Download story (PDF)
Based out of his studio in Greenville, South Carolina, Patrick Cox has been a full-time professional photographer since 2001. He sees himself as a purist who wishes to capture as much as possible in-camera. He embraces the challenge of variation, and loves that being a photographer means that every day is different. We got to know more about Patrick and his approach to photography
Tell us a bit about yourself, where and how did it all start?
From the time my grandparents gave me my first camera, I have had a great passion for cameras. I even made it my living before becoming a full time photographer. In the early 90’s I traveled around the world as an engineer programming vision systems. During this period I got my first digital camera, a .2 megapixel black and white. I started getting small photography and short film gigs and I started coxphotography.net. After 9-11 my wife and I decided I wouldn’t travel as much anymore and we invested in our first studio in Greenville, South Carolina, becoming a full time professional photographer. Shortly after I invested in my first Phase One camera system and 6 Phase One camera systems later, I know it was the best business investment I have ever made. Currently my preferred is my P40+ on the 645DF with a 150mm LS lens. As a photographer I capture relationships, commercial adverting, landscape and architecture.
What drives you as a photographer today?
I am driven by challenge. I love when I can work without constraints and let my creativity direct the shoot. I want to be the best I can be and I’m seemingly never completely satisfied with my work. There is always something to improve. I love light. I am a purist in the sense that I use little to no time in postproduction, the final touch of my images is mainly found in light, color and contrast. I like the challenge of variation, and I love to observe and interact with people in front of the lens. I love color, but at the same time I am drawn to black and white, especially when photographing weddings and children.
You do many different types of photography, portrait, fashion, weddings, commercial, landscape and architecture, how do these differentiate and compliment each other?
It is only when shooting landscape and architecture that I use a tripod. This kind of photography is happening at a lot slower pace, I don’t have to chase the subject and I typically have a more methodical approach than when capturing people. Photographing fashion or wedding projects are faster paced, subjects move and there are typically more people and scheduling involved. Especially with wedding photography you have to be alert and ready at all times, otherwise you might miss the toss of the bouquet or the cut of the cake. I do all these different styles because to me, they complement each other perfectly and it brings freshness to the job I love to do, photography. I rarely do the same thing twice, and wouldn’t like to.
Could you put more words on your experiences as a wedding photographer?
When doing wedding photography I work documentary style. It is very fast paced, you have no to little to no interaction with the people in front of the lens, and you must be ready to anticipate at all times. As mentioned, you only have one chance to catch the perfect moment of the bouquet toss, the first dance, first kiss as married couple and you need to know in advance how to get the right light, mood and consider unforeseen circumstances you can’t influence; guests walking in front of you, talking to you etc. The best results are created when the couple and their guests don't even notice you are there. It is very different from shooting commercial work, a bit like working on the crazy roads outside New Delhi – it seems to be out of control but it all comes together just before the head on collision.
And how does Phase One fit into your work as a wedding photographer?
It is super important to me to work with my Phase One system when doing wedding photography. In my opinion, the high quality files it provides sets it apart from anything else. The range and depth makes possibilities endless. When I got my first back from the P-series, it produced the cleanest 100 ISO range files I have ever seen. The details in the shadows, the contrast transitions, the highlights; I have no words. Then when the P+ digital back series were launched, it was made possible to create files with even higher ISO, which opened up many new doors with clients. I was no longer limited to studio lights and daylight. With the higher sensitivity I could sell a 1600 ISO file when needed. There are circumstances in my line of work where lighting is not appropriate, nor feasible. If you want that kind of shot you need the ability to shoot faster than a 60th and handheld. Also I can crop quite tightly - since I have 40 megapixels there is enough file information and a longer lens than 150mm is not necessary. The file size and quality is what makes the system so powerful.
What is your technical setup for wedding photography?
Ideally a wedding should be shot with two Phase One systems. Something wide and then one with an 80mm 2.8 and 150mm 2.8 to switch. The other thing is that you have to have light. It must be fast and it must be small. I use the canon 580ex with an auxiliary pack in manual. It will run 14-16 hours, no problem. It is light and fast. I also use the Elinchrom RX Ranger Speed battery pack with a ring light and the metal soft box.
"The file size and quality is what makes the Phase One system so powerfull"