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Conversations with Chris Papaleo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Papaleo.

Hi Chris, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
When I was 16, I become heavily addicted to surfing photography, traveling and documenting all of it. Nearly twenty years later, my passion has continued to keep me employed behind the camera. I have been very fortunate to work with amazing talent that I am lucky to call friends. Growing up in Southern California there has always been a lot of competition so it keeps you on your heels. Working weekends, holidays, countless days and nights without sleep for a few hundred bucks is what’s needed to make ends meet sometimes. One can easily go months without work so it’s important to take every opportunity available, do your best and worry about being exhausted or getting sleep later.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Definitely not a smooth road in any way shape or form. I feel like in every different line of work, you have to start at the bottom usually for little to no money. For instance, when I started as a surf videographer nobody knew who I was so I had to figure out where the waves were good that day, find a local pro, spend 10-12 hours in the sun shooting all day then handing over my photos for free hoping their sponsor would maybe use them down the road one day. It took about ten years of doing that while working two different jobs at night throughout the week to finally get a part-time job in the surf industry. Even then, I was still making less than 30k a year before taxes. Next, I ventured into video production for nightclubs in Las Vegas. Started off shooting from 11pm to 4am then staying up till 8am making nightly recap video edits only to be up three hours later to shoot the pool party/day clubs, do another recap edit, sleep for two hours then shoot the night clubs again. I would do this Thursday through Sunday every summer for about $150 – $300 a night. When the pandemic hit. Vegas pretty much shut down. I then taught myself (with the help of YouTube) how to do still product photography and exiting brand videos for any brand who was willing to hire me. After countless emails nobody was hiring. Everyone was struggling for work. I then had a friend reach out to me in the cannabis industry. They just became legal and needed products shots. That has led to meeting very successful business professionals who admire what I do thus leading to countless jobs over the past year including everything from music videos to TV shows.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Right now, I create content for over fifty brands per month. Rather it be just a few photos a week or an entire brand video, I am willing to shoot everything in between. Basically, whatever the client desires. Last year I turned my whole apartment into a production studio & that has really taken me to the next level. Writing and creating content is truly my passion. I love building with growing business from clothing brands to the top food & beverage companies around the world. Showcasing a brand’s best assets while keeping an audience entertained is no easy task but I really enjoy it. Every shoot is unique.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I still try to surf around home near Malibu and Oxnard as much as possible. I’ve been working on a free surf film for a little over four years on the side. Recently traveled to Morocco and Panama scoring some of the best waves ever documented. Hoping to release my film this summer.


  • Day rates anywhere from $350-1,500
  • Monthly retainers starting at $1000 to $6,500
  • Brand videos for as low at $350
  • Currently use a black magic 6k cinema camera

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All photos by Chris Papaleo

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