Photographer Spotlight: Paul Cooper

Posted by: on Apr 12, 2018

Bio: Paul Cooper is a renowned advertising photographer and sports commercial photographer based in Manchester and London, specialising in advertising campaigns and portraits of athletes for international brands.

Connect with Paul online at pcooperphoto.com and on Instagram at @paulcooperphotographer.

I would describe my style of photography as…

I would like to think my portraiture is dramatic, moody and gritty.

What was your first camera, and how’d you get started in photography?

My very first camera was at age nine was a Kodak point and shoot that used 110 film! I took photos of my siblings sitting on fences looking into the distance and I made makeshift studio backdrops with tartan blankets. My passion started then, and I taught myself color and black and white printing in the broom cupboard of the family home. I picked quite a few tips early in my career working alongside great photographers during my time at The Times of London. I started freelancing later in Paris shooting portraits, features, sports action and hard news around the world.

As an editorial photographer, I had to learn to work quickly and this has helped me massively in my current sports advertising work today as often you might only get a few minutes with a sports star. For example, the portrait of Jose Mourinho was from a set of six different shots all done in 45 seconds!

Why did you want to become a photographer?

I loved the medium of photography. I was always interested in art but was not the most patient art student. The immediacy of photography appealed to me and capturing that one frame that tells a story or gives an insight into a person really interested me.  I love the moment when you press the shutter and you know you have a great photo, you can’t beat it, and that hunger for that next buzz kept me interested in photography and wanting to get better pictures all the time.

What’s your most memorable shot or shoot, be it challenging to capture or interesting subject?

The Paul Pogba shoot which I did for his Manchester United unveiling was pretty cool. There was a real buzz as we waited for Pogba to arrive, it was all quite secret, and I did not even find out who I was shooting until the night before! He was also filming a short film to be released at the same time of the stills, so there were quite a few people around from camera operators, stylists, make-up artists, directors, editors, sound engineers, Manchester United staff, plus his agent and family members. A pretty busy set. When he arrived, he had the usual styling and kit changes and we then had about three minutes to do the first set-up which was the urgent first profile image, which we nailed in about six frames!

This image was to be released at midnight with the announcement of his signing. We then did the home/training kit shots, he was really good to work with, great presence in front of the camera and he could switch between moods easily, which was handy as we only had ten minutes to shoot everything! I spoke and joked to him in French which I think helped with the rapport, and a highlight of the shoot was afterward when he spent about 15 minutes playing an impromptu game of keepy-up with the crew, which was nice. The photos went on to be published worldwide in most newspapers/magazines and TV media and across many ad campaigns that year.

What image are you most proud of from your photography portfolio?

It would be tough to choose one image, I have several favourites for different reasons. Some remind me of a wonderful experience, some I like because they are technically great, some because they remind of a moment, I also amend my favourite list with new photos I take, so the choice of favourite is an evolving thing. At the moment I am quite proud of the Paul Pogba ones and the set I did of Usain Bolt recently.

My dream gig would be…

I think working with Ronaldo or Messi on a big brand ad would be pretty cool! I’ve done a lot of famous sports people, but not these two…..yet!

My favorite piece of gear is…

My Nikon 85mm 1.4 lens, so sharp and the lens I often turn to for portraits.

Do you shoot tethered?

I shoot tethered on all my studio/location advertising shoots. I consider it essential.

My favorite piece of Tether Tools gear is…

You can’t beat the TetherPro cable, it’s transfer speeds are awesome and so they are so reliable, no drop outs which used to be a problem with other cables. I can get a lot more shots done on a time pressure sports shoot, confident I’m getting the images we need as they come in so fast we can check expressions, compositions etc.

The security of knowing that the tethered images are transferred efficiently and reliably to my laptop and backed up on the fly by the digi op gives me that peace of mind during the shoot, that is why I never shoot without this cable on any of my ad shoots.

What’s on your photography gear shopping list?

I have rented the Profoto Pro-10 packs and they are amazing, fast recycle and amazing flash duration, so I would absolutely love to have a few of these soon.

The best advice I can offer a fellow photographer would be…

Look at as much photography in the area that interests you, then shoot, learn and shoot some more until you feel/develop your own style, style is important and defines you and helps people identify your work.  And be careful about your marketing. It’s no use being the greatest photographer around if no-one knows about you. Start with a great website and work hard on the SEO so get you get well ranked and so people become more aware of you. As your business increases spread your marketing budget wider and try to specify in a niche area or location to start out with, this will help you compete in a very competitive field.

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