Artist of the Month – Paul Woo
Another round of our monthly series called “Artist of the Month” is here. If you ever have had the chance to meet our new Artist of the Month in person, we are sure you will never ever forget this amazing photographer. A passionate and incredibly creative man, who has always a camera by his hand to create some spontaneous magic. Besides that, he is one of the funniest guys we ever met and you can be sure to have a lot of fun spending time with him. Folks, let’s celebrate Paul Woo from New York City.
How old are you and where are you from?
You know, this is such a funny question, because if you were to ask me this in person I would need a while to think. I think after hitting 25, I just forget that I’m gaining a year older each year. I’m a 32-year-old wedding photographer. Born in Dayton, Ohio. I’ve spent 32 years in Ohio and things are about to change.
Tell us a little bit about your life at the moment?
This year has been already quite the journey. It was the first time where I realized that I didn’t have a sense of home. Not a sad feeling, but more of a liberating and a bit scary one. I decided on a whim to finally bid adieu to Ohio and move to New York City. Though I left, I still find myself flying back every weekend to capture the amazing days of couples who are deeply in love.
How did you end up being a photographer?
I started off as an engineer by trade. You see, I wanted to be an engineer to be creative, and I realized that the further I dug deep into the field, the less creative I became. I needed a way to express myself and I did so by purchasing my first DSLR. It must have been fate, an online store had a price error for a kit lens and body for 250.00 at the time, and I was the first person to grab it.
My journey as a photographer was never a smooth one, I always found the love of shooting and lost it, and this continued on for 4 or 5 years. It wasn’t until I quit my cubicle life and decided to backpack for 7 months to 26 different countries. I photographed every single day and learned a lot about shooting and editing, this is really the birth of how Wandering Woo started.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I currently love photographing couples and capturing their story. Lately, I’ve been realizing more about myself and what drives me. I have a hard time focusing on things I don’t care about or have a passion for. I hope that in 20 years I am doing something I am truly passionate about and can look back and see I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago, but a better one.
What gear are you currently using?
For my body, I am using two Canon 5d Mark IV. It’s a love and hate relationship, but for the most part, I love the image it produces. I do wish it had a flip screen and wasn’t so heavy, but in a couple of weeks, that might change…
As for lenses I use:
Canon 35mm 1.4 VII – I really love this lens. It’s on my camera 70% of the time and produces probably around 75% of my images. I really prefer to use my legs and get closer.
Canon 85mm 1.8 – I found earlier in my career that carrying around the 70-200 lenses were not a feasible option. I only use this lens maybe 5% of my images. It is small reliable, and compact when I travel.
Canon 45mm TSE – This is probably my fun lens. I maybe use it for 4-5 images on the wedding day to be different. My 50mm 1.2 is out of commission so I will use this lens currently for portraits.
Canon 135 – Collecting dust.
Canon 16-35 f4 – I use this primarily for dance photos at 16mm. I love getting close and dancing with the people at the wedding. I also see this lens as a backup if something happens to my 35mm
Godox v860ii – I primarily use this for speeches, completely dark halls, family photos, and dance floors. I find using the flash can be distracting, but aim to use it if it tells the story.
Leica Q – This is my backup camera, or if the ceremony is a quiet one and I can get close I’ll use it.
What advice would you give out to a new starting photographer?
Don’t be afraid to fail.
I think we are conditioned to be afraid of failing. Failing is completely healthy and necessary for growth. What’s more important is learning from your mistakes and understanding why you failed.
Care, give a damn.
I started with the desire to create, not for my couple, but for myself. However, every interaction I make, every story that I hear, every tear that I see… made me realize that getting that epic shot is a very small part of the day. It ages, it isn’t really timeless, but moments are truly timeless. That uncle bob that’s pissing you off, he truly loves and cares for the couple. Those boring family photos that we so dearly dread, they are the first ones that the couples will find when the time comes. The strangers that we don’t know at cocktail hour, are people who care and love the couple. Each and every one of them made an impact on the couple’s lives. When you start seeing a wedding this way, you start to understand that no two weddings will ever be alike.
It’s more than just luck.
There’s a friend that I haven’t seen in years. A little about him, he graduated in chemistry and decided to enter culinary school. I remember him telling me how afraid he was to tell his family about his decision. Fast forward, he’s doing what he loves every single day and enjoying it. I’m driving to see him after years, and I was so eager to tell him how lucky he was. Then I realized, luck had nothing to do with it, he worked hard to be where he is today. Everyone needs to hear that they got to where they are today because they worked hard. I think telling someone that they are lucky to do X Y Z is doing a disservice to all the work put into it.
Did the LLF community change the way you see or shoot weddings, couples etc.?
LLF community is such an inspiration. When I first stumbled upon the group, I spent hours looking at other peoples images. Weddings, children, families, landscapes, really just about everything. It was so beautiful and inspiring to see so many people expressing themselves, capturing emotions of things they cared about.
We live in a world where we can see so many stories at once, and the LLF community does that. I’ve also met so many people across the world through LLF. It’s amazing how a community can make the world smaller, and also make it possible to learn from each other.
What plans do you have for the rest of 2018?
I have a few projects I plan to work on. First I am trying to acclimate myself to my new home in NYC. Working on launching a new site soon to reflect more of myself. Improve the faults in my business, and become more efficient. Overall, pretty excited and optimistic to capture all of my future weddings around the world!