JRP: Patrick Hall is half of the dynamic duo which authors the Fstoppers website. A wonderful site that promotes information and education in still and video production. In addition he is an accomplished photographer himself. We appreciate Patrick sharing his time with JRP Blog.
Patrick Hall: Thanks for setting up this interview. Your website is great by the way.
JRP: Where do you call home Patrick?
Patrick Hall: Well I grew up in Anchorage Alaska and then with my dad being in the military we relocated to Alabama. I went to college in Birmingham, AL., and wound up in Charleston, SC. Charleston is definitely where my heart and my business reside.
JRP: How did you get started in photography? Is there formal training in your background?
Patrick Hall: I actually have no formal training in photography at all. I went to college for pre-medicine and thought I was going to be a dentist. During the application process to dental school, I met Lee Morris and he invited me to assist a few photo shoots and a few weddings. The next thing I knew I was studying photography online and letting my DAT scores expire. I’ve learned when opportunities come you sometimes have to set other priorities aside and see what happens. That’s not advice your parents always want to hear though. 🙂
JRP: How do you define the style of your work?
Patrick Hall: Well I’ve always been really drawn towards commercial and lifestyle photography. I also enjoy interesting lighting but I’ve learned that often times complex lighting can start to distract from your subject. So I think I try to capture a balance between people’s real emotions and something artistically interesting. With weddings your clients usually want to see a lot of candid shots with a lot of emotion. With commercial photography you are usually keeping up with advertising trends and trying to create something interesting. So I think in the back of my mind I’m always trying to do a little bit of both, get a real emotion out of your subject and make it as creative as possible.
JRP: Do you have any support staff and if so what areas do they handle?
Patrick Hall: Because most of my work is done on location, I do not employ anyone full-time but I do sub-contract out a bunch of local photographers when it is time to shoot. Since I travel a lot I enjoy hiring friends of mine so when we aren’t shooting we are able to relax and have fun without that strange “you are the hired hand” atmosphere looming around.
JRP: What equipment would I find in your camera bag or studio for a typical shoot? What lighting equipment do you favor and why?
Patrick Hall: I have two primary cases. In the pelican hard case I have a bunch of Nikon SB800s and 80DX flashes. I also have enough pocket wizards to fire all of them if I need to do something extreme. My main cameras are D300s with 70-200 VRII, D700 with 24-70. I also have a few primes like the 60mm macro, 50 1.4, and a Sigma 30 1.4.
The second case is a Tamron backpack that I use mainly for Fstoppers gigs. I have a second D300s with the Tamron 17-50 2.8 VR lens. I really wish Nikon would release a 2.8 lens in that range with VR just for video. I also have a set of Seinhessier G2 wireless microphones for audio and a bunch of chargers for camera batteries and AA batteries. I’ve just recently added a few Gopro Hero HD cameras to capture interesting video when the opportunity arises.
I also have a third roller bag that has a few Dynalite power-packs and 2040 heads for studio shoots. I don’t like carrying that stuff around so it usually stays in the car.
All that being said, I try not to get too hung up on gear. I like to stay focused on trying to be creative rather than what new lens is in my bag.
JRP: Could you please describe how Fstoppers came together, who else is involved, and their areas of expertise?
Patrick Hall: Well Fstoppers has been an idea of Lee Morris and I for some while now. At first we thought maybe we would sell products that would help wedding photographers. But then when our Nikon cameras started shooting HD video, we thought it might be more fun to create an online community that shared people’s creative projects in video form. Lee and I started the website by featuring really high-end photographers who were excited to share their knowledge, and we now have a lot of our readers submitting videos as well. Jerrit Pruyn does a weekly segment called The Wednesday Rundown that features interesting videos sent in by our readers too. Overall it’s a fun way to learn what real photographers are doing by watching them work as opposed to just reading about fstops and photo gear. I always learned best by watching, not by conceptualizing.
JRP: How has the melding of still and video affected your work production?
Patrick Hall: It has added many more hours to my nights. Actually, I still approach both mediums separately. