When you take a full helping of style, two handfuls of thoughtful preparation and friendly pep, a pinch of sparkle and a hint of love it all adds up to Shay Cochrane, the woman behind one of our biggest obsessions, SC Stockshop. Shay’s images bring our eyes to a complete stop every time, capturing our hearts with her on trend, glamorous yet homey styled shots that are everything we could ever want and more. Today she is taking us behind the lens and sharing her creative story and inspiration.
What inspired you to start SC Stockshop?
When I opened the SC Stockshop back in November of 2014 it was to meet a specific need that I saw in some of my clients and friends. Large stock agencies and stock websites already existed but their images tended to be commercial and “stiff” and it was is often hard to find what you were looking for. Rarely would a small creative business turn to a source like these to help them sell a product or to bring a beautiful photographic element into their branding. That same year I had transitioned from 8 years as a wedding and portrait photographer into being strictly a commercial product stylist, styling and photographing products for predominantly small creative businesses that needed beautiful product images comparable to what we see in bigger brands.
These creative business owners needed to have stunning images to use to promote their shops and products in a professional, polished and consistent way. They needed the type of images that could compete with the Kate Spades and Lily Pulitzers of the retail industry so that potential customers would give their product or service a chance. The problem was that these creatives were not photographers and therefore didn’t have the time or ability to shoot images themselves and many of the creatives that contacted me were not quite at the stage of their business to be able to invest in custom commercial photography. That is how the Stockshop was born. I think what made it an overnight success was that, at the time, it was one of the few sources that made beautiful, on-trend styled imagery accessible to start up businesses. Styled stock was a bit of a new idea and I think that because it solved a specific need and was also powerful at increasing sales among its users it instantly got a lot of support from the people that we set out to serve!
Your styled images are absolutely breathtaking! Have you always been a styling natural?
Haha, Well thank you! Product styling was one of those things that I didn’t know that I was any good at until I started doing it! I have always loved working with my hands through things like gardening so I suppose it was always in me somewhere. I still struggle with being able to teach styling because to me it is just something that you feel out as you go. I study good styling via Pinterest and Instagram and try to pay attention to what feel natural but there are not really any rules to follow so it just takes time and lots of experimentation!
Tell us one thing that entrepreneurship surprised you with – what did you learn from it?
I have always loved owning a business and the challenge of entrepreneurship. There was a period of time early on in my wedding and portrait photography career that I did not really consider myself a true creative. I thought of myself as someone who loved business and the photography was just the fill in the blank. I am a true left brained creative so I thrive on business strategy and the science of it all. I think the biggest lesson that I have learned though has been that there really is something magical about finding that perfect combination of your unique passion + meeting a real need for your client. I also think that before I started doing commercial photography and opened the Stockshop I grossly underestimated how powerful finding a niche could be.
How do you decided on a new series to shoot? We absolutely loved all of your spring florals and summer fruits!
We really try to keep an eye on what our clients seem to like and the images that they purchase from the shop. This includes popular color palettes and compositions. I like to take hints from fashion and lifestyle blogs about what is current and also what it timeless. We only hop on a trend or fulfill a client request if it really is a perfect match for our own aesthetic. We listen to what clients are asking for but we also stay true to what types of images we would use ourselves and what is personally inspiring. That has allowed us to stay true to create an authentic and recognizable style that our clients can spot from a mile away!
What are two quick pieces of photo advice you have for the everyday picture taker?
1) Don’t compromise your lighting. The most beautiful images are those that are well lit with diffused natural window light.
2) Simple is often better. Go for a clean image without competing and distracting elements.
What are your tricks for balancing family life with the working world?
I have to keep these two as separate as possible. When I was trying to work and be a mom at the same time it was just a mess. My work time was inconsistent which makes it hard for your clients and likely it means you end up working late nights and weekends. I hated the mom that I was and how I felt pulled in different directions. I would take my frustration out on my kids when they wanted my attention while I had work to do. It just wasn’t healthy. Now I work two full days a week and my kids are out of the house and in school/daycare for those two days. I guard those two work days and am able to be 100% present in my business without any distractions. I also say no to anything and everything else that will not fit into that two day a week work schedule so that I am almost never working after 5 pm or on weekends or non-work days. This means that I say “no” a lot but it has kept me creatively fresh, protects against burnout, forces me to be selective so that I take only projects that are a good fit and allows me to be 100% present for my husband and kids every other day of the week.
Tell us two things about yourself that we couldn’t find out ourselves!
1) I am actually much more goofy and laid back then I tend to come across online. When it comes to work I tend to be “all business” but in the evenings you can find me in my home embarrassing my kids with loud boisterous songs and silly antics.
2) I am not a pet person. So many people are “pet people” that I kind of fear for my life if I say that out loud but, its true. I sort of hate pets. Haha sorry people.
We love your line “I am a firm believer that my work needs to serve my life and not the other way around.” Tell us what that means to you!
Yay! It is so very easy as business owners to start to compromise everything that we care about for the sake of our business. We work over dinner, take laptops on vacation, check out e-mail on date night…we lose sight of why we started working for ourselves in the first place – so that we could be present for what really matters in life! We tell ourselves that we “have” to do certain things and break certain boundaries for the sake of our business. When I begin to orchestrate the rest of life around what “needs” to happen for work I have gotten of course and both myself and my family suffers. My business, in my opinion, is meant to serve my life, to make it better, more fun, provide an outlet or bring in extra money that will bless the family…the second that it becomes a burden on me or my family is when I know that I need to take a step back and reassess.
What does your perfect Friday evening look like?
Well, every Thursday night is our standing date night which is so essential to our marriage (now 10 years strong!) but Friday night is family movie night in our house! I make tacos and we snuggle up with the girls on the couch to watch a family movie. This means more to our girls then I anticipated and they get really sad when we have to miss it because of other things on the calendar. I am not good at sitting still and spending focused time with them so family movie night is one of those opportunities that I can say no to everything else and be 100% present.
What word represents the twenty-something decade?
Exploration. Now that I just turned 30 (what!?) I see the struggle and blessings of our 20’s. They are often full of major life changes, insecurities, opportunity and trying to figure out what you want out of life. Its a beautiful thing and I think it’s a season of life for taking risks and pursuing opportunities without fear of failure. I’m also happy to finally feel a little more secure in who I am, what I am good (and not good at) and what really matters to me in life!
For more of Shay and her beautiful images visit her at ShayCochrane.com