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New Year, New Photography Podcast!

What I learned about my photography business (and why I’m burning it all down)

Hello friends!  Welcome to a brand new year, a brand new podcast and a brand new direction for me, my business and my community!

I made a lot of changes last year that my team and I are now officially sharing with the world.  I have basically burned my business to the ground, and like a phoenix, I’m rising up fresh and new from the ashes!

So on today’s episode I’m going to tell you what led me to this place.  Why I’ve decided to burn it all down, and what I’m building in its place!

Hello friends!  Welcome to a brand new year, a brand new podcast and a brand new direction for me, my business and my community!

I made a lot of changes last year that my team and I are now officially sharing with the world.  I have basically burned my business to the ground, and like a phoenix, I’m rising up fresh and new from the ashes!   So on today’s episode I’m going to tell you what led me to this place.  Why I’ve decided to burn it all down, and what I’m building in its place!

I have been on a journey, and I’ve learned a lot about myself and about the photography education industry over the past couple of years.

 I’ve burned down my old business structure and am doing something totally new!

 So on today’s episode I’m going to tell you why.  And what’s to come in 2024.

Back story….

My dad died suddenly in Aug. of  2021.

And it completely shook me. He and I were very close.  He was healthy and I just wasn’t prepared to lose him the way I did.  

Since then, I’ve been on the journey of grief.  

And grief is very uncomfortable and very painful, but  from the beginning I told myself that I wasn’t going to run away from it.  

Grief is such a universal human experience, I decided to just surrender to it, and learn what it has to teach me.  

And it’s launched this era of self discovery.  

I wasn’t expecting grief to teach me so much about myself.  I was 49 when my dad died.  And by 49, 50… I thought I knew who I was pretty well.  But I’ve come to learn there is a part of you that you can only get to know by losing someone really close to you and being in deep grief.

It’s kind of like becoming a parent, there is this part of you, the part that is the parent, that you only get to know by having children.  

It sounds weird, because like I said, I was 49 when my dad died.  But I don’t know that I felt completely like an adult before he died.  He always called me “his little girl” and I felt that- in a good way.  And now I don’t.  I feel like a grown up.

And that perspective shift has helped me see a lot of things in a new light.

 I don’t think I was very good with boundaries before.  

I definitely have people’s pleasing tendencies.  Traditionally it’s been hard for me to say no, and to speak up for myself… but over the past two years, all of that is getting easier.  It’s like I don’t feel the need to be anything but 100% honest now.  I don’t have a filter anymore. And while I’m not always graceful, I’m learning a lot about what it really means to love myself and trust myself… cheesy as it sounds, that’s been my journey so far.

And it’s been really interesting, even though it hasn’t always been fun.

My dad was a teacher.

He taught land surveying at a local community college.  He was active in the surveying community.  He was a Vietnam vet and led PTSD support groups for other vets.  He loved travel and food and wine, and most of all, he really loved people.  He was a helper and he left a mark on the world.  A legacy.  That we, his family, got to witness at his memorial.

 And I’m inspired by that.

After he died, I started thinking more about who I want to be.  The life I want to live.  The mark I want to make and the legacy I want to leave behind.

And so here I am… 

It has been a rough few years. 

2020 was well, 2020. 2021 we lost my dad.  2022 I was just kind of treading water. But I also felt like I was seeing clearer than I had before. 

The things that used to feel important to me, didn’t any more.  I realized I was tired of jumping through hoops and playing games. And I don’t want to do that any more.

Instead I feel this deep need to give back, REALLY help people on a whole new level…  create a legacy I would be proud of when it’s my time to leave the mortal coil.

I took a hard look at my businesses and realized that there were some HUGE problems with it… especially in my education business, but also, in the photography education industry as a whole.  

The current paradigm doesn’t work for most photographers.

It makes the industry a ton of money, but doesn’t help photographers to make the progress they need to get unstuck and be seen.

And so I spent 2023 laying the groundwork for how I was going to change my participation in that paradigm inside my own business.

And that work led me to changing my entire business model. I’m closing down so many of my most popular classes, re-imagining how I teach, and coming up with a business model that I believe is SO much better for the photographers I serve, even though it breaks all the rules that are currently established in the industry.

That program is Sandra Coan Certification.

It is ground breaking and mark my words, by this time next year, I predict we’re going to be seeing a lot of copy cats, because I’m on to something. I’m going to tell you about why it’s so ground breaking and why you want in, in a minute.

I also have a brand new website that is gorgeous!  I’ll link it here.

I’m taking this podcast in a new direction.

In 2024 we are saying good-bye to Beyond Natural Light photography and Hello to Unpopular Opinions by Sandra Coan:  Real Talk From Inside the Photography Industry…. And I’m SO excited!

I started my photography business in 1999.

That means as of 2024, I’m 25 years into this profession.  I run a very successful studio, we see about 300 clients a year, so it’s a busy studio.  

I’m also an industry educator.  I’m a public speaker.  I’m a best selling author.  I’m backed and sponsored by some of the biggest brands in the industry.  

You guys, I know a lot.  I’ve been doing this a really long time.

I’m a very technically proficient shooter, but I also know a lot about how to run a business. I’m good at systems and at marketing. I know a ton about the photography industry in general.  And I have a lot of opinions that I want to share with you.

I want a platform that I can speak my mind and be 100% honest about all the things, and so this is it.

I also know a lot of people in the industry and I’m sure they’ve got opinions too, and so I’m going to be reaching out and asking.

I want to have real, honest conversations about the art of photography, the business of photography and about life in general.   And I’m really excited about it!  If you are as well, then please be sure to subscribe on what ever platform you listen on and please make this the place to be!

I also want to bring a level of transparency into my teaching, which is why I created the Sandra Coan Certification Program.

I started my education company with the best intentions.  

I wanted to help other photographers succeed, and so I did what everyone in the education space does, I made a series of classes around specific topics.  

And that was a mistake. 

The truth is,  for a photographer to truly be successful, you need to know all the things. You need to know the technical things, but you also need to know how to position your brand and market your business.

Learning things one class at a time takes a long time.  It also keeps you stuck in the hamster wheel of purchasing class after class after class, but not really getting anywhere.

So I’m changing that system in my own business… I don’t think it works, I think it’s broken.

I’m retiring my one off classes, and teaching EVERYTHING I know inside of Sandra Coan Certification.

We start with the technical things:  lighting, posing, editing.  But we also get into portfolio curation, website design, brand building, so you can stand out in a crowded industry and marketing! 

I’m teaching EVERYTHING I have learned over the course of my 25 year career!   

AND, it includes two critical pieces that are missing in most of the education programs that are out there for photographers, feedback and certification.

Listen, in addition to being a photographer, I am a certified teacher.  I went to teacher school.  And I know that people need feedback, they need assessment and they need something to let them know they have learn the skill and are good at it, and that is missing in the current photography education paradigm.

So inside of SCC I work one-on-one with the photographers in the program and give them critiques, feedback and mentoring to insure they are actually making progress!  

The other thing the program offers is certification!  So YOU, the photographer can know that you have been trained and tested and that you have earn my seal of approval… no more questioning your skills.  No more wondering if you have what it takes.  You’ve been trained, mentored, tested and you’ll know.

Game changer. And like I said, watch out, because others are going to see the benefits of what I’m doing and how helpful it is, and by this time next year, there will be clones.  

So, be sure to get on the waitlist so you can be a part of this paradigm shifting program.  We’re opening applications soon!

SO there you have it!  Now you know why I’ve burned it all and down, and am starting over, I really hope you are as excited as I am… I can’t wait to share this new direction with you!