Podcast Episode 5: This is Paul Fox
Honoured to bring you the brilliant Paul Fox for episode 5 of the This is Reportage Podcast! Hailing from Cornwall, UK, Paul was one of our Top 30 Photographers of 2018, and has a real skill of creative, intimate documentary wedding photography. We talk about lots of subjects in this episode, including:
his love of Sony and mirrorless in general, tips on how to shoot really close, not being silent, educating your clients, growing up in Cornwall, from landscape to weddings, second shooting, his dogs (his “four legged little furry children”), a very surprising favourite film, why he personally enters awards, his use of social media, how he gets his bookings, the power of referrals, the ‘food subject’, what annoys him, how to really capture the fun and joy, how to get fun weddings, advice about client meetings, the importance of people skills and how that enables you to capture moments better, the most challenging aspect of wedding photography, why he doesn’t like to use a lot of flash, shooting a lot of images, being Arnie, his own wedding and being on the other side of the camera, the first thing he does after shooting a wedding, what he does in the quiet season, online training, top tips for people just starting out in the industry, and much more…
As always, there are various ways you can listen to the episode, including over on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts and within this post – we’ve also transcribed the interview with Paul below if you’d prefer to read. You can find all our other podcasts right here on the website, too.
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Alan Law: Hey Paul, thanks for joining us. How you doing?
Paul Fox: I’m good, man. How are you doing? You all right?
Alan Law: Yeah, good, good. Good stuff. Good stuff. How’s weddings been? I guess it’s a bit of a quieter season a bit now. How’s things?
Paul Fox: Yeah, just wound down now a couple weeks ago. Got a couple more to go this year. But, yeah, been a cracking season. Loads of really cool couples, which is the main thing. That’s the main thing I want.
Alan Law: Good stuff. Good stuff indeed. So you were one of the first photographers I knew to go Sony. And now the whole world of wedding photography is Sony. Your review of the A9 actually was a big influence on me in going Sony myself. So, yeah, still loving it? Still loving the A9?
Paul Fox: Yeah, man. Longest I’ve ever been with any one camera, which says it all. I’ve always jumped from one to another. I’m terrible for gear. I always keep my eye on gear.
Alan Law: Oh, really. Have you gone through lots of cameras?
Paul Fox: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I jumped on Mirrorless way back. Back in the sort of Fuji X-Pro1 days. Long before it was suitable for weddings, I was using it for weddings, which was stupid. I used to manually focus it, because the auto focus was that bad.
Alan Law: Oh, man. How did you manual focus a wedding?
Paul Fox: Yeah, I know. Yeah. No, I was running alongside a DSLR still, so it was a second cam for me. But I loved it. I just loved the way it worked. Made more sense. The whole looking through the actual lens, and not seeing the final image never worked for me. My brain is obviously not creative enough to picture that final image. I need to literally see it. So that’s how my brain functions better. And, as soon as I sort of moved over to Mirrorless, I felt like my work just got way better. I know it’s not about the gear, but it-
Alan Law: It helps.
Paul Fox: It helps if you’ve got the tool that suits the way that you work and your brain functions.
Alan Law: Yeah, definitely.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Yeah.
Alan Law: And so do you shoot with two A9s, do you?
Paul Fox: Yeah. Yeah. Two A9s, mostly kind of 24 mm, which I know you’re a big fan of.
Alan Law: Yeah, I do like.
Paul Fox: Yeah, I love my 24 mm. And 85 a fair bit, but I’ve kind of cut that down this last sort of 12 months. I’ve moved more to 24 and 50 as my main two. I always felt 85 was too tight, and I never really loved it. It’s just one of those focal lengths I can’t quite fall in love with totally. It just feels a bit too detached for me, dunno what it is, it’s just, yeah.
Alan Law: Right. And that’s what I love about your work, especially, is that you seem to get so physically close to the subjects. Do you have any tips for people who want to shoot close like that, but they’re maybe wary or a bit afraid in doing so?
Paul Fox: I think, obviously, you got to be a bit brave. It’s difficult at first, and I’ve got closer as my career’s gone on, definitely. And I think a lot of it is about body language. It’s about building up a bit of a rapport with people on the day. So I’m not one of those silent photographers. I do talk to people. I do chat. I don’t think it’s possible to be invisible on a wedding day.
Alan Law: Yeah, that’s true.
Paul Fox: I know that we’re all about reportage in this group, but you can’t not influence the wedding day. Because you’re obviously there with cameras. If you try and hide it, it’s just weird. So I figure, just embrace it. And just I’m not shy about people knowing I’m there photographing them. It’s more about them being relaxed about you doing it …
Alan Law: Cool.
Paul Fox: … as much as possible, I think. You can’t be in bride prep and they don’t know you’re there.
Alan Law: No, that’s right.
Paul Fox: You know what I mean?
