A relatively new website that’s been making a lot of noise lately is fstoppers, showcasing primarily behind-the-scenes videos, among other things. Lee Morris is one of the co-founders, and runs a wedding photography business on the side. He has attained a great deal of success at a young age yet seems down to earth and knows how to enjoy himself. He also has a pretty cool photobooth idea. Dive in to this interview to learn more about half of the team behind fstoppers.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m currently 28 years old and I live in Charleston SC. I love the outdoors, especially wakeboarding and kiteboarding but for some reason I always have to force myself to leave my computer chair. I tend to begin working in the afternoon and stop working well after midnight. When I have meetings at lunch time I have to set an alarm so I don’t sleep past noon.
What’s the best thing about living in Charleston?
The water. I can jump on a boat or go to the beach in less than 10 minutes from my house.
How did you get started in photography?
I went to school for graphic design and I always thought that is what I was going to be. In college I took photography classes but was never very interested. When I was a Junior I interned with a photographer and a advertising agency at the same time. During this time I realized that I was a terrible graphic designer and I hated having office hours and having a boss. The photographer was in his twenties, owned his own studio, didn’t answer anyone, woke up when he wanted, went home when he wanted, and made way more money. I decided that I would become a photographer at any cost.
One camera and one lens for the rest of your life – what would it be?
I just got a D800 yesterday so I would have to say a D800 and a 24-70mm 2.8.
Do you see yourself remaining a wedding photographer throughout your career?
No. I love wedding photography at the moment but I’ve always said I don’t want to be the old, nerdy, wedding photographer. I may always shoot weddings for friends but I plan to eventually stop marketing. I hope to be doing other things within 5-10 years.
Tell us one crazy/memorable story from one of your wedding gigs.
I shot a wedding for an American client who was marrying a German guy in Germany. I showed up days before the event with 2 assistants (who happened to be my 2 best friends) and we got to live with a German couple and experience the German culture. The evening before the wedding they had a reception type party just for the local village (everyone in the neighborhood was invited). During this time everyone threw porcelain at a sign with the couples name on it; everything from plates, to vases, and even a kitchen sink. On the day of the wedding the couple got married in a local castle and immediately afterwards had to cut down a tree with a rusty saw together. The reception lasted past 2am and we ended up dancing with all of the guests and passing our cameras around. I ended up in many of reception pictures. This was definitely the best wedding experience of my life but possibly the best experience of my life period.
If you weren’t doing photography, what would you be doing?
I’m not sure but I would definitely be working for myself. I can’t stand jobs that make you come in to work when there is no work to be done.
What’s your personal favorite video that you’ve made with fstoppers?
If you had to choose between weddings and fstoppers, what would it be?
Fstoppers because it gives me the freedom to do whatever I want. If I want to shoot a wedding for an Fstoppers BTSV I can but I can also fly around the world and meet with some of the best photographers in the industry and learn form them. Fstoppers has opened up doors that being just a wedding photographer would never have.
What’s the worst thing about being a photographer?
It actually took me a long time to think about this because I don’t see many negative aspects to being a photographer. I’d have to say post production is my least favorite aspect of shooting in general. The worst part about wedding photography is being forced to shoot weddings outside when it is 100 degrees. I’m not sure why brides like doing that so much.
You seem pretty young, but you’re very well-known in the photography community. How has this fame affected you?
I think Fstoppers has allowed me to put my work “out there.” Fstoppers.com is by no means about just me though, we will help promote anyone who is doing cool work. As I become more “known” in the industry more doors open. I am introduced to photographers and businesses, companies now want to give me free gear to test out or review, advertisers want to be a part of Fstoppers. The process becomes a snowball and eventually I hope to be very connected in the industry however the more connected I get the more I realize just how small our site actually is in the grand scheme of things.
Words of advice for those wishing to become a full time pro?
Shoot big concepts all the time and compare your work to the best. Most guys start off shooting girls; fashion, “Model Mayhem” type stuff and that is fine but you need to take your shoots to the next level. Don’t waste time shooting some mediocre model in average clothes in a boring location. You would do better to work 6 months on a single, amazing image than taking thousands of average looking shots and putting them on Flickr or Mayhem like everyone else. Don’t compare your work to other photographers who also aren’t full time professionals. Shooting pretty girls is fun but unless your shots can compare to the best photographers in the world that are getting published week after week, chances are you aren’t going to be able to make a living at it.
I never wanted to be a wedding photographer but I did want to be a photographer. Shooting weddings happened naturally for me because I needed money to pay the bills. If you truly want to be a full time professional you will do whatever it takes to pay the bills and that may require that you change the type of photography that you do. I went through a 6 month “fashion” period like most photographers do but I then I had to get over it and realize that 1, I don’t give a crap about fashion and clothing (I just liked shooting girls) and 2, there is nobody hiring fashion photographers in my market.Finally, put yourself “out there”. If you come up with a huge concept and you plan out an impressive photoshoot, get a friend to film it and create a behind the scenes video of the process. As long as the video is informative we will post it on Fstoppers.com and thousands of your peers will learn from it. The road to becoming a Chase Jarvis or a Joe McNally is not that complicated; simply do good work and share it. The hardest part is staying motivated.
A few videos featuring Lee and his work…