Q&A with Paul Curtis

August 14, 2013 

Paul Curtis

Q&A with Paul Curtis

City of residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Owner/operator Curtis Photography

QUESTION: When did you start your photography business in Warner Robins?

ANSWER: 1989. I visited my grandparents in Perry and noticed there wasn’t a photographer in the area, so I left Nashville to relocate here.

QUESTION: What led you to photography?

ANSWER: Actually, my first experience was when I was 12 or 13 and was handed an old Brownie camera at an uncle’s wedding and told to take pictures. They used mine versus the photographer’s. That developed my interest. I took three years of photography in high school and got a degree at East Tennessee State University.

QUESTION: Which are you, artist or businessman?

ANSWER: Probably artist. It takes a while to learn the business and build things up. Lots of paperwork I don’t like, but my wife, Aimee, is vital to the business as office manager and whatnot. We have 10 employees this summer. A lot are high school students and former workers who came back from college.

QUESTION: What sort of photography do you do now?

ANSWER: A lot of senior pictures, weddings, family portraits and individual portraits. Babies, too. We help several area volunteer fire departments raise funds with portraits by donating our services and an initial print to people who donate. One of the gratifying things about being self-employed is being to help out in the community.

QUESTION: What else besides the firefighters’ fundraisers?

ANSWER: We’ve gotten to take free portraits for World War II veterans for the last two years at Service for Service’s veterans appreciation luncheon. That’s been amazing. I just wish I had more time with them. We do free portraits for special-needs students in the county and got a Lifetime Friend Award from the Council for Exceptional Children. That was an honor. We get to do other things like with the Joanna McAfee Childhood Cancer Foundation. People think you get rich having your own business and that’s sure not the case, but you do get to do things like that.

QUESTION: How does a photographer stay in business?

ANSWER: It’s all become volume-oriented. You have to have volume to maintain a full-time studio. Back in the day, we were a little more exclusive but now everybody has a camera on their phone. You have to land contracts. We’ve done over a 1,000 weddings in the last 24 years, I quit counting after 1,000.

QUESTION: You’re paid to look at people. What do you see today versus days past?

ANSWER: Kids are going for environmental outdoor shots for senior pictures; not as much formal tuxedos and drapes. That even applies to family and individual portraits. We’ve developed several dozen outdoor photo scenes in our backyard. It’s hard to believe looking from the front, but we have barn locations, a koi pond and garden, children’s settings and a lot more. When we moved to Corder Road, they were planning to five-lane the road. That changed to three lanes but it kept us from doing much out front.

QUESTION: Digital versus film photography -- your thoughts?

ANSWER: Digital is much harder than film used to be. It’s a better product for customers but more work for us. We used to shoot a roll of film, get 30 shots and present the best no matter what they were like. Now we shoot hundreds of shots, go through and edit them and usually present 30 good shots to choose from. The first year digital, I actually tore my rotator cuff from the extra shooting.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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