Alan Law: We’re quite conspicuous.
Paul Fox: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, a guy with a beard and two cameras, he sticks out a bit in a room full of girls. So just embrace it, and just be a bit brave, and just dive in there and get stuck in. Most people, they might find it a little bit weird at first. But within five or 10 minutes, they get used to you and the way you work. And obviously, educating your clients is huge as well with that.
Alan Law: Yeah. What do you mean by that? Do you tell them beforehand that you’re going to work close?
Paul Fox: Yeah. I talk to people about that before they’ve even booked me, when they first kind of get in touch. I talk about how I work close to people. I might not be right in their faces all the time, but I do work in close to the action. And I sort of explain to them why, explain to them how that affects your images, and how they feel more intimate, and more like you’re actually a part of it.
Paul Fox: And I sort of explain how I think it’s weirder to be hiding far away with a long lens. If you’re relaxed at a wedding, and then you clock someone pointing a camera at you from across the room, and they’ve got a 70-200 pointed at you, I think that’s a bit more weird than when someone’s just openly photographing you from close by.
Alan Law: Yeah, that is so true. That really is true.
Paul Fox: Yeah. It’s less sneaky, isn’t it?
Alan Law: Yeah, definitely. And the resulting images are so much more intimate. And that really comes across in your work. It’s really intimate. It really makes the viewer feel like they were there. Yeah, it’s awesome.
Paul Fox: Thanks, man.
Alan Law: You grew up in Cornwall, which is where I’m based now as well. What was it like growing up down here? Did you want to be a surfer? Did you want to be a landscape photographer?
Paul Fox: No, I didn’t touch photography really until I was probably 25, something like that. So quite late to it. I was one of them geeky kids that was … Well, I was always good at maths and physics, and all that kind of stuff.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Really? Okay.
Paul Fox: Yeah. I mean, I did sports. I was really active with all that, but never really photography. I didn’t think of myself as creative or artistic at all, until I was mid-20s, and then started getting into the photography, which was landscapes.
Alan Law: Oh, it was, was it?
Paul Fox: Yeah, yeah.
Alan Law: You grew up in a perfect place for landscapes.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Just a friend of mine got into it, and I just sort of tagged along at first. And then started gradually stealing the camera more and more, and then bought my own. And, yeah, went from there. I didn’t really mean to get into it. It was one of those happy accidents. I think a lot of people are in it the same as that. They’ve just ended up in this profession somehow.
Alan Law: That’s true. Yeah. Same as me. How did you get to shoot your very first wedding?
Paul Fox: Oh, man. What was my first wedding? It was friends of a friend. That’s what it was. And I was cheap. I’m not going to lie. When I started out, yeah, I was way too cheap. I didn’t know anything about the industry. I didn’t know what we should be charging. I didn’t know anything about weddings. I think I’d been to one wedding when I shot my first one.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Wow. So its all very fresh then.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Dived in. Yeah, yeah. I did some second shooting around the same time as well. And actually did a course with someone where it was two days of training, and then the last day was shooting a wedding with them.
Alan Law: Oh, that’s cool.
Paul Fox: And that was quite handy.
Alan Law: Did that help your confidence?
Paul Fox: Yeah, just seeing how someone else works. Even though I don’t work in any way like them anymore, because they were way more traditional than I am.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Oh, okay.
Paul Fox: It was much more posed and much more staged. But it was just good to see how to cope with a wedding day. And just to see what the actual sort of structure of a wedding day is. Because I think I’d only been to my dad’s wedding before I shot the things.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Wow.
Paul Fox: So it’s like a totally weird experience, suddenly jumping in trying to photograph one. And I probably shouldn’t have been photographing it, if I’m honest. Looking back, I wasn’t good enough.
Alan Law: But I think it’s good to kind of just put yourself into the deep end like that, really.
Paul Fox: Yeah. It was maybe a bit too much of a deep end, to be honest. But I did all right. I mean, they loved the photos. And that’s all that really matters. But looking back at it now, I cringe a little bit.
Alan Law: I think everybody does, when they look back at their old work though. So you must’ve enjoyed that first wedding then. And you just liked the results, and just kind of went from it from there?
Paul Fox: Totally. I totally overestimated how formal weddings were. I turned up in a three piece suit, which I don’t do anymore. I’m like, just shirt and trousers now. But I turned up in a full, posh, three piece suit. I think I looked smarter than the groom. It was really weird.
Alan Law: That’s funny.
Paul Fox: I just had no idea.
Alan Law: No, that’s funny, man. So I’m going to change tack a little bit. So first thing, or things, that comes into your mind: what makes you happy?
Paul Fox: Oh, wow. First thing that came to my mind is my dogs, which is really sad, isn’t it?
Alan Law: Aw, yeah. No, that’s not sad. That’s cool. I was going to ask you about your dogs. What dogs have you got?
