When local photographers Lee Morris and Patrick Hall wanted to prove that you don't need an expensive camera to create compelling images, they took the worst camera they had — an iPhone — and used it to shoot professional-looking photos. They filmed the entire process, created a video, and within a month it had more than a million hits.
The iPhone Fashion Shoot exemplifies the philosophy of Fstoppers, the website that Morris and Hall founded in February (fstoppers.com). Their goal is to create a worldwide community for photographers that helps spread the knowledge of their craft through entertaining and instructive videos.
"We always gained a lot of information on photography from the internet, and that's kind of how we got started as photographers," Hall says. "We really wanted a community where we could give back and kind of educate other people who were looking to get into photography as well. There's hundreds of blogs out there ... in written form. What we wanted to do was have something different where we could use video to showcase what people were doing."
They started out by filming their photo shoots and mixing them down into a music video format, creating "something that's both interesting to watch and that you could learn from," Hall says. "The whole idea is kind of having an appeal outside of photography so the average person could watch and say, 'Oh, that's interesting. I've never seen behind-the-scenes how they do projects like that.' "
Now they post videos from around the world every day; a recent one looked at the making of a Mercedes-Benz commercial, while another explored the sound of the movie Inception. About once a month they post Fstoppers original videos, in which they shadow their favorite photographers as they work on a shoot. Most recently, the pair contacted New York-based photographer David Bergman, known for his high-profile music and sports photography — his shot of New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees lifting his son in the air graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in February. Bergman is currently documenting a tour featuring Bon Jovi and Kid Rock, and he invited Fstoppers to Giants Stadium to film a typical concert. The result, which they hope will be their biggest video yet, will be released within the next few weeks.
"You just kind of have to ask, and things fall in your glass," Hall says of the opportunity. "It's pretty cool."
It's hard to believe that four years ago, Hall had just moved to Charleston from Alabama to try to get into dental school. He soon met Morris, and though Hall had no photographic experience, his new friend encouraged him to accompany him on photo shoots. He quickly fell in love with the craft, and four years later he's a professional photographer specializing in wedding photography.
Besides being successful photographers in the Charleston area, the duo is quickly gaining an audience worldwide with Fstoppers. Already they're averaging around 100,000 readers per month.
"Both Lee and I are really shocked at how fast it's grown," Hall says.
While the site is currently ad-free, they hope to find a way to monetize it as they gain a larger audience. Their ultimate goal, however, is to create an exhaustive resource for photographers.
"I would love to see everybody filming their own behind-the-scenes videos," Hall says. "I would love to live in a community where, if there's any kind of photography you're interested in, whether shooting commercials, sports cars, food photography, aerial, fashion ... I'd love for people to be able to go to our website, type in a keyword, and be able to find multiple videos on that subject."
He says that seeing professionals working in real time is invaluable. "There's a large wealth of knowledge to be able to watch that as opposed to just reading that on paper. Sometimes it's hard to conceptualize what's really going on."
In addition, it's a great way for photographers to promote themselves.
"I foresee more people making more of these videos as a marketing tool for their business," Hall says. "It helps you stand out from the mix. Because you're showing your personality on camera, you've sold yourself before they've even contacted you."