in 2013. In the meantime, my client base kind of picked up in fact, you and I were working together on some concepts that PMA had to go after photographers that sadly didn't make it. Yeah. But it was probably the tsunami that killed that one more than anything else.

Gary Pageau  
Dell is a period of most people that don't know this stuff made me to public rightly. But it was a very invigorating time, just from a conceptual standpoint. And from an interaction standpoint, that's where I really got to know you very well. That's what's going out on my own. So after five years of skip summer school, what do you do that? What do you Why did you stop doing it? Because the recession was over, things are starting to pick up? What changed? And what signs Did you see, maybe you needed to do something different?

Skip Cohen  
Well, what the first sign I saw was that the last show we did in 2013, lost a lot of money, and I lost a lot of money because I let my ego get in the way. I really thought we'd get the attendance, we got close to the attendance. But then I had a room block that I thought I could handle, I missed the room block and I had a $5,000 penalty. There were little things like that, that became big things. So that's what made me decide this isn't working. Also, it was just me and Sheila, it wasn't as if I had a staff. I didn't have another company. I was blogging, I was writing um, I did a book together with Scott born called going pro that did very well. Yeah. In fact, right around the time I left WPPI, I finished my book number five with Joe Buissink on "Wedding Photography from the Heart." Then Scott and I did a book together. So I'm writing more and more and I'm morphing into a writer. I'm doing a blog. And somewhere in there, I decided I wanted to start my own truly my own real blog with a focus on education. Sure. And I remember Scott born Scott Bourne is responsible for helping me a lot to get that off the ground because I didn't know what to do how to build it. Right. And I was going to name it something kind of lofty, like the Photo Resource Center or something like that. And Scott looked at me and said, you have to put your name on it. Why don't I put my name on it? Yes, you do. Why? Well, because everything you've ever done has always been in education. So let's call it Skip Cohen University. And then I remember Scott saying, Just trust me. Let me lead off with this. So Scott did at that point, Scott probably had around 100,000 followers somewhere in there. And he went ahead put a tweet out that said skip Cohen is better And then I remember Kelby writing something like what do you mean he's back? I just talked to him yesterday where's the bed, but it launched it. And the following day we kicked off, Skip Cohen University. And that's at that time Profoto was involved of trying to remember Panasonic started to get involved. Tamron was very much involved marathon press right? I had about six or eight partners in it. And essentially I became kind of the PR arm using skip cone University and then building my Facebook page, right and then later on Twitter, and what I started to do is to write somewhere in there podcast started to play a role. That's a while since 2017, Shamir young and I have done around 120 podcasts together. Wow, what's the name of

Gary Pageau  
that podcast?

Skip Cohen  
Well, one of them is beyond technique. One of them is "Mind Your Own Business." And the other one is "Tamron Recipes," which is specifically for Tamron. In fact, it was actually Rich Harrington at photo focused calm, had an idea and let's do a podcast together. And I remember saying to Sheila, give me a name. What should we call it? Sheila is my muse. Yeah, and she came back with Why don't you call it "Mind Your Own Business." So the "Mind Your Own Business" podcast was actually the first one to kick off, right? That's probably around 2014 or 15. Rich and I co hosted it. Then Scott Bourne came in to co host with me. And then when Scott left the industry for a while he suggested Chamira and Chamira this whole time had been behind the scenes working for photo focus as as she refers to herself as Queen to the nerds, because she's got, she's got the tech ability. It's really wonderful when you work with somebody that makes you sound better than you should all the time. Exactly. And yeah, she became a co host. And now you've got three different podcasts out there that are all related to different things. And then somewhere in there, actually, this is more recent, but  Larry Tiefenburnn asked me if I would help him with Platypod. And next thing, you know, he gave me the title as cmo. And okay, that took that started taking up more time. And that's been a lot of fun. Because it is a product, it is something tangible, right. And that's tied back in with a whole mess of growth and new products and fun way to get back in touch with with photographers directly. Besides marketing and business.

