Lee Morris Founder of FStoppers.com – SLR Lounge Artist Profile
A lot of you will probably have heard of the FStoppers. FStoppers.com is a website founded by co-founded by Lee Morris that has pretty much become the “go-to” website when it comes to high quality BTS (Behind the Scenes) photography videos. The wonderful thing about the FStoppers is that in addition to featuring high quality BTS videos from all over the web, they also create amazing BTS videos of their own!
These “FStoppers Originals” including the iPhone Fashion Shoot, The Wakeboard Studio Shoot, The Stolen Scream, etc have helped FStoppers.com become one of the most popular photography websites out there. Oh yeah, and don’t let me forget to mention that the FStoppers have put together one of the biggest BTS video photography contests I have ever seen. Over $21,000 in prizes will be given to the top 3 winners, so be sure to check that out!
Over the past couple months I have gotten to know and become friends with Lee. His work is amazing, his influence is broad, and he is definitely a perfect candidate for an SLR Lounge artist profile. Check out some of Lee’s work, as well as our interview with Lee below.
SLR Lounge: So, let’s just ask the question that I know everyone is dying to know, does 100% of your success come from you being ridiculously good looking or just 50% of it?
Lee: Hah! If you only knew how many shots it took to get that one good shot. I think my assistant and I worked for over an hour. But to answer your question, 90%.
SLR Lounge: On a more serious note (not that being ridiculously good looking isn’t a serious topic). How did you get started in photography?
Lee: I was in college studying to be a graphic designer. I had an interest in photography but I didn’t see it as a realistic career. One summer I interned for an advertising agency and a photographer at the same time. The advertising agency was one of the most boring jobs I’ve ever had and assisting the photographer was one of the best. When I got back to school I changed my focus and I started planning to become a professional photographer.
SLR Lounge: Where did you study? Did photography become your major then, or did you just focus your course work on it more?
Lee: My school didn’t have a photography major. I think I’ve only taken 2 photo classes in my whole life and they were a complete joke. I’ve learned everything I know from assisting photographers and reading/watching others work online. Once I learned the basics I go out and shoot on my own time to perfect it.
SLR Lounge: I am the same way actually, studied under others rather than formally. For those that don’t have the chance to formally study the subject, how would you recommend they go about learning the craft?
Lee: There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the best way to learn photography is to assist a pro shooter. Even the best photo schools in the world will not teach you what a real working photographer can.
SLR Lounge: Do you feel like a photographer needs to be at a certain level though prior to assisting a pro? In order to get the most out of the experience? For someone just picking up a camera, where do you recommend they start?
Lee: If you don’t know how to shoot, I won’t hire you to assist me but that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t hire you to carry their bags or clean their studio. When I first started assisting I didn’t know anything but the photographer was happy to let me carry bags for free. I would suggest starting out with a camera and online Tutorials before going after an assisting job.
SLR Lounge: Tell me a little more about FStoppers, I think it is quite possibly the best site for behind the scene videos. Was it always focused on BTS videos, or did the concept evolve?
Lee: I’m lazy. I don’t like to read long photography tutorials but I have always enjoyed watching them. The problem was that it was so hard to find quality BTS videos. If I wanted to learn about product photography. I would have to watch 20 videos before I found a single good one. We want Fstoppers to be a library of the best BTSVs out there. Over the past 2 years we have also added interesting photography stories but we have continued to post at least 1 BTSV per day.
SLR Lounge: So these days, where are you at in your photography career, what types of shoots are you typically doing now?
Lee: I shoot everything but I make 90% of my income from wedding photography. As FStoppers gets bigger it is taking up more of my time each day and I’m sure it will slowly become my full-time job
SLR Lounge: What would you say is your overall style of photography. I know you do everything, from editorial, to conceptual, to lifestyle, but if there is a style that defines you, what would it be?
Lee: I’m going make this up on the spot and say that my style is “sellable”. Maybe as I get older I will create more of an overall style but right now photography is my business and I want to shoot was people want to buy. If a client asks for a certain type of image I try to shoot for them, not me.
SLR Lounge: Haha, quite possibly the best answer I have ever heard on that topic. Our community loves gear, so let’s ask a couple gear questions. If you only had one lens to shoot on, what would it be?
Lee: If I could, I would shoot every picture on my 70-200mm 2.8
SLR Lounge: nice choice, and if there was one thing you just had to have in your toolkit, what would it be. The more obscure the better ;)
Lee: There is a small light modifier that I built by hand 4-5 years ago that I bring to every wedding
SLR Lounge: Ohhh, I like it, what kind of modifier? What does it do?
Lee: Well you will see very soon because we have been working with a company in China to mass produce them. I literally just saw the prototype for the first time yesterday and I am really impressed. This thing may be available very soon. Basically it is a small sofbox that can fold up and fit into your pants pocket
SLR Lounge: Ohhh, sweet! So I assume we will get a pre-release review unit? =)
Lee: For sure!
SLR Lounge: Regarding wedding photography, I know weddings can at times get repetitive. So what are you doing to sort of “stay fresh” or always remain creative, even when you are doing a triple header (friday wedding, saturday wedding, sunday wedding, lol)
Lee: I’m not sure I’ve ever done a triple header although I have done a ton of doubles. Weddings can get old but I usually get inspired by my clients. If they are excited about trying new things then I get excited. If they are boring then chances are, the wedding is going to be boring too.
SLR Lounge: Haha, we are nearing the finish line, two more questions. I know FStoppers is a great place for inspiration and knowledge. Are there specific places, photographers, or even film where you look to for inspiration?
Lee: I don’t really follow any photographers (I find I get depressed about my own work when I do). I get most of my inspiration from advertising. In NYC everywhere you look there are amazing photographs and many of them burn into my mind and are great inspiration.
SLR Lounge: Awesome, and finally, what are you doing in your spare time, that is when you are not Shooting or FStopping? And yes, FStopping is now a verb… look it up
Lee: I love boating, wakeboarding, and snowboarding. I’ve also just gotten into kiteboarding and when the wind is blowing you will find me out on the beach doing that.
SLR Lounge: Well, thanks so much for your time Lee. Be sure to keep us posted on your new product, and of course any of your signature FStopper BTS Original videos, which are fabulous by the way.
Lee: Will do. We have really been slack on our FS Originals lately because we have been working on our big BTS contest and Peter Hurley’s headshot DVD. The contest is finally up and running and the DVD is currently being proofed by Peter so we are free to get back to what we are known for.
SLR Lounge: Well, I know we are all looking forward to your next FS Original, so hurry it up already ;)
Interview by Post Production Pye
SLR Lounge Senior Editor
Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography