However you slice it, @paperboyo has forged a fierce Instagram following with his paper/photography combo. Check out his top tips to find your own niche with the power of full signal…
Despite living in London for four years, @paperboyo Rich McCor felt he’d never truly seen the sights. Using photography as an excuse, he set out to explore the city, camera in hand. But the minute he started sharing his pics, he knew he needed a fresh way to stand out:
“I joined Instagram and started taking all these photos of London, but I soon realised I was taking exactly the same photos as everyone else,” Rich explains. “So I thought, right, I’ll do something to mix it up. That’s when the paper idea came about.”
As a self-confessed TV and movie fanatic, Rich finds much inspiration in pop culture. The rest, like all good things, take time:
“While most people might spend a minute or two looking at a building and give up, I’ll still be there two hours later. I’m probably the only person in the world who spends two hours looking at a building trying to come up with an idea.”
And, despite its originality, Rich says his Instagram approach wasn’t entirely random:
“I’d been into paper cutting for about five or six years already,” he says. “I’d created stop motion music videos for a friend’s band and a few small art commissions to do with paper, but nothing that combined paper with real life quite like this.”
For every 10 ideas Rich came up with in those early days, two or three failed with flair. He now has the paper/photo combo down to an art though, thanks to increased preparation and planning:
“Now that I travel a bit more, I’ve refined the process,” Rich explains. “At the moment, I’m on my way to Edinburgh, so I’ve printed out a load of photos of Edinburgh landmarks and scenery. I find images taken from all kinds of different vantage points and doodle over the photos with a pencil or sharpie to see what ideas come to mind. Then I make cut-outs of any ideas I think will work and travel to each location with those cut-outs prepared.
“I do still take a little knife, a cutting board and black card with me just in case I see something I didn’t expect. But I try to be a bit more thorough with finding the right vantage point and the right places to stand. I look at the weather forecast to make sure it won’t be too windy and make sure the sun’s going to be in the right place. Still, conditions change and you need to be on top of it. With full signal, I’m always updated.”
Having discussed his process with other photographers, Rich says:
“It seems the more you get into photography, the more planning comes to the fore.
“Where before I might’ve spent 40 minutes taking hundreds of photos to get what I was after, I now spend 20 or so minutes taking a single photo that works in a given location.”
And Rich’s favorite place to shoot? Without question, it’s Dubai:
“Dubai’s full of quirky, bizarre and bold architecture. Anywhere with quirky architecture is good for what I do – it’s just a big playground for my style of photography,” he explains.
“London’s really great as well because it’s got that mix of old architecture and modern architecture. It’s fun to play around with the different styles.”
So what’s next? Well, while Rich may have nailed still shots, video’s his next challenge. And he’s excited about the chance Instagram and Facebook Live provide to lift that curtain for his followers:
“I think video will be a really natural next step,” Rich says. “At the moment, I’m trying to figure out a way that’s feasible, that won’t take me hours to perfect.
“People message me quite often to say they’re really interested in the creation of my shots. It made me wonder how I could use Instagram Live to give a behind the scenes perspective on what I do.”
Vital to that is full signal:
“Obviously reliable connectivity plays a major role in that – there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to get signal. With full signal, I can be pretty much anywhere, upload straight away and reply to comments, questions and messages as they come in.”
Looking for more inspiration to help you find your own niche? When it comes to other Instagrammers, Rich says there are some who are similar, but no one quite the same. His main tips for aspiring urban photographers include ‘experiment’ and ‘persist’ to develop your own point of difference:
“You might’ve heard of Abstract Sunday – the account of illustrator Christoph Niemann? He combines illustrations with real life objects and was one of the first accounts I followed on Instagram,” Rich says.
“I thought it was really cool and that’s kind of how I got the idea of combining paper with real life.
“When you start, it’s really a case of experimenting, trying different styles and different techniques, and seeing what you find interesting yourself. When I joined Instagram, I had no intention of becoming a travel Instagrammer or starting a blog – I was just playing around with styles that I liked.”
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