Paul Fox: I’ve got two collies, which are awesome. I love them to bits. I don’t have any kids. And they are like my four-legged little furry children, which is weird.
Alan Law: Oh, yes. That’s nice.
Paul Fox: But, yeah, my wife and my kids. I’m quite a quiet person. I don’t lead an extravagant lifestyle or anything. I’m most happy when I’m at home with my little weird family, and just out walking around Cornwall and hiking around. And yeah, that’s kind of my thing. And movies. I love movies.
Alan Law: Oh yes. I’m going to ask you about that as well. You’re a self-confessed film buff.
Paul Fox: Am I?
Alan Law: That’s what it says on your website, man.
Paul Fox: Oh, no.
Alan Law: Do you have a favorite film? Got to ask the question.
Paul Fox: Oh, you can’t drop the favorite film bomb. Oh, man. That’s a hard one. I don’t have a favorite film.
Alan Law: For Weddings and a Funeral?
Paul Fox: Shut up. I mean, it’s all right, but it’s not-
Alan Law: It’s so good. It is one of the best ever films.
Paul Fox: It’s a cracking film. It’s not favorite film kind of level though, is it?
Alan Law: Oh, it’s in my top 10. Yeah, it might be in my top five.
Paul Fox: Yeah, yeah.
Alan Law: But then what is your favorite film then, Paul? Everyone is dying to know.
Paul Fox: Yeah, when people ask you that, and your brain goes completely blank. And the only film I can think of is Predator, which is not even close to being my favorite film. That’s the one I know the most lines from.
Alan Law: Oh, man. Did they do a remake of that as well?
Paul Fox: Oh they’ve done all sorts of awful remakes, involving Predators and Aliens, I think, yeah.
Alan Law: The first one is good, the original, but not top.
Paul Fox: I’ll come back to you with a favorite film. I’ll email you.
Alan Law: Okay, we will come back. Think about it throughout the rest of this interview.
Paul Fox: Well, let me look through my film collection.
Alan Law: So I’m going to go back again. So you’re in the top 30 This is Reportage Photographers of 2018, which is an amazing feat. I mean, that’s well done. That’s awesome. So why do you personally enter awards, and not just reportage awards, but just awards in general? What is it for you that keeps you entering?
Paul Fox: Okay. A few things. That was crazy, by the way, getting that. I was totally blown away by that.
Alan Law: Well, that’s totally deserved, man. It’s brilliant work.
Paul Fox: I’m really bad at sharing my work. I don’t share my work hardly at all online. I don’t like putting myself out there. I’m not confident with it. And this was a little way for me to get over that slightly, was this last 12 to 18 months maybe, I just started throwing more images into awards, focusing on that a little bit more, just to see if I can kind of hold myself up at a level.
Paul Fox: It was almost a way of comparing, am I getting to a level where I can win awards? Am I taking images that are good enough, that people will sort of look at and judge, and say, “Yes, that’s a great image.” And it’s gone well. It’s been nice. It’s been a good little boost for my confidence. And maybe I’ll show some people my pictures now, occasionally. Just occasionally, though.
Alan Law: That is good to do.
Paul Fox: I might post to my Instagram account, just for the hell of it.
Alan Law: How do you approach your social media, by the way? Do you do it frequently, or do you intend to…
Paul Fox: Badly. Yeah. No, I’m not a huge social media person. I don’t like to have my life out there on the web like that. I’m just not that sort of person. And sharing my images online is something I find really difficult, like I say. I just-
Alan Law: Oh, really? Why? Just for-
Paul Fox: I don’t know. I think it’s that feeling of showing off. I don’t know.
Alan Law: But it’s marketing and it’s business.
Paul Fox: I know this. I know this. Yeah. It totally makes sense to do it, on a logical business level. I just-
Alan Law: I think it’s different if it’s on your personal profile. Because then that is kind of more showing off.
Paul Fox: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Alan Law: And I don’t really understand that much why photographers do that so much. But, on your business account, it’s marketing.
Paul Fox: I totally agree. And I’m terrible at marketing. I’m absolutely terrible at marketing. It’s something I really need to work on, is self promotion.
Alan Law: So how are you getting your bookings? Because you’re always really busy. So how do you get your bookings?
Paul Fox: Well, I only aim for about 30 a year. That’s kind of where I want to cap it.
Alan Law: That’s a lot.
Paul Fox: Is it?
Alan Law: Well, it’s a good number.
Paul Fox: Well, it’s a good number. Yeah, yeah. But some people are doing crazy numbers.
Alan Law: Some people, yeah. Some people do. Yeah.
Paul Fox: Yeah. But that’s the cap, about as many as I want to do. And I think last year about 70% was referrals-ish, give or take.
Alan Law: Well, that’s really good, though. Because it means you’re doing a good job.
