Paul Pomfret is a photographer based out of Palm Beach, Florida. From an early age, Paul was fascinated with photography, an interest which was ignited by receiving a Polaroid camera as a Christmas gift in the late 1980s. From that point on, he took the camera wherever he went, snapping shots of friends, family, local scenery, and important events.
During his teen years, Paul Pomfret volunteered to work at his high school newspaper as a photographer. He spent the following four years chronicling basketball games, football games, blood drives, school plays, homecomings, and proms. Around the same time, a revelation came to Paul when a beloved cousin approached him to take the official photographs for her upcoming wedding. He leaned into the assignment, giving it his best effort, and did not disappoint the happy couple. He was paid handsomely for his trouble. To this day, Paul Pomfret cites this as the impetus for his career as a shutterbug, and he still features the resulting photographs in his professional portfolio.
After graduating high school, Paul enrolled in a fine arts program with a focus in photography at a local college. While there, he also took a few courses in accounting and finance which would later come in handy as he set up his own business.
Upon leaving college, Paul Pomfret spent a chunk of his life savings on what he called a “working vacation” to Central and South America, wherein he took some of the greatest photographs of his life. Of special note are the shots he took of Chichen Itza, the gigantic Mayan pyramids located in Yucatan State, Mexico, as well as the shots he took along the Inca Trail on his four day journey to reach and photograph Machu Picchu in the mountains of Peru. Since then, Paul has made it one of his life’s goals to photograph every single wonder of the world, both manmade and natural. To this point, he has accomplished about one third of that goal, having recently travelled to Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Italy.
When stateside, Paul Pomfret runs a small photography studio in Palm Beach, Florida, the same city where he resides with his wife, two children, and two dogs.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I’ve been fascinated with photography for virtually my entire life, but if I had to trace my career back to one event, it would be my cousin’s wedding in the summer of 1995. I was in high school at the time, and one of my extra curricular activities was taking photos for the school newspaper. My cousin knew this and approached me to be the official photographer for her wedding. Although I was still just a kid, I took the job incredibly seriously. I rented a much nicer camera than I owned, as well as all the necessary equipment. On the day of the wedding, I arrived at the venue early to scout out suitable backdrop locations. Suffice it to say, the shoot went really well, my cousin and her husband were very happy with the photos, and they paid me more money than I had ever seen in my life up to that point. It was then that I thought I might be able to make a career out of being a photographer.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical working day for me consists of about two or three photoshoots. After my wife and I manage to get our children off to school in the morning, I usually eat a muffin and drink a few cups of coffee before leaving for my studio space. I arrive between 9-10 am—it sounds late, but I’ve learned that clients don’t really want to be photographed early in the morning. Once there, I check my schedule for appointments, set my equipment up accordingly, wait for my clients to arrive, and start snapping pictures. I don’t take appointments after about 4 pm, as I earmark that time to spend in the dark room developing the photos I’ve taken that day. Then I drive home and spend time with my family until it’s time to sleep.
How do you bring ideas to life?
That’s a tricky question to answer in my line of work. The easy answer would be that I simply take photographs and develop them. The more accurate answer, however, would be that I gauge my subjects on a case-by-case basis and try to bring out their inner truth in photographic portrait form. I know it sounds pretentious, but what can I say? I actually do that.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Recently—and I think this is a reaction to the ubiquity of smartphones and the disposable nature of the photos people take with them—there has been something of a resurgence of the classic family portrait. For the past six months, I’ve been taking appointments to photograph whole families dressed in their finest attire. Especially families with young children. I think they want something more official and enduring as a memento than a bunch of digital pics. People are once again recognizing that professional photographers take the best photos, and I hope that trend continues.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am meticulously organized. I catalogue every shot I take, every negative. My filing system is reminiscent of a career government bureaucrat. Everything is cross-referenced by name, date, and subject. My family makes a little bit of fun of me for it, but I never ever lose anything.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Savor your youth. It is so fleeting.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That the Miami Marlins will win the World Series in the next three years. Nobody agrees with me on that, and I will admit that their record this year is not encouraging. But I have faith.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend that all small business owners and entrepreneurs file their taxes as early as possible. There is nothing quite so stressful as trying to figure out a year’s worth of profits, expenditures, and deductions as the clock ticks down to the filing deadline.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I’m not sure if you could call it a strategy, but my answer is to deliver quality work in a timely fashion. One of the things I love about being a photographer is just how straightforward it is as a profession. People want pictures of themselves and their loved ones, so they pay me to take them, develop them, and deliver them within a reasonable amount of time. When they enjoy my work—which is, thankfully, the overwhelming majority of the time—they tell their family and friends about me, and I get more business that way. My business has grown almost entirely through word of mouth.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I was starting out, I didn’t have a whole lot of money, so I tried to make savings wherever I could. Consequently, I leased the original location of my studio in a bad part of town. That was a serious mistake, and it was evident to me within a few weeks. Nobody wanted to venture into what was affectionately nicknamed ‘Crimeville’ to have their portrait taken. I overcame it by not renewing the lease and scouting out a more appropriate location for my studio. It cost a good deal more, but it attracted more than enough new business to offset the expense.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are very few businesses around that actually manufacture film anymore. If someone wanted to start a company to fill that void, I and all my other colleagues in professional photography would be happy to throw some business their way.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a subscription to a reputable online news source. It cost a bit more than $100. These days, there’s so much disinformation and outright false information flying around the internet, it’s difficult to separate what is fact from what is spin or hyperbole. Call me crazy, but I actually want to know what’s really going on with important issues.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use the accounting software QuickBooks. It’s fantastic. It’s intuitive and easy to use. Being a photographer, my mind tends to excel at more of the artistic aspects of life, which is, I suppose, my way of saying that I don’t have a head for numbers. Luckily, Quickbooks exists to help me out.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Any coffee table photo showcase curated by National Geographic. That organization employs some of the best photographers on the planet, and their work is almost always breathtaking.
What is your favorite quote?
“Take a picture—it’ll last longer.” This is an unattributable quote, of course, and I’m well aware that it is often said in sarcasm. However, it happens to be true. Do you want to remember an important moment in your life? Sure, you could commit it to memory. But you could also take a picture—it’ll last longer.
- Make sure to be organized. You never know when you might need to pull a file in a hurry!
- File your taxes early to avoid stress and worry.
- When starting a brick-and-mortar business, choose your location wisely—and don’t cheap out!
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.