November 2012 Archive

Essentials Workshop seat winner and a surprise!

This decision was nothing short of AGONIZING! As in, I have been avoiding it for the past 48 hours and was up until almost midnight last night reading over entries and looking over websites and STILL could not make a decision! Ashlee and I believe so firmly in this workshop and how it is going to be an absolute GAME CHANGER in the lives of the attendees that we cannot stand the thought of someone not being able to come.  I seriously wish we could just give every single person a free seat.  But since we can’t, we did have to pick a winner and her name is Katie Yaklin of Kathryn Adele Photography!

For those of you who did not win, do not give up! Ashlee and I would move mountains to get you to this workshop and we have a little something special for you…stay tuned and keep your phone close by!

For the rest of you, there are a few seats left to the Essential’s workshop on Dec 1st!  For information on the workshop and to register for your seat visit!

Congrats Katie!

Be intentional. Be a servant. Be a blessing.

As I write this, we are on 95 somewhere between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville heading north along the Florida coast. We are slowly making our way toward VA and family that we are anxious to give thanks with over heaping dishes of delicious food.  The minivan is packed to the brim, Cheerios on the floor, trash in every spare compartment, toys dangling from every corner…just your typical family road trip. Making memories!

Some of you have been following along with a little  Facebook Colossians study that I have been doing for the past 10 or so weeks.  Last week we were studying this passage and the first time I read it I knew that God was giving me a specific challenge for this Thanksgiving holiday…

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against the other, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing songs and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And what ever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:12-17

Be intentional. Be a servant. Be a blessing.

Many of you are going “home” to difficult family situations; broken homes, conflicting beliefs, strong personalities, and competing expectations.   It is so easy to build up in our hearts what we hope the holidays will look like and then when we are there in the middle of it we just end up exhausted and bitter when it doesn’t meet those expectations. But this passage gives hope.  It gives a “better way” no matter what your family circumstance is.  The challenge?  To take yourself, your desires and your expectations out of it and to go into the situation to give, to pour out, and to be a blessing.  This takes a lot of resolve and intentionality.  You have to set your heart on it no matter the “feed back”  you receive. You have to intentionally decide to have those important conversations that need to be had – to forgive, to mend, to encourage, to build up.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against the other, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. “

“Put on” – here is where the intentionality begins.  We will NOT resort to these things naturally, no matter how good our intentions.  Most of the character traits listed revolve around the way we interact with others.  All of them challenge us not to make it about ourselves – what we want, what we need, whats “fair.” There is also an even more difficult challenge – to forgive.  Not optional.  “So you MUST forgive.” If you are a believer then you have been forgiven much and out of that love that has been poured out on you there MUST flow a love that ultimately values the person more than the personal wrong done. MUST. Forgive. MUST Restore. MUST.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”

There is always something “ruling” in our hearts.  Generally, it is just plain selfishness – self preservation – “looking out for number one” but often times it is also overwhelming anxiety, stress, discontentment, disappointment, desire to be in control,frustration… Whatever is ruling in your hearts is ultimately the motivation behind the decisions you make. How are you going to handle that conversation?  What are you going to choose as the attitude of your heart in this situation? I must CHOOSE to let the peace of God have the seat of authority in my heart so that all of my words and actions this week flow out of that. Then I can begin to obediently celebrate this time of year by being thankful.  The peace of God gives me the freedom to stop worrying about my self, my needs, my feelings, my control of things, and instead be thankful for everything out of a heart full of peace that comes from who I am in God – holy (positionally secure as his child) and beloved (the one that he sent his son to die for).

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing songs and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And what ever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him.”

This all sounds great but you know what?  No matter how good my intentions are, no matter how hard I try, I am going to fail if I try to do it based on my own attempt at good will.  So, God provides the key to it all right there tucked in at the end of the passage. You would almost miss this vital instruction if you read too quickly…“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Everything before this little command and everything after it, ALL are made possible if we SATURATE our hearts and our minds with God’s word.  My heart does not default to scripture, or even biblical wisdom.  My heart defaults to selfishness and pride unless I continually water down the toxic sludge of my worldly angst with the pure water of Gods word.  Water it down until it is gone.  Until I am reminded of what matters.  Until I can take the focus of of me and put it on them. Be intentional. Be a servant. Be a blessing to my family this holiday season.

Win a free seat to the Essentials workshop!!

***UPDATE*** I’m traveling all day and won’t be able to pick a winner until tonight! This gives everyone one more day to enter to win and get “likes” ! I am enjoying reading over the entries and will post the winner here late tonight!!!

