Raised in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania countryside, Paul was influenced by his local surroundings and culture. With an appreciation for still life, culinary traditions and historic structures, he found himself articulating his observations with drawings and paintings until photography became his primary medium. He received his BFA in Fine Arts from Kutztown University with a concentration in photography. His work has appeared in publications including Interior Design, New Jersey Monthly, The Washington Post, Architectural Record and Old House Interiors. Clients include Daroff Design, Visa Lighting, The Rittenhouse Hotel, Loews Philadelphia Hotel and Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, amongst others.
Today Paul resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, central to New York and Philadelphia. He specializes in hospitality, interior design, architectural and food photography.
Q: You last appeared on the blog on July 2011. What have you been up to professionally since then?
A: I’ve been extremely busy and traveling a lot. My direction has been shifting into more hospitality photography and away from work primarily for architects. I’m much happier because hospitality involves a wider range of abilities. Also, my food photography has grown a lot and the food blog The Framed Table has been gaining a lot of followers, thanks to the great writing by my wife Andrea.
Q: In your previous blog interview, you spoke about using the M-System, but recently you’ve begun using the S-System. How long have you been using the Leica S-System? What made you decide to start using it?
A: I’ve been using the S-System for about half a year. The S-System has been on my mind since introduced by Leica. A couple years ago I was ready to buy a medium format system but the new S-System halted my decision. I knew Leica didn’t have the lenses I needed at the time, but it would eventually. Medium format is a big investment so I held onto my money and waited for the right lenses to come out.
Q: Your two main specialties are food and architecture, correct? What are some of the qualities or characteristics of the S-System that make it suitable for your type of work?
A: As a commercial photographer, I’m always looking for the best image quality possible. I was not interested in a view camera that uses a digital back because it slows me down. Sometimes I like to be spontaneous and the Leica S gives me the flexibility I need with incredible results. I find this especially with food because I like to do some handheld shots as well as tripod setups. Some photographers may snub me for this, but I like to take lots of photos on some projects. It’s kind of like sketching until you get it right. I’ll never assume I have the shot. I get a first impression and then I alter things as I think more and more. I explore what else is there and my clients love options.
My interior design photography has been taken to a whole other level because of the fine details. Interior designers love to see the details they put so much thought into. I can see texture, fabric and wallpaper in perfect clarity. One may think it’s not a big deal, but seeing these details as much more noticeable on a wide angle view is just incredible.
I can’t say enough great things about the S-System with food photography. I have the Leica Apo-Macro-Summarit-S 120 mm f/2.5 (CS) and the shallow depth of field is really nice for isolating certain elements of the subject. Of course I can’t forget to mention the quality of bokeh that Leica is well known for. I decided to get the CS version for the higher strobe sync abilities. So many people think of the applications with portraits but this could be applied to food as well, especially when working with a certain setup using strobe and lots of ambient light.
Q: What was the transition like from the Leica M-System to the S-System, and which lenses do you find most useful in addition to the Leica Apo-Macro-Summarit-S 120 mm f/2.5 (CS) you mentioned using for food photography?
A: I only used the M-System for certain approaches to photography and most of my commercial work has been accomplished with DSLR camera systems. I think the only transition was getting used to the more shallow depth of field with medium format. This is the great thing about the S-System, you hardly need to adjust other than learning the layout of the camera settings.
The other lenses I have so far are the 30-90 mm and 24 mm. The 30-90 mm is the primary lens I use because it gives me a versatile range and incredible image quality only matched by prime lenses. The 30 mm wide angle (24 mm equivalent of a 35 mm DSLR) of this lens tends to be plenty for my style of photography. I don’t like going too wide because it dilutes the subject matter. If I really need to go wider, the 24 mm takes care of my super wide needs.
Q: This image of the lobster mac & cheese looks absolutely scrumptious, and its off-center composition and shallow depth of field really draw your eye. What made you decide to take this unconventional approach to this subject and why do you think it works so well?
A: My composition on this image had to do with the subject matter being limited for presentation. Some foods are just incredible tasting but just awful to photograph. I find that abstracting and going tight on the composition can help make things interesting. We wouldn’t see much if I went wider and angled differently. The scale tends to decrease, the surface foreshortens and those lobster bits would no longer be as noticeable. The shallow depth of field tends to give it a comfortable feel because the human eye sees shallower close up.
Q: Another masterful composition is this image of a pair of creamy drinks shot from above, with red apples perfectly positioned along the left-hand periphery to complement the apple slice garnishes. Like the lobster casserole the image is inviting — you want to partake of what is presented. How do you achieve that motivational aspect?
A: The idea of my food photography, and probably any food photographer, is to motivate people to eat or drink whatever we are showing them. I had control over the subject matter and styled this shot with my talented wife for our food blog. The use of color matters and it can’t take away from the drink. It took a while to get it right and I didn’t stop until I got the feel I wanted. This drink can look rather ordinary but it tastes incredible. I couldn’t let go of that and settle for less.
Q: Is the amazing geodesic complex shown in this image an upscale lodge or resort? What is it, where is it located, and how did you shoot this image of it?
A: This was kind of a side project while in Cornwall, England earlier this year. This is the Eden Project that consists of biomes that I thought would look really nice at dusk. I was originally at this location to cover a story about an international food competition that the Eden Project hosted. The architectural photographer part of me couldn’t pass this up. I asked permission to setup with my tripod and take photos and it all worked out.
Q: The still life of brilliant cherries, is positively captivating and a great example of the effective use of shallow depth of field, but what makes this shot is the lighting. How did you light this shot, and what lens and aperture did you use?
A: Most of my lighting is from my Profoto lights and I diffuse the light based on the feel I want. This photo was using a small softbox from the side and I used the shadows from the other items on the table as a way to make the background more interesting. I also use reflectors to bounce and shape things. I was using f/8 as my aperture, just enough to get some cherries in focus and then fall off.
Q: How do you see your photography evolving over, say, the next three years and do you plan to explore any other genres, such as portraiture or landscapes going forward?
A: I see myself adding people to my images more and more. I lack people because I’m usually hired to photograph the building. I also see myself working on more tablescape images that are more complex with styling. I’m currently researching stylists who can offer the level of styling I wish to obtain and I’ll be doing test photo shoots to see how this works out. I think overall, I’m looking to add more sophistication and detail to my images and this involves a larger team of creatives to collaborate with.
Thank you for your time, Paul!
– Leica Internet Team
Learn more about Paul on his website, blog, Facebook and Twitter.