MEET. Paula Watts

© Paula Watts

Meet Southern California based photographer and APA member, Paula Watts.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
I love podcasts and am always on the lookout for new ones. I’m probably the only person who hasn’t gotten into podcasts but I’ve been devouring audiobooks though. Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones is a must for any woman!

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
I am loving London based photographer Desiree Mattsson’s work. I love Lindsey Adler and her photo breakdowns, Comedian Celeste Barber for a great laugh, The Female Hustlers for some extra motivation, and AskSternRep because they give so many helpful Q/A’s on the business side of photography.

What 3 words describe your photography style?
Clean, elevated, bright

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
It usually ranges anywhere from 90’s hiphop or Beyonce.

What inspires you?
A team without egos, collaboration of the minds, artists of all mediums, kindness.  

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
I love bringing a vision to life with a creative team who all played a role. It truly takes a village and it’s so satisfying to see a campaign come together.

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
I love to workout and have family time with my husband and 5 year old daughter.

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
I work from home mostly (pre covid and currently) unless I’m on set. Since my work is project-based, I have weeks where I’m doing a lot of marketing and the business work and then I have weeks where I’m in pre-pro meetings and scheduling plus I also have weeks on set or dealing with post-production. It varies depending on the job and deadlines. I wish I could tell you there was any sort of routine, and it’s not a negative or unorganized answer, it’s just the nature of the industry. 

Who were your biggest influencers?
I was and still am influenced by a lot of the greats… Richard Avedon, Annie Leibowitz, Herb Ritts, Irving Penn. I studied under Michael Thompson who directly studied under Irving Penn and there was such a refinement in everything they did. Yes, deadlines are deadlines and we all feel rushed in certain aspects, but attention to detail, interaction with your subject, lighting, it was all so flawless. 

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
Shoot often. Shoot personal projects and constantly refine your work.

What are the current challenges that you face as a photographer?
Marketing feels like a moving target a lot of times.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
Highlights: One of my first years in business, I was hired to travel around Norway for 3 weeks to photograph some of their top chefs and dishes and learn all about Norwegian cuisine for a television show. It was even more remarkable of an experience than I can describe, and just starting out at the time, I don’t think I even realized how amazing the gig was. It set the bar and expectations of future projects really high 😉 Challenges: I need to get better at realizing the ebbs and flows of my industry. When things are slow for a couple weeks, I need to learn to enjoy that time so that when things are really busy, I have had some restful and rejuvenating time in there too. Learning balance is easier said than done.

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
Studying advertising photography and assisting photographers. 🙂

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
Well some options I’ve considered have been: scuba diving instructor in the GBR, surgeon with Doctors without Borders or skydiving instructor. I still think I could do all 3 in this lifetime, right? 😉

What do you do when you get stuck?
I’m a verbal processor so I usually talk with my husband or family or a close friend. 

What is your best advice for your peers?
This industry is 90% business and 10% photography. The best photographer in the world won’t get hired if no one knows about them. Market yourself even when you’re too busy. (I’m speaking to myself here too!)

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
Buy as much property in Southern California as you can possibly afford and outsource all the things you aren’t great at!   

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
A great photographer is so much more than a button-clicker to a piece of equipment. We are communicators. We are a creative voice. We help strategize, give input in the creative ideation, we are experts in lighting and understand a vision and help interpret it. There’s a whole process that the masses who buy a camera won’t hone in on. 

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
I still see myself as an advertising photographer. I’m always striving for quality projects over quantity and more time with my family, so I hope I’m heading in that direction year by year. 

Thank you APA. You’re such a support to the photographic community and I am honored to be interviewed by you!

To view more of Paula’s beautiful work you can follow along here.