Gary Pageau  
You had Skip's Summer School. And let's be honest, you had kind of a you had kind of a problem with the last one, you know, I imagined was a little bit humbling, right? I mean, last Oh, yeah, you had your name on it, what did it take to convince you to go forward and put your name on something else? That was not a guaranteed success, you either got a huge ego or something.

Skip Cohen  
First of all, there's something that we've all got in our genes. You either have that gene that says, What is it fight or flight?

Gary Pageau  
Exactly.

Skip Cohen  
I got the fight. I got the fight gene. And I wasn't willing to lay down also, when I looked at the problems, the company didn't lose money that year, because I had other things I was doing and consulting but but the reality is that the summer school itself, I was never looking for it to be a big moneymaker. Sure. But when you look at all the work you did, and then you lose money, you say, all right, this just isn't gonna work now, skip cone University and blogging and starting to write and working with other clients. I own that the overhead was minimal. It was it was sweat investment, because somebody's got to do it. Right. But it was a more results driven. I mean, I could I could do a blog post and see it and touch it and

Gary Pageau  
measure the actions you can see that was working what wasn't Yeah.

Skip Cohen  
And and at the time, for example, Profoto must have had hundreds of videos already up on YouTube. So there was content that I could take. And I was almost like, think about a neighborhood theater that opens up a second theater on the other side of town. I was like that second fader, I was giving companies an opportunity to take information that they had out there and now projected into a different into a different part of social media, which in this case is anywhere from a dozen to probably 15 different forums on Facebook, my Twitter followers started to grow. My Facebook followers grew. So suddenly I had access to a good audience. And then, during all of that I was also I mean, I didn't give up on teaching and speaking at various conventions. I didn't give up I mentioned the book that Scott Bourne and I did. I've got another couple of them in the wings that I just want to do on my own. But I don't know procrastination seems to win out too often.

Gary Pageau  
Do you think just as a common aspect of business people that they stay with good ideas that may have come to the end of their lifespan too long? They don't know when to get out?

Skip Cohen  
Yes. I mean, there's a there's that old line and I give this to photographers all the time when I'm teaching growth only happens outside your comfort zone. And we all do get very comfortable. And there's also that line that goes, if you do what you've always done, you'll never get more than you ever got. And you look at what happened with COVID. And you look at photographers out there that sadly, were one trick ponies. And if you had made it a point to be strictly a wedding and an event photographer during COVID, you got hit much harder than somebody that might have been working on doing a family portrait business or I mean JP Elario over in Albany did this thing called FaceTime portraits and actually made it onto the Albany news where he he'd worked with his with his engagement clients, for example, and bridal clients and started doing headshots and a couple shots where they've got their you know, they've got their phone, and he's directing them and how to set it up and the lighting, you know, he's suggesting, hey, pull that table lamp a little bit closer. That's it, I want you to turn towards the light. Meanwhile, their phone is sitting there on a little stand in front of their computer where he's at the other end on his computer, working his magic in in Photoshop to create a beautiful headshot.

Gary Pageau  
Hopefully they were using a Platypod for that. 

Skip Cohen  
Oh, he might have been no he wasn't using it would have been nice though.

Gary Pageau  
I'm trying to throw in the pitch for you. 

Skip Cohen  
Thank you. I appreciate appreciate the plug. So yes, people tend to stay nobody wants to see the writing on the wall that whatever you're doing isn't working.

Gary Pageau  
He I mean, I think you know, we've all come into them. Even from the PMA background, there's a lot the PMA was doing that wasn't working. And it was continuing to happen. I mean, every business run into it. And sometimes it's hard to change. I mean, in photography, it's it's a classic ever talks about Eastman Kodak right? What happened? What went wrong with Eastman Kodak, and a lot of it was there. They were a chemical company and a coating company that happened to be in photography. And then they instead of pivoting like Fujifilm did and learn to coat other things. They went whole hog into they bet the farm on digital photography, and they were never going to dominate that field like they didn't traditional photography.

Skip Cohen  
Well take it take it a step further. I mean, and you and I were around to see all this happen. There was an awful lot of arrogance over Kodak. I mean, the best example that I've always appreciated was James Joaquin built Ofoto. And Ofoto suddenly became the largest engine in the world for doing something with your digital prints. And Kodak looked at them and pretty much laughed and said Come on, who's gonna go to Ofoto where Kodak well, five years, six years later, Kodak bought Ofoto, as you know, with an asset buyout, and suddenly it's the only way they could build the engine because he had a James Joaquin did. I mean he did an incredible job. Sure. And he built that up and turned it into something massive. And then if I'm right, I think that that all comes back to the foundation for Shutterfly.

Gary Pageau  
I think today Well, what happened was is well no Shutterfly, Ofoto and Snapfish all came around the same time in the day, okay, it was 99. Okay. It was weird because at one of my jobs at PMA, I was the liaison for the dot-com people. So I, I used to do these trips, right going to San Francisco and I would visit Shutterfly. Ofoto and Snapfish. They're all in like, you know, 15 mile radius. And then, of course, for San Francisco traffic, it took you three days to do it. But but it was interesting, because there was sort of this parallel idea. And there was that idea that we're Kodak consumers trust us, and they'll do it. And to be honest, they had all the tools. They had a softball pitch to them. And they whiffed In my opinion, in the sense that they had all the tools to handle the technology, they handle the brain. They had the brand, they had everything, except like you said, a little touchy humility might have helped. Yeah.

Skip Cohen  
And here we are today, where they are a fraction of what they once were. And the industry has changed. But I but I also saw the same thing happen at Polaroid. I mean, there was a time when every single doctor in the world that was every Well, every pregnant mom to comb, a Polaroid, black and white picture, the ultrasound. And Polaroid was the same way and all of a sudden thermal printing comes along, every one of these doctors settling now can give mom that sonogram picture for pennies where they might have been paying a buck apiece for Rhino 107. I don't remember all the film model names anymore, but or, you know, Polaroid, black and white peel apart and it disappeared. Right. And that market just suddenly one day it was just gone.

Gary Pageau  
It's interesting. So let's talk a little bit about the impact of COVID on the industry because I've heard some discussions among people who watch the industry saying what quote, what the impact of COVID did it accelerated in many ways trends that were already happening. If you were a retailer and independent, someone like that, and you didn't have a mobile ad forced you to go mobile. And if you're a photographer, it forced you to become more of a marketer and a merchandiser because you had to say, Okay, I've got I've got a pool of pictures of my sitting I've done How can I get people to do something with them to make something out of them? Right? That was very, that kept a lot of the school photography, volume photography companies alive was remarketing, the school photos as key chains for grandma and things like that. So do you agree with that? And what are your thoughts?

Skip Cohen  
Yeah, I agree with it. I think it goes deeper than that. I mean, COVID created a need. I mean, for example, you and I are on zoom right now. The ability to use Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, the suddenly was social distancing. Everybody had to learn a new way to communicate. In some ways, I'm actually more in touch with good friends today than I was when we were relying on meeting once twice a year at a convention, right. COVID brought about a new sense a stronger sense of family, because families are hunkered down. I can't believe I'm still using the words hunkered down. I never used them before. COVID. Yeah, and I hate the two words, but everybody was hunkered down together. And suddenly I mean photographers and families. Alright guys, we're going to do game night tonight. This photographer up in Northern California, Steven Goats the turned around and took pictures of his clients, threw him into the computer, strip the color, turned them into line art and sent them to families with small kids, his coloring book pages, which is absolutely brilliant. It's just, it's just good. Well, you're not going to make money on it, then you've got the challenge where there's a great expression out there, I've been using it I don't think it's I don't think it's mine. Parts of parts of it came in from my head, but I don't remember where I got it. But your website is about what you sell your blog is about what's in your heart, right suddenly that those two work together, just like publicity and advertising, right. And your website became the equivalent of what a bricks and mortar storefront would have been in your community going back just a few years ago. And suddenly, you had to learn how to be online, you had to have products that worked online, I get a kick out of working with platta pod because I I have I have fun with it. It's it's online, it's different. It's not something that I've done a lot of before. But online, retail becomes very different. Also your ability to reach 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of people, right? I mean, suddenly, today, a photographer with a good website and blog has the same power as a small town newspaper might have had 10-15 years ago. Sure, and probably more credible, and more at times. But you also have to when you say more credible, you also have to be careful. Sure. I mean, I remember doing a website review years ago of a young photographer, and she was very excited to have me review her website. And we got to her blog, and she wanted me to read this one post. And it was hysterical. It was well written. It was funny. It was like a scene out of Animal House for those of our listeners out there, if you haven't seen it, if you're not old enough to actually remember it first run, then go on YouTube or go go to Netflix and find it. But it was very funny. But the problem was that she wrote this whole story about how she and her girlfriends had all gone out that weekend. And one girl got drunk and went home and slept with the drummer and somebody else slept with the guitar player. And it was cute. I said, but she said Do you like it? I said it's hysterical. Oh, I'm so glad you like it. I said, Wait a minute, What's your goal? She said, Well, I want to be a family photographer here in in my town. It's like no, that's that's the wrong message. Right? You said Mom, mom hasn't forgotten what her college days were like, right? But mom doesn't isn't ready to trust her family to somebody that's just having more fun than she is right? I guess that's one way to put it.