Paul Fox: And that was photographers and couples and venues, a spread of different referrals. Which is nice, because you don’t have to actively pay for advertising for those, which is really lovely.
Alan Law: Do you think that’s why you don’t do so much in social media, is because you get so many good referrals, so you don’t need to do that approach?
Paul Fox: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s laziness, isn’t it? I’m relying on those referrals to come in, which is risky, isn’t it? That’s risky. You can’t have all your eggs in one basket.
Alan Law: Well, it’s obviously working for you though.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m getting away with it. I need to up my marketing and social media game, definitely. So I can fill those blanks in better, and not just rely on that. Especially as your price goes up, I think those referrals don’t always convert as much.
Alan Law: Yeah. Yeah. I found that, when I put my price up as well, things do change.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Because you’re kind of killing some of your older referral market, potentially. And hoping that people will come with you on that little price journey, which doesn’t always happen.
Alan Law: No. I guess it doesn’t. I guess it doesn’t. But it’s working out well for you then, sort of just-
Paul Fox: Yeah. It’s fine.
Alan Law: Good.
Paul Fox: Yeah. I mean, I’m about at the right point where I should be next year, based on previous years. So, yeah, it’s all looking good. I’d like to just be a little bit more controlled, and more sure of where my work is coming from. So I think I need to sit down and do a bit of a push on the old marketing and social media front. Yeah.
Alan Law: As we all do, though, definitely. So a big burning question, do you eat the canapes?
Paul Fox: Hell yeah.
Alan Law: That’s good.
Paul Fox: Is that a question?
Alan Law: Some people don’t. I’m trying to ask quite a few people.
Paul Fox: No, a cheeky canape is fine, isn’t it, as it’s going past.
Alan Law: Oh, of course.
Paul Fox: It’s good to keep your energy levels up. I mean, I don’t make people feed me though at weddings, which is a bit weird, like most photographers do. Yeah.
Alan Law: Some, yeah. Some photographers have in their contract, don’t they? So why do you not? What do you think about that?
Paul Fox: I don’t know. I think I just find that a bit of an odd thing. I always think, “Why you would be getting paid to do a job, then also expect to be fed?” I’m just quite happy feeding myself. I just don’t see it as that big an issue. But I suppose it depends on where the wedding is. Certain ones, it would be a right pain to try and sort yourself out. And most couples offer anyway, which is nice.
Alan Law: That is nice.
Paul Fox: And I always say yes.
Alan Law: It’s so funny. The food subject’s always something that wedding photographers talk about. It’s always sort of funny.
Paul Fox: Yeah, it’s controversial, isn’t it?
Alan Law: It is controversial.
Paul Fox: It’s controversial. I’m quite happy to sit in my car with a pasty, because I’m Cornish.
Alan Law: Yeah. You’re proper Cornish.
Paul Fox: I’m like, “That’s fine by me.” Because we have good pasties down here. It’s not like a Ginsters thing.
Alan Law: Do you know, I’m not into pasties.
Paul Fox: Get out.
Alan Law: I know. I’ve never surfed as well.
Paul Fox: Shocking.
Alan Law: So let’s change a little bit. What annoys you in life?
Paul Fox: Oh, annoys me? Well, I don’t like people who are dishonest.
Alan Law: Oh, okay. Yeah.
Paul Fox: That goes to everything. I would say, all of the kind of music and art and everything I like, it always has to have a core of, kinda feel like it’s honest. You know what I mean?
Alan Law: That’s good. Yeah.
Paul Fox: And, yeah, I’d say I just don’t like people who lie. Don’t like people who are two faced. Anyone two faced, I’m not keen on. That drives me nuts.
Alan Law: Okay, good. I will edit out the bit where I was insulting Paul earlier. Let’s go back to your kind of work. And all your Reportage Awards actually feature people smiling or laughing in some way. All of them do, which is awesome.
Paul Fox: Oh. Didn’t know that.
Alan Law: Yeah. There’s a real joy to your images. Any tips on how you capture the fun so well?
Paul Fox: I think part of it is the couples I get are fun. They have fun weddings. I’d say at least like 80% of the weddings I go to, I feel like I would enjoy it as a guest. It would be a good wedding.
Alan Law: Yeah. But I’m sure you don’t get those fun weddings by accident?
Paul Fox: Yeah. I mean that’s probably all down to the sort of language I use on my website. I do mention how weddings should be fun. They shouldn’t be boring and dreary. And I suppose everything you do on your website, and everything that potential clients see, leads them to make a decision or not. So if you’re always on about fun and showing fun images, then you’re going to get fun weddings, aren’t you?
Paul Fox: But, I mean, it’s certainly about letting people just be themselves on the day as well. I’d never try and control anything, as I’m sure loads people in the group are the same. But I never ask anyone to do something again, or like stop anything in its tracks. And I will be there behind my camera laughing with them and stuff, if someone’s drunk and doing something silly or whatever. I sort of go along with it. It’s about your body language and not being a moment killer. Yeah. You need to kind of encourage that.
