Interview with Sandra Coan


One Hour Photo Featuring Sandra Coan


Lesson Info

Interview with Sandra Coan

All right, it is time to bring on our special guest, Sandra Coan. Sandra come on out, thanks for joining me here. Yeah! Great to have ya here. Pull up a chair, let's have a chat, Let's do it. and look at some photos. So you are a portrait photographer who specializes in newborn, is that correct? Yes, that's true. How long have you been doing this? Forever. (laughing) So I started my business kind of by accident really about 17 years ago, 1999 2000, Okay. Is when I started and yeah it just kinda took off and I've been doing it ever since, but I love it. Well, was it a hobby, before that or? It was always a hobby, I always grew up with a camera in my hand. My dad was a big photography enthusiast. We had a dark room in our house so I remember going in the basement with him as a little kid and developing and doing all that so it was something I always had done. I just never considered it a career option or that it was even, that was even a possibility. Right. And so...

what happened was I was teaching kindergarten and kind of struggling as a first year teacher on a teaching income, that's a whole nother story, (both laughing) like how sad that is and one of my best friends had gotten pregnant and she was our first one in our group of friends to have a baby. It was the 90s and so I was like oh we should do some of those you know maternity photos like Demi Moore you know and so she said okay so we took, I took a bunch of photos for her and she was the one that said she was like I love my pictures. Nobody's really doing this, you should offer this as a way to bring in a little extra income. I was like okay so I took my one picture that I liked and I turned it into like a postcard and went around Seattle and putting them in every coffee shop and like, Oh, geez. maternity store. Like old school marketing. Yeah. And people started calling and I started getting clients and then maternity work led to newborns and within six months I went to part time teaching. Wow. And then yeah, and then I did part time for about three years and then I quit my teaching job and did photography full time. Wow, it's really interesting to hear people's story about how they get started and how they get successful because there's a lot of ways that you can use photography. You could be shooting weddings, you know, Yeah. You could be shooting landscape, Oh, I've done that too. all sorts of things. (both laughing) But it's one of the things that I have found is that when people are good at something, they seem to hit like yeah this hit really quickly. Yeah. And it kinda came on quickly, did you feel like that for you? I did but I didn't realize it at the time. Yeah. I think that that's completely true, I think when you're kind of on the right path, the path will rise, Just seems easy. up to meet you. Yeah, for me that was portrait work so maternity, newborns, family that all came really easy to me. I'd always been drawn to portrait work, like I used to travel a lot and even in my travels you know I'd be at the Louvre and everybody else would be taking pictures of the Louvre and I'd be taking pictures of the people you know in front of it. So I was always drawn to portrait work but early in my career, I decided that if I was going to become a full time photographer, I was gonna have to shoot weddings which like made zero sense 'cause I'd never shot a wedding at all. That's what everyone says it's like boot camp for photographers. (laughing) Exactly so it's like okay I guess I'll do this and then I did that for a few years. I was like this is crazy and I went back to portrait work. So you know there was a little bit of wiggle room in the beginning and I think that that happens with a lot of photographers when you're trying to like figure out what your voice is. But at the end of the day, I've been a portrait photographer, I've always been a portrait photographer. Even when I was shooting weddings, I was known for my portraits like I would be hired because I was really good at doing those like big family group, Oh, right, right. photos. Right, that all photographers hate, I loved that. I was like give me the family and we'll sit everybody in chairs and they'll all look in the camera, And yeah, so. I love doing the big group shots. I love it. I mean it's the one, few time that I get to be in charge of everybody. Yeah. No matter what you say, they have to do it. Oh yeah, and all that training as a kindergarten teacher comes in handy, Oh, I bet. 'Cause you're working with like a group of like rowdy groomsmen or whatever and you snap and get that teacher voice and people listen. Look at it, put that down. Yes, Hey friend, yeah.

Class Description

Click here to ask John Greengo your questions for future One Hour Photos!

Every month, John gives you an hour of expert guidance and immediate feedback with student questions and critiques in this exciting new series we're calling One Hour Photo. John will also sit down with one guest photographer who will offer insights, advice and industry knowledge, and participate in a photo critique of student images. This month's guest is Sandra Coan.

Sandra Coan is a film photographer specializing in studio portraiture and family photography, with over sixteen year’s experience working in both film and digital photography. Her award-winning work has been featured in a variety of publications including Click Magazine, Lemonade and Lenses and Seattle Bride. Sandra's work is also part of the Seattle Museum of History and Industry’s permanent collection. Sandra is an educator with a passion for teaching others about the beauty of film photography and the joys of building and running a successful photography business. Check out her CreativeLive classes here.



Enjoyed this wonderful conversation with Sandra Coan and I love her photographs and how she seems to get the personality of the baby and the person she is photographing. So happy when I see someone using film.

a Creativelive Student

This is great, John. Thank you!