Gary Pageau  
And it doesn't build your credibility as a photographer

Skip Cohen  
It's, it's sort of like, Yeah, you've got more influence, and you've got more reach than you've ever had before. But it's also a double edged sword, you really have to be careful with what you say there's a great line that goes there's no there are no racers on the internet, right? So if you're stupid enough to get into an argument on a thread on Facebook somewhere, for example, right? And we've had this happen in Facebook, wedding photographers, where somebody said something very derogatory about a client and a competing photographer actually took that information, shared it with clients

Gary Pageau  
Screenshots will kill you. 

Skip Cohen  
Yeah, you can't, you cannot accept that, you know, everything you share on the internet is never going to be shared again. So you need to be careful. I remember I'm sorry, I keep it you ask a question. And we kind of go in the right direction. And then I feel like I get totally off track.

Gary Pageau  
Oh, no, no, we're on track. Right? Good. I remember back when we first started working together and in when PMA was a client and you recommended a book called World Wide Rave and I listened to the audio book actually. And that was really changed a lot of the thinking before you talk a little bit about the book, how has COVID changed that idea because a lot of that was built around building you know in person connections. That's where I'm I'm strong. toggling with seeing the way out like I love zoom is great. You know, I get to talk to Skip. I agree we've connected in many ways, but I still think there's a place for in person interactions. It may not be 30,000 people at a trade show. But what do you think that looks like, first tell people what worldwide rave is. Because I know that was one of your touch. Oh