Alan Law: Yeah. If you’re asking people to repeat things, that would be awful.
Paul Fox: Oh, ugh. Ugh. Cringey, cringey.
Alan Law: Some people do that though, don’t they?
Paul Fox: No, no, no.
Alan Law: Not This is Reportage members, but-
Paul Fox: No way. Yeah. No, never ever. But, yeah, if people are playing games and stuff on the day, I sort of get involved. I’m right in amongst it. And people just pick up on the fact that I’m enjoying what they’re doing, and they’re enjoying it. So they just carry on. And, yeah, that’s, that’s part of it. You don’t want to be that grumpy photographer, in my opinion.
Alan Law: No. Yeah, I think you’re so right. I think that makes a big, big difference, your kind of persona, and how you are with people.
Paul Fox: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, totally.
Alan Law: So I’d like to go specifically about client meetings, whether in person or Skype. Do you have any advice about those?
Paul Fox: Ah, yeah. I mean, I do a mix of meeting people and Skype ones. I actually go more towards Skype nowadays, just because it’s kind of easy and quick.
Alan Law: Yeah, totally.
Paul Fox: And I find I can still get the same kind of results from it. But I don’t really go in with a script. I don’t have any kind of script. I don’t have a checklist of things I need to tell them, or anything like that. I just sort of have a chat. I ask them about themselves. I ask them about their jobs, about what they’re into. I ask them about their wedding, and just have a chat to them. I don’t sort of go in with a hard sell kind of tactic.
Alan Law: I think that’s really good.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Yeah. But at some point they’ll ask you the questions they want to know the answers to. And sometimes they’ll just ask me to give them a bit of a rundown of how I work, which is cool.
Alan Law: And it’s nice for them to know you’re interested in them, I think, as a couple. People like talking about themselves and their weddings. Well, they don’t want to just be sold to.
Paul Fox: And if you ask them about their weddings, you then pick up on what’s important to them as well. Because they’re going to mention things like, “Oh, it’s going to be really chilled out. It’s going to be really relaxed. It’s not going to be formal.” And then you know what to talk about back to them.
Alan Law: Oh, that’s really good advice, yeah.
Paul Fox: What to kind of emphasize back.
Alan Law: That’s so true.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Yeah. So I always sort of try and not reflect what they’re talking about, but in a way you’re kind of doing that. You’re emphasizing the bits that you think they want to kind of hear, that are going to gel with them.
Alan Law: That’s good. I mean, you must have really good personable skills, to be able to do that.
Paul Fox: Yeah, totally. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alan Law: Do you think that’s almost as important as photographic skills, is how you are as you as a person, really, in this business?
Paul Fox: Oh, people skills. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. A large part of it is not customer service, but kind of a bit similar. It’s similar. You need to be good with people on an immediate level. You need to make friends very quickly.
Alan Law: That’s so true.
Paul Fox: And they’re not going to be lifelong friends, necessarily.
Alan Law: No.
Paul Fox: But you need to be able to put people at ease, and let people relax around you. So, yeah, just having those personable skills is really helpful. I mean, how to read people a little bit as well, read what the emotions are that are happening. And know when to be quiet and when to laugh and join in.
Alan Law: Right, yeah. You didn’t do a degree in psychology, did you?
Paul Fox: No, no, no, no. It’s interesting stuff.
Alan Law: It is interesting.
Paul Fox: But, yeah, I haven’t done anything formal based on it. It’s just sort of intuition, I suppose, isn’t it?
Alan Law: Yeah. No, that’s cool man. And really good advice, I think. I think that’s just really, really important.
Paul Fox: It’s probably as important as the photography on the day. Because if those people aren’t having those moments in front of you, you can’t photograph those moments. So if you can’t put people at ease, then it just makes it so much more difficult then, doesn’t it? Because then you’re trying to sneak shots. If you end up having to try and sneak at the wedding, and if you don’t feel like you can just walk up and photograph a moment that’s happening, because you’re worried about ruining that moment, then that’s a big hurdle straight away. Yeah.
Alan Law: So good, honestly. I didn’t butt in there, because I just thought, “That’s going to be a great soundbite, I think.” To preview this episode, because I just think that is just brilliant, brilliant advice. So it’s really, really good. What do you find the most challenging aspect of wedding photography to be? It’s a good question.
Paul Fox: Yeah, it is a good question. I mean, light is one of them. Light is something I’m always working on. Because we are thrust into these situations where there is really bad light sometimes.
Alan Law: Right, yeah. Definitely.
Paul Fox: And trying to make that work, when you don’t have any-
Alan Law: Like Polhawn Fort.
Paul Fox: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Or Pendennis, the castle, man.
