I’m not sure if you guys are up to date on who Clay Cook is, but you should be. Because as I speak he’s on his way to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro in aid of Charity, it’s a truly kick ass event! More details here.
So I’ve had this plan for a while now spanning from Lara Jade to Peter Hurley and more where I want to bring you these killer intimate articles where not only do we get to see a serious glimpse into what it’s taken these guys and gals to succeed but also how it’s impacted them into the journey they have today.
Depression is something I truly hold close to my heart and my motivation for creating these write ups is to educate people out there, young and old alike whom just want some more guidance into just how much it takes to become successful as a business entrepreneur,
Now I can’t guarantee in the slightest anyone else will jump on board, but it will certainly be my aim to grab as many creatives that inspire me as possible to continually bring you guys education, knowledge, insight and some perspective.
My friends, I give you Mr. Clay Cook and his top 5 things that changed the game.
1. Kicking Technicalities for Content
I only photograph one child about two times a year–my nephew, Jake. Nearly three years ago, I captured an image of Jake that, in my opinion, was perfect. The light was perfect, the expression was perfect, and I was quite proud of the image. Photographers loved the image and I received great feedback from family and friends.
When I showed the image to my mother, she loved it, but immediately pulled out her iPhone and showed an image she had just captured the day before on her iPhone. Jake was laughing, looked happy and, more importantly, was wearing a University of Alabama shirt.
The iPhone image was out of focus, dark, and the composition was off, but that image ended up in a big frame.
It perplexed me and bothered me for days to follow, I didn’t know whether to feel slightly offended or just accept that the image I captured wasn’t what it cracked up to be. But when I sat down and compared the two images, the answer was clear. It all boiled down to subject matter. Although I had the “perfect” photograph, the laughing and wardrobe of my mom’s iPhone shot was the winner.
It changed my outlook on photography and I garnered a grand respect for those that kick the technicalities for composition and concept. I made it a personal mission to focus on content and context before setting up any sort of light, or picking up the camera. I had spent half my career focused on the lighting, catchlights and grading, but in a selfish manner I totally ignored the most important virtue of a photograph–the subject at hand. It’s not about the gear or the camera, it’s about your creativity, vision and ability to connect with people.
2. Overcoming Fear with Strategic Risks
Fear has many faces, not just a phobia, it’s apart of human nature. It can be the smallest obstacle that gives the most anxiety. I believe that conquering fear only makes us stronger. In order to build a successful business, we all have to make strategic risks; invest capital to gain capital, reach out of our comfort zone or even risk our own life for amazing composition. I didn’t truly succeed in photography until I began to push my business into uncertainty.
Recently, I took the risk of hosting a workshop out of the United States. I flew an entire crew over to London, United Kingdom from Louisville, Kentucky for a intense two-day workshop. It was the first time I’d ever hosted anything to the magnitude overseas, and it was quite the step for a photographer that grew up with just some big dreams. It required a lot of upfront capital and I had to survey some very unknown territory. Nevertheless, I believe that reward is in the risk.
3. Brett Jarnigan Workshop
In 2011, just 6 months into my photography career, I became heavily involved in the local photography community. Through this group I learned about Brett Jarnigan, who happened to be hosting his “Flashfire Workshops” for a small group of select photographers. At first glance of his portfolio, I was hooked. Brett’s use of cross-lighting and light painting was something that I had never seen from any photographer; I had to attend.
I always had a good vision and knew what I wanted, but I just didn’t have the technical knowledge to see it all through. This workshop is what pushed everything through the glass ceiling. Unfortunately, Brett is no longer hosting workshops, but has really become quite the musician.
Those photographers close to me, saw a switch flip. To this day many tell me that is where everything really changed for my photography, I haven’t taken a workshop since. I don’t recommend taking workshop after workshop in the endless pursuit of the best knowledge. Just do a fair amount of research beforehand and invest in the best!
4. Work Balance – Lifestyle
Health and my personal relationships have always taken backseat to career. I’m a very strong-willed person and when I get my eyes something, it’s hard for me to let go. My passion has always kept me moving and pushed me to explore the boundaries of the human threshold. At 30 years old, I was living an extreme lifestyle of unhealthy eating and non-stop motion.
I finally decided to take on the momentous task of reaching out to my old-friend Sol Perry, a nutritionist and trainer who had successful lost over 100 pounds himself. It wasn’t easy finally coming to the realization of how poor I had treated my body over the past 5 years. We set goals, shifted my lifestyle and started on a path of work-life-balance and wellness.
Suddenly I was handed opportunities I could have never imagined. It felt like a snowball, one success after another. One opportunity after another. Perhaps it was the wake-up call I needed to push myself to new heights. I believe that in order to maximize workload, you must have a firm foundation and solid health. The constant barrage of e-mail, social media, project preparation, marketing and photography suddenly became easier to handle and delegate.
5. Photek Softlighter
I’ve always wanted to be like Annie Leibovitz, Norman Jean Roy and Patrick Demarchelier; my heroes. Upon my initial investigation into re-creating their imagery, I found that the 46” Photek Softlighter was a constant element to their dramatic lighting aesthetic. In nearly every behind the scenes, I would notice the octagonal umbrellas lightly feathered off to the side of the subject. Immediately, I went into action and purchased the modifier.
Upon arrival of the product, I quickly realized the attraction, it was the softest-most versatile light-shaping tool I had ever examined. My style quickly adapted and I began to use the modification on nearly every photograph. I learned the best method, the sweet spot and never looked back. I still use the 46” Photek Softlighter to this day on most every project contracted. It’s portability, look and price point is simply un-matched.
If you wish to donate to Clay and the charities cause hit him up here. he still has $300 to go in order to hit his $2000 target as of this piece!