It was December 2013 and my very first day as Paul Fears Photography. I was sitting in my office looking at my computer screen with a rumbling feeling of panic. I didn’t have a single customer, order or enquiry. Had I been crazy in thinking I could set up my own photography business?
Nine years later and the picture is very different. With the wonderful support of my wife, family and friends, Paul Fears Photography has evolved. Building up a business has not been easy, especially during the 2020 pandemic, and there have been many occasions of self-doubt along the way. However, I have been very fortunate to meet some amazing people who have not only become clients but also friends.
My Photography Love Affair Begins
I blame my parents and my Uncle Paul for my fixation with photography. My Christmas present in 1979 was a Polaroid Instamatic. I was 13. The beige-bodied camera with its eye-watering expensive film just captured my imagination. It is strange to think that being able to take and see the photograph within a minute or so was very special. There was an anticipation as the image materialised in front of your eyes. A few years later and my fascination for photography provided the cornerstone for an ‘O’ Level Geography projects. My Dad also had a classic 35mm film camera, which I persuaded him to lend me for the Caerphilly Mountain focused project. The project was just an excuse to spend hours wandering around the mountains taking photos.
However, it was the gift of a Minolta X300 for my 18th birthday that changed everything. I loved that camera and still have it today. My Uncle Paul had helped me choose the model (he had a Pentax) and that camera hardly left my side. It was manual in every sense of the word and it forced me to understand the relationship between film speed (ISO), shutter speed and F stops. It was even manual focus and, with today’s cameras, I find it hard to believe that I managed to take so many photographs that were perfectly focused.
After leaving school, I joined Kingston Polytechnic to study geology. Photography was never even considered as a potential course and geology was chosen simply because I loved the outdoors and there were lots of field trips. After stupidly leaving my camera at home in the first term (I was worried about it being damaged, lost or stolen), my Minolta X300 was with me for the rest of my life at Polytechnic. I have a wonderful photographic diary of my three years with photographs from every field trip. I look back and see some many fresh young faces, ready to conquer the world. I loved every minute of Polytechnic life
A Photography Career
Carving a career in photography is very different to enjoying it as a hobby. Throughout a 20-year marketing career in engineering, I had taken on the photography responsibilities and developed a portfolio of product photographs both onsite at installations across the world and in the local manufacturing facility. These were used widely in the press, brochures and, when the digital age dawned, on websites. In fact, I still see many of them being used today.
When I started my photography business in December 2013, I knew that my niche was engineering and began to develop business with engineering companies across the United Kingdom. I also took to the local South Wales networking trail, going to as many meetings as possible. Along the way, I met some amazing people, many whom I still regard as friends today. I also managed to secure some photography assignments, for events, products and professional headshots.
There was also something fatalistic about it all. In the first week, I received a photography book out of the blue. The book was ‘Urban Photographer of the Year 2013’, which featured photographs from every hour of the day from around the world. I had submitted a few earlier that year and then forgotten all about it. One of my photographs had been selected for the 23rd hour and I was one of only a few British photographers to feature. It just gave my delicate confidence a precious little boost.
Networking was the key in these early days. It was at one networking meeting that I met a fellow photographer Jo Davies. I had vowed never to photograph weddings. It appeared far too stressful. Then Jo asked me to help out as a second photographer at a wedding in West Wales. And suddenly I loved wedding photographing. Jo and I have since set up Double Take Photography to provide a male-female photography team for weddings and regularly work on events where two photographers or prints on the night are needed.
After eighteen months of hard slog, I suddenly found that my diary was busy with photography projects. During those early months I had learned a lot. My photography kit had expanded and evolved. My photography techniques had improved and I was now developing a style of my own. The speed of processing the photographs improved, increasing my efficiency. And all the time I worked hard to provide my clients with the best service possible.
I would be lying if I said that it was all plain sailing. There were many mistakes, but if you don’t fall off a bicycle, how do you learn to ride one?
The Ultimate Dream Job
Being a photographer is the best job in the world. I get to meet and photograph so many fantastic people. One day I can be photography equipment in a recycling plant and the next I will be at an event photographing Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies celebrating his 60th birthday or the Chamber Wales Business Awards. My photography career has taken me right across the United Kingdom and even into Eire. Often I have to pinch myself to make sure this isn’t a dream.
There are many people to thank for believing in me and helping me along the way. I have some very special clients with whom I have worked for most of those nine years. Without their support, this anniversary would not be possible.
However, I want to thank the one person who told me to follow my dream and has stuck by me through the toughest of times; my wife, Jackie. To succeed in anything, you need amazing people around you. They provide the encouragement and support that everyone needs. And Jackie gives me that in buckets.
It has been a tough but exciting nine years so far and I just wonder what I will be photographing in 2023.
Paul Fears is an industrial, commercial, events and wedding photographer based in South Wales. For more information or to discuss a specific photography project, please contact Paul on:
Tel: 07909103789 or 01443207773