Alan Law: Oh, yeah, even darker, isn’t it?
Paul Fox: Yeah, and it’s not only just darkness either, because actually I quite like low light. But there’s good low light and bad low light. It’s just that ugly muddy light, and sometimes the mixture of light is just … You’re taking photos, knowing that this is going to be a nightmare later on, when I get to this edit. Just use the-
Alan Law: Did you ever use flash for the speeches and things, or do you just try and-
Paul Fox: Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve dabbled. I’ve dabbled with it. It’s not for me. I find it really off putting for my own process, as much as I think it might be off putting for other people, like the actual guests and stuff as well. But it’s more about how it puts me off. It breaks me out of my flow. Because I shoot quite a lot of images. My brain works on I guess a kind of like … I take images, I kind of improve them, and I keep taking more and more and just improving. Just trial and error, that’s what it is. I essentially work in trial and error.
Alan Law: Oh, that’s good. It’s obviously working.
Paul Fox: Yeah. And I take a huge number of images, and doing that with flash is bad. I think if I was the sort of person you could sit and choose their moment better, that’s a skill in itself, and just take a lot less shots, like one or two of a scene.
Alan Law: Well, but I think, as you say, it is trial and error. And you don’t get better if you’re just taking a few images, I think. You’ve got to try different things. You’ve got to push yourself and try different compositions. You say you take a lot of images that way. Oh, I’ve got to ask it, you said. How many kind of an average do you take?
Paul Fox: Oh, this is one of those other controversial ones, isn’t it?
Alan Law: I don’t know why. I think it’s less controversial these days.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Fair point. It’s not weird for me to come back with like 10,000 images from the day. But to qualify that a little bit, I do sort of 14 hour days is normal.
Alan Law: Wow, that’s a long day.
Paul Fox: 12 to 14 hours is about average for me. I’ve gone longer. I think about 17 odd hours is probably the longest wedding day I’ve done, something in that region.
Alan Law: Wow, that is a long time.
Paul Fox: Which was a bit nuts.
Alan Law: So, for you, why do you think it’s important for you to take so many images then, as you said? Is that trial and-
Paul Fox: I think it’s just knowing how your brain works. If you’re the sort of person that works better … If your images essentially end up better from watching a scene, waiting, waiting, waiting, and then taking like one or two shots, that’s great. And good for you, and I envy your cull.
Alan Law: That’s true.
Paul Fox: Because that would be lovely. But that’s not how I get the best images for myself. I think that, with the modern technology we have, that way you can shoot silently, or very quietly if you’re not silent. I’m silent. But if you can shoot silently and shoot with good burst rates and stuff, without having to worry about buffers and all that stuff, you can shoot through those moments.
Paul Fox: I would rather pick the perfect little image later in the cull, than just take the chance I nailed it with one or two shots. I think you are taking the chance. And I think you will end up throwing away, or not throwing images, but not having the best that that image could have been …
Alan Law: Totally agree.
Paul Fox: … if you had shot more of it. And also just making little adjustments, like shooting and just micro adjusting your composition, just to try and frame those little elements better. And have a bit of space around that person that you maybe didn’t before. Or like, “Oh, no. There’s a beam coming out of the back of that person’s head. I’ll adjust and move here, and then shoot more frames.” Yeah, just making lots of little improvements just elevates those images. Just makes them as good as they can be.
Alan Law: Yep. And I wholeheartedly agree. And that approach means you’re giving the client the best possible images as well, you’re picking the best ones from those. So I totally agree. I’m changing tack again slightly. If you could be somebody else for a day, living or dead, who would you be?
Paul Fox: Oh, man.
Alan Law: A bit left field.
Paul Fox: Oh, I wasn’t expecting these sort of questions, Al. This is awful. Living or dead? Oh, man. That’s huge. Pause the recording. Give me 10 minutes.
Alan Law: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know who I would be.
Paul Fox: Yeah, fling it back on you. Come on.
Alan Law: No, it’s not about me.
Paul Fox: Put the pressure back on you, Al.
Alan Law: You don’t have to be anyone else. If you’re very happy with yourself, you can just be.
Paul Fox: Yeah, I’m obviously very unimaginative as well. Can I go back to Predator again? Could I be Arnold Schwarzenegger for a day?
Alan Law: That would be fun, actually, wouldn’t it? Back in those times as well.
Paul Fox: The guy’s a legend, sort of-
Alan Law: Yeah. I think that’s a good answer. You can be Arnold for a day.
Paul Fox: No one else will give that answer, I don’t think. Yeah.
Alan Law: Do you have a bucket list in life? In weddings?
Paul Fox: Oh, in weddings? Well, I like shooting at home.
Alan Law: Is your house a wedding venue?
Paul Fox: No, I love shooting in Cornwall or Devon, and getting home at the end of the night, which is weird. But, saying that, I would like to shoot some mountainy type weddings, like Canada would be up there for me.