Skip Cohen  
My god, that was one of the very first business books I read. And my son recommended it. I don't remember the author. But I could, if I got up and turned around, I could get a write off my bookshelf here. What I loved about the book was that it talked about how the world at that time was changing. And I remember one case study in there were, I think it was at Universal films, I think, or Universal Studios. And it was the woman in charge of PR for whatever the latest Harry Potter movie was. And instead of doing their usual we're going to we're going to get the whole industry together. And we're going to do a conference and a press conference. And the whole nine yards. She brought in, I don't know 10 of the world's biggest bloggers on Harry Potter stories, they concentrate on those 10. And those 10 created something outrageous. And I you can't quote me on the numbers, but it was something like you know, 400 million impressions that came out of those 10 people because of their depth. And that's what got me really thinking about the ability on how we communicate and how we get the word out there. Now what you're talking about right now couldn't be stronger because we all miss human contact, right? At the same time. There's a there's an expression and this is thanks to Scott Bourne again, Scott Bourne for years has been saying to photographers, get out there and own your zip code. literally go knock on doors, knock on the doors of every business in your community. And you always get somebody that says, Yeah, I've been scammed. I'm a wedding photographer, what am I going to talk to a realtor about? Well, you're going to go in, and you're going to say, hey, my, my core business is wedding photography, and I'm here in town. But if you ever need help on anything in imaging, give me a call, I won't always have the answer. But I've got a great network. And we can always find help for you. So suddenly, you've planted the seed with the realtor who's way out of line in terms of his or her goals versus yours as a wedding and event photographer, but you've met them. And you could do this. I mean, this could have been happening throughout COVID, with the exception of those areas where there might have been such a strong lockdown. I know in the UK, you weren't allowed to be out. There were some really serious issues. And I mean, there's still serious, but being able to get out now smaller groups. I mean, I'm involved. I hate for this to sound like an infomercial. If it does, my apologies to you and everybody else, but um, click on is going to do their show in August, they've modified it, they're only looking for six to 700 people, right? They have 30 companies that will be involved, they've got 30 speakers that will be involved, it's going to be a great show for all of us to get back on track. And because it's in Chicago, they'll be able to draw from, from Detroit to Cleveland, that stretch of metal. Yeah, where people can drive and be there in a day's drive for somebody who's afraid to fly right now and doesn't want to be in the germ tube. on a flight that'll help. So I think there are opportunities for exactly what you described, I think it's going to be a long time before we've got standing room only with, you know, at a Super Bowl game, if ever, but I think we are going to see more of these small shows, controlled social distancing, within reason. And then the other side of the coin is we've still got like 30% of the population, maybe it's even higher that are stupid enough to not believe in the vaccine. And I'm so tired of the politics. You know, when when I was a kid, the Salk vaccine came out and that is polio. Nobody questioned it. We were all excited, Dr. Salk if I remember right, won a Nobel Prize. Right. And if it wasn't for the media and politics, the vaccine that we've got out there now the same thing I mean, if this vaccine had come out in the 60s, everybody would have gotten it there wouldn't have been a discussion now you've got there's so much misinformation out there so sure, sorry. I didn't mean to get off track.

Gary Pageau  
I think that's important because I mean we saw the trends you and I going back in the early 2000s 2010s when we're looking at things that you know trade shows have been struggling for years and that was sort of the the hidden secret of a photo because everyone love photokina, everyone loves PMA, they love photoplus they love WPPI they loved Imaging USA but that's a lot of shows they're very expensive, right? They really the ROI is very, very difficult to justify for a lot of exhibitors, because you know, the PR value is lessened because, you know, the national media wasn't going to all the big shows anymore. You know, PMA used to get like the New York Times and USA Today and Chicago Tribune and all those people that you know, they basically when their budgets were cut, they stopped going to the shows they started relying on freelancers Further show coverage, which of course, then Canon's like, "Why would I pay all this money for this booth when I'm not getting the media exposure I want and there's, you know, I can talk to all the dealers, I want to anytime I want."  Again, COVID kind of accelerated this trend that the big shows are either gonna have to go away to some extent or change into more of an not an exclusive but more of a tighter environment, right? Almost a clubby kind of thing. What do you think

Skip Cohen  
I agree. The other thing that a good show does is provide good hands on education, right? We haven't even we haven't even touched on the fact that online education just morphed into a giant I mean, if you go online, if you go into YouTube, you can find every photographer who you know, just about teaching a class on something, some of them are unbelievably qualified and do a great job others and not so good. Well,

Gary Pageau  
Even your former coworker, George Varanakis. He pivoted towards that and emphasize.

Skip Cohen  
Yeah, and George and I are the best friends and we look at every now and then we'll say to ourselves, I wonder what would have happened if both of us had left? And what would what would we have seen the necessary pivot for W ppi. Same with magazines. rangefinder magazine, I said was up to 350 pages plus in 2009. Today, it's a fraction of that. And I don't know it's but their online readership changes, right. So I forgot what the question is,

Gary Pageau  
When the question was, you're talking about the online versus the hands on of the physical experience, how different that

Skip Cohen  
you can't and what I was gonna say on online is that, for example, you know, if you want to be a racecar driver, well, you can't learn to be a racecar driver without getting behind the wheel of the racecar.

Gary Pageau  
I know, there's Scott Bourne reference. It's true.

