Bry Cox, Master of the Monopod
In high school, Bry Cox took every possible photography class he could to the point the teacher made up a new one so the budding photographer could continue learning. He began his college career by studying photography, and thought taking one business class would help. Cox quickly realized being a photographer means running your own business, so he switched his major and got a degree in Business. He credits this with helping him have a successful career as a photographer.
After college, he got a job at a lab, and learned to print perfect images from his negatives. Cox stayed long enough to save up for his own Hasselblads and lights. At that point he left to start his own studio.
Living and working in Utah just north of Salt Lake, Cox no longer deals with negatives and darkrooms in his all-digital workflow, although he credits learning film with giving him a head start on the newer technology. An early adopter, Cox remembers when the quality of digital photography wasn’t up to today’s standards. The upshot was by the time it began to catch on, he was deeply immersed in filmless photography, and was established as an educator and speaker on the subject. He has won many awards, and continues to grow as a photographer, educator, and businessperson.
Since he started speaking as a photography instructor, Cox has been using Profoto lights. His model of choice since their inception is the D1. He uses them both indoors and out. “They’re light enough to carry around, if you need to. I used to use them everywhere, but lately I’ve had them mostly in the studio,” he says.
For triggers, Cox uses a set of PocketWizard MiniTT1 units and FlexTT5 units. “I bring them to smaller classes, which is nice for travel. They’re my solution for off-camera flash,” he says. “I still shoot the camera manually, but I just let the flash go TTL.”
The PocketWizard triggers help fire his Nikon SB-800 speedlights, one of which he mounts on a monopod and uses it as his primary off-camera flash. “I have it on a stand and I can move it, and put it wherever I want,” explains Cox. “It’s been a pretty slick system. It’s really been a fun way of shooting. I don’t have an assistant—I just move it myself. I’ll put one on a monopod and hold it with my left hand. I can rest the monopod against my body, and I can get that light almost anywhere I want. I stick it as far out or as close to the subject, or as high, or whatever I want, and then shoot with the other hand. As we’re moving, I can keep that light exactly where I want it.”
This is a different way of shooting for Cox. “I used to have little manual ones that would fire exactly how I wanted, but I had to be really consistent on my distance,” he explains. “Now I feel I don’t have to be so exact on my distance and it’ll still figure it out.” The below video features Cox demonstrating his monopod-based lighting technique.
His new approach to shooting this way seems not only completely natural to Cox, but essential. “I don’t know why other people don’t shoot this way, because you have to be really aware of where your subject’s head is turning and what they’re doing,” he says. “If they turn their head one way, now you’ve got to move the light. If they throw their hair, or they toss their hair and now they look the other direction, now I’ve got to move the light again.” This enables Cox to work a session without giving constant verbal direction to an assistant.
Although Cox has shot products, and likes to do landscapes for himself, he concentrates on portraits. He processes his images in Adobe Lightroom, and prides himself on providing “celebrity style” imaging to everyone from beauty pageant winners to brides to children to, of course, celebrities themselves.
The workshops Cox currently offers are not only to help photographers with their lighting and composition skills, but also assist them with sales and how to create mental strategies to remain positive and excited about their business and their art. “I try to inspire photographers in an all-around balanced sense,” he says.
Ahead of his time in the digital photography world, Cox long ago learned a photographer needs to not only know his art and gear, but his business model. You can learn about all three at any public speaking event featuring Cox. Be sure to not miss him.