Alan Law: Which is a good segue, because you got married yourself in Canada, didn’t you?
Paul Fox: Yes, I did.
Alan Law: Yeah. Was it a couple of years ago for you?
Paul Fox: Yeah, a few years back now. A few years ago.
Alan Law: What was that like being on the other side of the camera? Because you you were doing it. You were a wedding photographer back then as well?
Paul Fox: Yes.
Alan Law: Yeah. What was it like being the other side?
Paul Fox: Yeah, it was surprisingly all right. I was a bit worried about it, especially because it was just the two of us. We eloped. So I thought the photographer’s presence is going to be a bit stronger than what it would be for a bigger wedding. But, I mean, it’s a good mate of mine who did it. And you know Stewart, Stewart Girvan.
Alan Law: Yeah, yeah. Great photographer.
Paul Fox: And, yeah, he smashed it. And he shoots on Nikon, with the loud …
Alan Law: What are those?
Paul Fox: … clacky shutter. And I don’t remember noticing it, which is a good sign for all of you Nikon shooters. When you’re wrapped up in the moment, you don’t hear your shutter.
Paul Fox: There’s one image that always sticks out from my wedding, from a photographer point of view, because I didn’t know he took it. And he was very close and I had no idea. And it was kind of our first kiss. It was actually the ring exchange, I think, but we were kind of kissing at the same time.
Alan Law: Nice, nice.
Paul Fox: I think he shot it on a 35 mm, and he just real tight filled the frame with us. And he must’ve been a couple feet to three feet away maybe, or something like that. And I had no clue. So that just goes to show.
Alan Law: Oh, that’s cool.
Paul Fox: I think sometimes you think you’re quite conspicuous and maybe you aren’t. Because if they’re really wrapped up in that day, they soon forget about you. What was the question? Bucket list.
Alan Law: Yeah, sorry. I did segue off there, didn’t I? But, yes, bucket list. And not just weddings though, kind of in life do you have, I mean-
Paul Fox: Yeah. Well, travel is something I want to do a lot of. I want to go and explore a load of the Scandinavian countries. That’s kind of something that’s been on my mind. But my wife is really bad with the cold, so trying to persuade her around to this idea is difficult.
Alan Law: Was it not cold in Canada though?
Paul Fox: We were there in the summer and it was all right, actually. It was not too bad. Yeah. We still had snow on some of the mountaintops, a little bit here and there. But no, no, it was nice. It was nice. It was nice.
Alan Law: I’ve seen some of the images and they were brilliant. Stew knocked out the park. It’s awesome. So you’ve just shot a wedding. What’s the first thing you do when you get back home?
Paul Fox: Pour a glass of wine.
Alan Law: You do? Nice. That’s good.
Paul Fox: What do you do when you get back home?
Alan Law: Man, I normally have like a five, six hour drive. I have a shower, because I get a little bit sweaty. Yeah, so you have a drink?
Paul Fox: Yeah. Glass of wine. I chuck the cards in the computer and leave them going, while I just get myself sorted out. Cuddle my dogs.
Alan Law: Aw, man, you do love your dogs, don’t you?
Paul Fox: Yeah. Well, Tyra will be asleep by that point, so she’s not around to cuddle. So the dogs. And, yeah, just chill out and unwind. I don’t really look at the images when I get back. I just chuck them in the computer, and get all that process going with the backups and stuff.
Alan Law: Yeah. Must take take quite a long time to back up about 10,000.
Paul Fox: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a lot of images, isn’t it?
Alan Law: What do you do in the quiet season?
Paul Fox: Okay. Yeah. You’ll notice how sad my life is. I walk my dogs. No, no.
Alan Law: I notice a theme. There’s a theme.
Paul Fox: Yeah. No, I love Cornwall in the winter, because everyone goes home and we get the place to ourselves. And all the beaches are just gloriously empty. So a beautiful winter’s day in Cornwall is right up my street. But, no, obviously, there’s all the stuff to do with the business, like all the-
Alan Law: Well, you don’t have to say that. You don’t.
Paul Fox: All of the website stuff. But I do chill out a lot. I watch a lot of films.
Alan Law: Yeah. What, Predator? Predator 2?
Paul Fox: Predators, yeah. We’ve got to edit that bit out. You can’t now, because you mentioned it so many times.
Alan Law: No, no. It’s staying in. That is staying in.
Paul Fox: Yeah, but just chill out and take stock a little bit. I always try and do a bit of training and stuff. I love online training courses.
Alan Law: Oh, cool. Like what?
Paul Fox: It means I can stay in my little bubble at home, but still learn stuff.
Alan Law: About Creative Live stuff?