Skip Cohen  
It's true. It's and Scott is a racecar driver. When you look at online education, it's great. You can learn all kinds of things online. But when you're in a group of 20 2010 or 20 people and you're with somebody like oh, will Cadena or Bobby lane or Tony Carvel, and they're teaching a lighting class and you're right there with them. You learn so much more. I mean, I remember years ago, Jerry Ghionis, teaching a class in Ohio on a thing I was doing called Akron photo series, which was a fundraiser for Akron Children's Hospital,

Gary Pageau  
I remember that.

Skip Cohen  
And yeah, Jerry, Jerry came to Ohio. And I remember when he was out in the parking lot, doing a live shoot and demonstrating some really easy things, photographers needed to think about to get the greatest possible shots, people started standing behind him taking taking a photograph at the same scene. And I remember him stopping and saying to everybody, I would rather you took pictures of what I was doing, than try and copy this shot and positioned on your website. As Look at this beautiful shot, I did have a bride and groom. Because it's not your shot, you're over my shoulder, right. But if you learn what I'm teaching, then you can experiment and practice on your own. And that's where that hands on, you still can't you still can't beat it. And I absolutely believe that great photographers, and the future of great photographers that we're going to see are people that learned online or they learn with working with a mentor, they experimented but then they took every possible class that they could just to keep expanding on their own hands on. And there's some great photographers that are I mean, Roberta Van suela just did a lighting workshop in Tucson a few weeks ago, it's now going to become an annual event. He's a great instructor. But the idea of doing a smaller program. Same with when you touch said George and George pivoted suprise education grew to just monster proportions with terrific online education

Gary Pageau  
or you still need the hands on I don't think any bride or groom wants to hire photographer who hasn't actually shot pictures in the field is done at all online. And they Unfortunately, there are people out there who try and sell themselves that way.

Skip Cohen  
And while there there are all kinds of things going on. That's one of the sad things on the internet is that you want to remind brides and grooms clients. It doesn't matter. I mean, commercial is no different. But it's like look at the portfolio, get some references, make sure that what you're buying isn't just what you saw on the website, because every now and then there is a photographer that's rip somebody off sure doesn't know what they're doing. And what's interesting is that those people are getting caught more and more. I mean, anybody can get the first client anymore on with anything you want to build on a website can get the first client but it's getting the first client to refer their friends and it's the second, third, fourth and fifth client that really tells a story of why

Gary Pageau  
I heard a piece of advice that someone gave said you should never hire a photographer whose portfolio consists of shots they've taken at workshops that they're not actually in, you know, working jobs at their portfolio is basically other people's lighting setups basically to go to the Jerry Ghionis example

Skip Cohen  
yeah till I agree with that to a point There are photographers that mix it in. And there are some beautiful shots. I mean,

Gary Pageau  
I mean exclusively like that, that yeah, that's what they're showing us versus other people. Absolutely right. But sadly, the a lot of the public doesn't know that you've been really positioned as an educator for a while. Do you feel there are lessons that photographers just have to either learn the hard way, either refuse to learn and needs to be repeated over and over?

Skip Cohen  
Yeah, but they're, it's funny. Most of them are outside of photo. Sure,

Gary Pageau  
well, above that. They're

Skip Cohen  
They're all about business. When Chamira, and I do these podcasts, our favorite last question is What advice would you give a photographer just starting out, every single guest always has a spin off of the same kind of thing. One is learn about your business, understand your expenses, learn to learn to develop your own voice, right. I think it's wonderful. One of the wonderful things about the internet is that that as a photographer, you can look at so much work that's out there and not copy it, but then take what you're seeing and put it all together. So you're almost like In fact, we do the I mentioned Tamron recipes we do the we treat the the our guests as if they were chefs, if you think about it, every photographer is a fine chef. Some somebody specializes in French, some say stallion, some one out there is only going to make pizza. But there's still chefs. So it's kind of developing your own style, and the importance of that. And most of the lessons where they repeatedly gets screwed up. In fact, a great example is his gear, people get gear fever. And you and I are both old enough to know like new car fever, once you get it and there's something you want, you're gonna figure out how to get that new car whether you really needed it or not,

Gary Pageau  
You can justify any quote business unquote expense. 

