This week we are chatting with the multi-talented creative, Paul Tellefsen. He is the founder of his own company, technopaul productions, and you might also know him as the Director of Community for Socality, a popular online community. Paul has been involved with media his entire life — he is not only a photographer who tells amazing visual stories, but also produces short films, including Instagram Is, a documentary about the social network that was the capstone project of his senior year at UT Dallas. Today, he photographs full time for clients such as Cadillac and Toyota.
Paul carries the Union Street messenger in smoke.
ONA: How did you get into photography?
PT: I’ve been involved with photography and videography since I was young. My mom is an interior designer and my dad an engineer. I think photography and video balance the creative and technical in the same way that interior design and engineering do. I remember when I was 12, my family got their first DSLR — it was a Nikon. I ran wild taking so many photos. I was a pre-Instagram photographer, but that platform has truly helped me refine my craft. I am now a full-time freelance photographer that shoots mostly brands, destinations and lifestyle photography.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to” lens of choice?
PT: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” I love that quote and it stands true for me. I’ve had every iPhone since the first generation and it’s slowly becoming my go-to camera. It’s just so easy! I am currently shooting with the iPhone 6 and Moment lens attachments. These lenses are beasts. When I do shoot DSLR, I shoot with a Canon 60D . My favorite lens is the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. It’s extremely versatile.
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? And what is your dream project?
PT: Projects that drive my creativity are the ones that challenge me in new ways and connect with me on a purposeful level. I love working with clients or brands that I can support. It makes the experience and final product that much better. I also tend to push myself harder when I believe in the brand.
ONA: What is your dream project?
PT: Dream project… that’s a hard one! The type of client or pay doesn’t matter to me, but a project that can create change through the use of storytelling.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
PT: Standing out amongst the sea of photographers is one of the hardest things. Being full-time can be a bit stressful because there isn’t a guaranteed paycheck. It’s risky, but worth it. Maybe the biggest challenge is creating a habit of putting the camera down and being present. I travel frequently and I have to force myself to put down the camera to take in the moments. I tend to take a few minutes, a few deep breaths, relax and take it all in. Otherwise I would miss some really beautiful moments, and I don’t just mean landscape. I want to be able to tell these stories to my kids.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
PT: I love to capture moments that tell stories. I don’t just want to take pictures, I want to tell stories that connect people. I want to help people connect with brands, musicians, destinations or people that I love. The way I can do that is through photography. I tend to prefer lifestyle photography for that reason. I would rather place a product into a larger story than just photograph it against a white wall. It has to come from a genuine place for me.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a photographer just starting out?
PT: It’s all about the relationship, whether with the brand or person, always build a relationship first. And if I could add one more thing it would be establish your style early on and always make contracts — it makes everything easier.
ONA: How did you hear about us?
PT: I first heard about you through either my friend Michael O’Neal or Colin Cabalka. It’s been so long I can hardly remember. But I just remember seeing a photo of an ONA bag on Instagram. And when it came time to finally purchase a new bag, ONA was the most efficient and stylish choice out there!