Paul Fox: Yeah, Creative Live is one. But just everyone’s throwing them out there now. There’s all sort of people doing online courses and stuff. I always like to get try and pick something that I feel like I can improve, and just focusing on something like that, one aspect. So, one thing, I do want to work on flash, just so I’ve kind of got it in my bag of tricks.
Alan Law: Well, your first dance, you nail it with flash in your first dance, I think. And your partying images, they look great.
Paul Fox: Yeah, the party stuff I’m pretty happy with now. I know I’ve got several sort of different set ups I know work in different ways, give me different sort of images for dance floor stuff. I’m happy with dance floor. I wouldn’t mind expanding out to see if I could use it in other aspects. I know this is the reportage group.
Alan Law: You can still use flash. Oh, you’re meaning for portraits as well, and stuff?
Paul Fox: I mean, potentially, just so when we’ve got these winter weddings and it’s dark. And if you feel like you haven’t got anything yet, I’d like to have the sort of skill set to pull some flash portraits out, if I needed to do, if I want.
Alan Law: Yeah, definitely.
Paul Fox: Or if just something creative took my fancy.
Alan Law: Well, it makes you feel more confident as well.
Paul Fox: Yeah, I think it’s good to learn things, even if you don’t use them, just so you know them, and just so you can call on them if you need to. Because what if there’s some really awesome event, where all of the guests end up outside, and you need to photograph it, and it’s too dark to photograph. You need to know your skills.
Alan Law: That’s so true.
Paul Fox: So you can jump in, even if it’s out of your comfort zone, you still need to be able to throw it in there.
Alan Law: Yep. No, good advice. And so just time for this one more question. What would be your top tips for people just starting out in the industry? I mean you’ve been doing it a few years now. But I think you’ve really skyrocketed I think. And so I think a lot of people would want to replicate your kind of success. Do you have any top tips?
Paul Fox: Yeah, sure. I can’t help you on the marketing. No, no. On that note, I would say, in terms of getting bookings in, I think photographers are your best friends.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Yeah?
Paul Fox: Make friends. Just go and make friends. Because it’s beneficial for everyone. You send them work. They send you work. It’s just one of them things. It’s just amazing to do. But in terms of the actual photography, just take your time. Don’t run around like a mad thing, and feel like you’re up against the clock. I mean, there’s certain little bits of the day where you are a little bit.
Paul Fox: But there’s massive chunks of wedding days where you can take your time to work on an image, and be really considerate with it, and try and improve it. There’s loads of time for that. Wedding days are full day events. You know what I mean? There’s lots of time to just stop and think. If you find yourself all flustered, just stop and have a little think, just work on one thing at a time. Yeah.
Alan Law: I think that is really good advice. And, about other photographers, did you specifically go out and kind of reach out to other photographers when you started? Or did it kind of naturally happen?
Paul Fox: I didn’t do it on purpose. But, I mean, it’s ended up being a huge thing for me, from a business point of view, but also just from just having friends in the industry.
Alan Law: Yeah. Because it’s quite a lonely industry, in a way.
Paul Fox: Yeah, totally. It’s so good to know people, and just have people you can chat to about what you do for a living, and actually get it as well. Because my wife doesn’t really understand what I’m on about half the time. Because it’s all photography gobbledygook, isn’t it?
Paul Fox: So just having a little network of friends. I’ve got a little group of there’s about five of us. And we send so much work each other’s way. And we can just chat about anything, like funny stuff that happens at weddings. And just you can work through things you’re struggling with. It’s really good. We try and meet up and do a little bit of a kind of informal workshop as well, where we all sort of try and improve each other’s skills.
Alan Law: Oh, wow. That’s a great idea. That’s cool.
Paul Fox: We critique each other’s work as well, when we want to occasionally, and that’s nice.
Alan Law: Does that go down well? You’re all very friendly, yeah?
Paul Fox: Yeah. I think if you go in there knowing it’s not personal critiques, it’s constructive, isn’t it? Yeah. I think critiquing the images is a massive way to to grow your images. If you know what you can improve on, then you can go away and work on that.
Paul Fox: And also I just think it’s soaking up. As a new photographer, soak up as many images as you possibly can across different styles.
Alan Law: So not just weddings?
Paul Fox: Yeah. All different styles. And even within weddings, look at flash photography work. Look at all different styles of wedding photography, and just let it all seep into your brain, and then see what comes out of your camera later on. Just because all that stuff will just go in there subconsciously. And then those will form your composition choices, and stuff like that on the day. Because they’re all in there, logged in there.
Paul Fox: Just look at people’s work. Soak it up. Think about what they’ve done, how they’ve done it. And then just let that sit in your brain. And it will come back out at some point. Yeah.
Alan Law: That is awesome, man. That is great, great advice. Yeah. And I’ve just come to the end. So thank you so much for that. That was honestly brilliant. That was so interesting. Thanks for your time. It was awesome.
Paul Fox: Cheers, man. Been a pleasure.
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