Skip Cohen  
It's recognizing remember job using telling a story about building buying a tilt shift lens because he thought it would be so cool to make his wedding work look different. And he bought that tilt shift lens rarely used it sold it for a loss. And during the time that he invested the money in it. He was short on cash flow. Another one is Oh god, I can't think who the photographer is that said to a group of students we had you know what you do when you don't have a lens long enough? And they're all sitting there going? Yeah, what do I What do I do? Why are you moving closer?

Gary Pageau  
You know, by the $7,000 long lens, right?

Skip Cohen  
Yeah. And that's and that's what happens. And there are also photographers that that fail to recognize partnerships. If you've always wanted one of those gigantic wide format printers, they get together and you can't afford it, then get together with another couple of photographers and buy it together. You're not going to be printing on it every single day, you're using it to meet the needs of your clients and share it. The same with an exotic lens. There's so much equipment out there that you could share the cost of or even rent. I mean, that's that's our rent and rent. There's online rental companies now that provide access to great equipment. And well we had a tagline on Hasselblad leasing program years ago that said why not utilize our assets without depleting yours. So you could go ahead and you could lease it with a $1 buyout. And I don't know I don't know if programs like that are even around anymore, but it gave photographers an opportunity to get the equipment they needed and not go into sticker shock and be eating you don't have to eat macaroni and cheese every single night.

Gary Pageau  
Wasn't that Hasselblad tagline though was "sticker shock."

Skip Cohen  
Your boy it was it was I didn't get it. It didn't get any better. In fact, when I was there, the team I had that went to which is pretty unbelievable. We'd beat on Sweden to come out with the 500 Classic which was the camera and 80 millimeter lens and an 812 film back of all for 1995 and that was a big deal back then. And getting away from sticker shock and and we sold we sold hundreds of them and got people into the system. What is your

Gary Pageau  
last bit of advice for the veteran photographer not the newbie everyone has advice for the newbie, but for the veteran photographer who maybe as 10 or 15 years left in their career to take them take them the rest of the way to the paddock easy one first, take a break, step away from the business recognize that you need to do a jumpstart take everything that you knew and figure out how to have fun with it.

Skip Cohen  
I mean, it's it sounds so basic, but if you're not having fun in this industry, then you're doing something wrong. And maybe it's I mean coming out of COVID there are a lot of photographers that lost their business or substantially reduced revenue and instead of getting back on the horse and really taking a look at I What am I skills what's going on in the community. They've gone into analysis paralysis, and they all look like deer in the headlight and Terry Clark a good buddy over in near Pittsburgh once said, look at everything done being done in your community by your competitors, and then do something different getting involved in your community is going to help looking at your skill set and saying all right, how can What can I do that's different picking up the phone, call your lab and just say to the lab, what's new? There's so many products out there. The pandemic didn't kill technology. No. And I mean, I've got I've got prints outside my house here you had going Glen Clark on a while ago and Glen and I work together a lot of different projects. Over the years, he got me introduced to a product called performance e x t metal, and he was a photo I've got prints on the outside of my house. Now I live in Florida, and everybody's got a pool, but you're outside all day. And I don't care where you are in the United States. You've got a back porch. What What an idea to have a print that's outside in all kinds of weather, it's getting back to having fun again, and you've really got to take a look at it. And for a lot of photographers it means take a break and say alright, what am I missing here? And what do I need? What would make me wake up every morning and dive out of bed because I couldn't wait to get to work.

Gary Pageau  
Speaking of fun, this was fun. So thank you for your time. Skip. I appreciate it. You got it. And hopefully we'll do it again soon and have a great 2021

Skip Cohen  
Well, this is gonna be a fun year cuz I think the back half of 2021 we're all smart enough now to stay safe and stay healthy and still have a lot of fun.

Erin Manning  
Thank you for listening to the dead pixels society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at www the dead pixels society.com