As an entertainment/commercial photographer, Spencer Paddock has had many opportunities come his way, from photographing on movie sets and creating his own pieces. By the time Paddock reached high school, he was hooked on the brilliant medium of photography, and went on to create in any way he could.
Now, photographing mainly advertisements for corporate companies and photographing portraits, Spencer Paddock’s aspiration is to inspire as many people as he can. For more, have a read of the interview below where we sat down with Spencer to talk all things photography.
Hi there Spencer how are you?
I’m great! Glad spring is here. It’s been a long winter.
What made you fall in love with photography and why is it so enticing to you as a career?
I fell in love with photography when I was a young kid and found a camera on my dad’s desk. I was a shy kid as it was, and I realized that this device gave me a voice that I was sometimes too shy to let out. After I realized this, I was in love. I started researching and trying to figure out what all I could do with it. The great thing with photography being my career is that nothing has changed from when I first picked up that camera. The only difference now is that I’m not portraying my voice, but the voice of my clients. I’m given the opportunity to share someone’s story within a portrait, to share the story of a movie, or to share the story for a corporate-ad.
Do you think that living in America has aided to your success in any way? If so, how?
I think it has to some degree, but I strongly believe that you can create success from anything and from anywhere. It is how you view your surroundings and how you use the resources around you to make your own path. No matter what, if you have the desire and the drive to accomplish something it can be done!
You stated that your aim through photography is to inspire people. How do you go about creating something that will inspire people, or that will make someone laugh or cry?
I not only like to inspire people through my work but through life as well. My goal with my photography is to teach people to push their work, and to not give up. It’s so easy in our industry to just call it quits and put your camera to the side. That’s understandable because it is hard to make it as a photographer in today’s society, but like people have always said, you have to fall several times before you can make it to the top. The other way I want to inspire people is when they look at my work. I want a young photographer to walk away from one of my pieces and say “I want to go take pictures”. When it comes to emotion and my photography, I don’t think there is a secret formula to it. I think that all depends on who is looking at my photographs. My goal is to simply evoke some sort of emotion, but the emotion is determined by what that person is reminded of when looking at my photograph.
You photograph on movie sets and also do creative advertisements, portraits and other types of shoots. Do you prefer one area to another, and if so, why is it so appealing to you?
I am in love with each one of them for different reasons, but my favorite is portraits and creative advertisements. I love sitting down with a client and trying to figure out how to tell their story, not just with a simple picture, but to truly capture who they are or what they’re selling. It’s like a game because in my head there are different options I could choose from, but I can only pick one. So it’s my job to choose one that will really tell the story in the best way. To me, the creating part is the best part. I always say I am an artist, and my medium is photography.
How has photography helped you improve as a person, and looking back, do you think your life would be completely different if it wasn’t for photography?
Photography has totally shaped who I am. Like I said before I was a really shy kid when I was young, and I had no confidence at all. When I found that camera and started taking pictures, I realized that I could share my story or say what I wanted through that device. After doing it for a year, people started to really notice my stuff and complement my work. This was huge to me at the time because I was the kid that had no voice and zero confidence. These compliments and that camera gave me the confidence and the push to be who I really was. If I never picked up a camera, who knows, I may still be that shy boy with nothing to say.
What were the planning processes like behind the image above and did the overall result differ from your original idea?
The boat idea was a spur of the moment idea. I live on a lake, and I kept wondering what I could do with it that would create an interesting story. The fun part was the process of creating the image. I knew I wanted the image to be on a backdrop to give it more of a minimalistic look so I had to figure out how to make a back drop float. Yes, I know I could have photoshopped it, but I am big into doing things in camera when I can. So I built a rig with two large pieces of foam and PVC creating a large A-frame. After I got it built and had the background on the floating support I weighted it in the middle of the lake. I then took the boat and weighted it as well. After this I had to figure out lighting. It was the middle of the day so I decided to use the sun as my main source and use a 5-foot soft box as a fill light. After that I placed all the components where I wanted them to be. Including the people in the water and the girl in the boat. Allowing me to stay away from Photoshop as much as I could. I had the idea of what I wanted from the beginning, but it wasn’t all there yet. I was still trying to piece everything together, but when I saw that it finally made sense, I knew it was perfect. I realized what the photo really should be at that moment.
Working on movie sets must be an interesting experience. What does your average day on a set look like and is it any different to shooting portraits?
Working on movie sets can be very interesting and a very exciting process. As a still photographer, my job is to capture the movie through stills. These pictures are then used for advertisements, like posters or magazines. On an average movie you are shooting for 12 hour shifts 5-6 days a week for 3-6 months. But for me it is longer shifts and longer periods of time. On an average day we start walking through the scene. This is usually the actors, direct, director of photography, key grip, key gaffer, assistant director and me. During this time we block out where everyone is going to be standing and how we are going to shoot it. This allows me to understand where I am allowed to be and where I should shoot to get the best shots for the movie. After all of that, they start to set up the shoot. After an hour, they are ready to do the first scene. I get into my spot and start shooting when they say action. We will go through 3-6 takes at that one angle and then turn cameras to a different angle and do it all over again. This process goes on all day, and I do the same thing. At the end of the day I download all the images to 3 hard drives. I could have 1000-2000 images a day that need to be organized and backed up. This process may sound boring, but it is so interesting to be able to capture this movie through your own eyes and to see a team come together to create something. In my opinion, there really isn’t any difference between me doing a portrait for a band, or me shooting stills on a movie. On a photo shoot, you’re just on a smaller scale than a multimillion dollar film. On a movie set there already is a director that has determined the exact look of the film, but with a portrait, I am the director, key grip, key gaffer, director of photography and editor all in one.
Who is an inspiration to you and how do you apply their beliefs and values into your work?
In the photography world there is one guy who is a inspiration to me and that’s Jeremy Cowart. It’s not only his work that inspires me but more importantly it is the person who he is and what he stands for. In the world of photography it is so easy to become cocky and think that you are better than everyone else. But Jeremy doesn’t do this. Even though he has worked for some of the biggest names in Hollywood, he stays humble and grounded to his morals. That to me is a huge inspiration in itself. Jeremy is also big into experimenting. Even if it sounds like a crazy idea at first, he will try it and see what happens. That’s huge to me as well because I think we sometimes get stuck in a rut of doing what the norm is in photography. In reality, we need to be getting away from those norms and experimenting.
What is your advice for beginner and amateur photographers out there?
My biggest advice is to never give up. I know that’s what everyone says, but it really is so easy in the world of photography to just give up. Keep pushing your photography and getting away from the norms and creating unique images that are true to who you are. It’s not all about the fancy equipment or shutter speed settings but what story lies behind the image. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” –Tim Notke
In under a sentence, describe your collection of images.