So ya’ll know Thursday is Friday around the Cochrane house and so what was going to be a BIG Friday announcement is going out today, just for you!  As many of you had hoped, we will be giving away ONE totally, absolutely, completely, amazing-ly FREE seat to the upcoming Essential’s workshop on Dec 1st !!!!  Follow the instructions below for your chance to win now through Sunday night at midnight.  The winner will be announced here on Monday!

To enter to win simply do the following.  Both steps are needed to win:

1. Comment here on the blog about why you NEED to be at this year’s Essentials workshop! Include a link to your Facebook page.

2. Post the following on your Facebook page:

Help me to win a seat at the Essentials workshop by liking this post!

The person with the most convincing entry here on the blog AND the highest number of “likes” on their FB post will win the free seat!!

We can’t wait to read your entries!  Good luck!

FAQ: Portfolio Purging

In today’s FAQ we will tackle the question of how to narrow down and clear out images to create an effective website portfolio.  As photographers we have a few characteristics that wreck havoc when it comes to creating and maintaining our website portfolio. We get emotionally attached to certain shoot experiences and images, we are secretly insecure about our work, are terrible at narrowing down images and even worse at choosing a “best” image from the shoot. We are afraid of loosing a potential client and so we display work that isn’t our true style and we think too much like photographers and not enough like our potential clients!  How do I know all this…because I am GUILTY of it myself!! The result is a website where the true “gems” are buried beneath a sea of mediocre images that we can’t seem to part with for one reason or another.  We have too many categories for fear of loss of a potential type of client and within those categories we have too many images in general and too many repeat images from the same session.  The bottom line that we miss…

A website with 5 incredible images is more effective than 50 mediocre images.

Specifically, a website with 5 incredible images that represent your true style and speak to your target market is WAY more effective in so many ways, than 40 mediocre images that each represent some small element of your style or that you have kept just to show “variety” or “flexibility” in what you can shoot and categorically are cast out to too wide of a market for fear of loss of a type of client.  This is just one topic that I am super excited to cover more in depth at the upcoming Branding and Business Essentials workshop on Dec 1st!!  As a part of the workshop we have even created time for individualized portfolio review to talk one-on-one about how to improve your specific web portfolio to better represent your clarified brand and reach your target market!

In the mean time, here are a few guidelines to get you started.

1. Determine your target market. What type of work do you really love? Where is your passion?

2. Identify your style. What characteristics of your work make you different/unique?

3. Create web portfolio categories that reflect your target market. Get rid of the rest.  Don’t keep a category out of fear of loss of a potential client. Seriously.

4. Narrow down your images. And then narrow down again. And again. And again. Until you have about 10-30 images (per category) that are AMAZING and perfectly capture your style and will move (i.e emotionally connect) with your target market. As a general guideline, do not show more than 3 images from a given shoot unless it is not identifiable as being from the same event. (i.e a shot of a bride, a reception dancing shot, a detail shot etc) This is especially true for portrait photography!! With weddings you can get away with more images but portraits need to have no more than 3 from a given shoot. Preferably just 1 amazing image that connects with your market! Your blog is where you feature more images from the same session and even there the same principle applies – less is more!

5. Your first image sets the tone and should be your very best. Apply this principle to both your first image on your site and the first image of each category.

I know you are busy with shooting and editing and blogging and life but I cannot stress how crucial this is to getting your business to the point where you are thriving both personally and professionally! Not only is it crucial to getting the clients of your dreams but it is an enormously beneficial and important part of developing as an artist and business owner! I know it sounds overwhelming.  Just start somewhere. Make today the day that you take the first step.  You will be SO glad that you did!

For more information on the upcoming Branding and Business Essentials workshop and to get your seat visit the website! Photographers – what is the best advice that you have ever received about narrowing down and creating a website portfolio?

FAQ: Sharp Shots and a special announcement!

In preparation for the upcoming Branding and Business workshop for photographers on Dec 1, I am going to be doing a special collection of FAQ posts this month answering questions submitted by you! Today’s questions is…

“It seems like only about 2 to 3 out of 5 photos I take, are sharp and in focus. I mess with my f stop and shutter speed, but I just can’t seem to be consistent…”

This is a common problem that I cover in depth at my beginner professional’s workshop.  I remember hearing the hard truth quite a few times from the photographer who mentored me.  With a few creative exceptions, if an image is out of focus or if the eyes are out of focus then the image is worthless and has NO place on your website.  There are two general types of problems with out of focus, dull or blurry images and they have different solutions so lets tackle them one at a time…

The first is when the “wrong” part of the image is in focus. For example, you have a pretty straightforward simple close up portrait of a child. On the back of your camera the image looks sharp But when you get it on to your computer at home you see that their hand or shirt, or ear is in focus but the “important” part of the image, their eyes for example, is not in focus. As an amateur, we go way wrong when we give this type of image to a client and decide to still use it on our site because we just “love” the image so much that we sacrifice the technical proficiency lesson to be learned here.  Scrap the image and work harder to do it right next time (I told you its hard truth!).  So what is the cause?  The two most common causes (and the solutions) to this type of blurry image problem are:

1. Not moving your focus point and instead letting the camera do the thinking for you.

Without getting too technical, you have a few options on your camera as it related to choosing your focus point.  Every camera has a certain number of focus points that you can see (usually as little gray points or boxes) when you look through your view finder.  The point that will be in focus for a given shot will generally light up in red when you begin to push the shutter button.  The better the camera the more focus points you will have available to you.  A consumer level camera may have 3-6 points to choose from.  A professional grade camera will have upwards of 9+ focus points.  If your camera is set to auto select the “correct” focus point it will survey the subject and choose the focus point for you, generally based on either what part of the subject is closest to the camera or on areas of high contrast.  Both are often the creatively WRONG place to focus!  This is where YOU are smarter than your camera.  You need to open your users manual and figure out how to manually select the focus point and then force yourself to become comfortable with manually adjusting the focus point for each shot.  It feels very cumbersome at first but I promise that once you have made it a habit you will do it without even thinking about it.  There is also another method where you “lock” the focus on your subject and then recompose.  I find this to be less consistent but there are many photographers who shoot this way with success. (All of these options are digital in-camera controls done with your lens still set to auto focus and not manual focus)

2. Using two wide of an aperture for the subject.

If your lens has the capacity to shoot with a very wide aperture like 1.4 or 1.8 it could be that you are choosing too wide of an aperture for the subject.  I go into understanding aperture and focus more in my beginner/hobbyist workshop but essentially, you need to make sure that you are choosing the correct aperture for the subject.  You may not be able to shoot a family of four at 1.8, or 2.8 for that matter and have all of their faces be in focus.  The wider the aperture the smaller or tighter area of the image will be sharp so you have to be in complete control of your focus point and really know how to pose your subjects when shooting wide open to get sharp results.

The image below is right out of the camera and is one that I “trashed” from a shoot two weeks ago for this very reason.  If you look closely, the mom’s nose and eyelash are sharper than the the baby’s face and eyes which is clearly the “subject” of this image.  In this instance I was not paying close enough attention to where I had set my focus point while shooting with a wide aperture.  The second image was taken a second later and is the edited final image that I gave to the client. I had readjusted my focus point so that baby’s face and eyes were sharply in focus. On the back of your camera both of these images will look in focus. That is why it is imperative that you take a minute to zoom into your images periodically on the back of your camera to make sure that they are in focus!

The second type of blurry images is when the overall entire image looks hazy/blurry or just lacks sharpness. There are a few possible causes of this type of “blurry” result.  Some of the most popular causes include…

1) You are shooting in low light (indoors for example) and your shutter speed is having to slow way down (under 150) to correctly expose the image, which in turn is capturing general camera shake (the natural movement that happen when you push down the shutter button, or breath, or move at all at that slow of a shutter speed). The solution is to either make sure that you are able to really stabilize your self while taking the picture at a slow shutter speed by leaning on a wall, firmly planting your feet, or even setting the camera on top of a hard surface OR learn to shoot in manual and adjust the other necessary components (ISO and APERTURE) to better expose the image in low light. When you know that you are going to be shooting in these kind of conditions you can also set your camera to shoot in burst mode which will give you a better chance of getting at least one of those images in focus – assuming the problem is camera shake.

2) As a last resort if you have tried the solution above or if you are getting images shot outdoors in full daylight that are still lacking sharpness then you may just need better glass!  Camera lenses are one of those areas where you generally get what you pay for.  The “kit” lenses that came with your camera are only going to be so good and an investment in a higher quality lens may make all of the difference.  Also, you will generally get better overall image quality with a prime lens as opposed to a zoom lens.  For more on this you will just have to attend a workshop;)

Speaking of which – I am opening up 2 or 3 seats to an upcoming “open mentor session” on Dec 15th from 9-12 in Tampa that will cover the material from the Beginner/Hobbyist workshop.  Cost is $150.  E-mail me at if you want one of those seats!

I hope that this was helpful! It was not exhaustive on this topic but hopefully covered some of the common simple solutions.  Feel free to send your questions to me via e-mail at or through a FB message on the Shay Cochrane Photography Facebook page and I will try to answer your question here on the blog!

If you missed the big announcement about the Business and Branding Essentials for Photographer’s workshop, check it out here!!

Happy shooting!

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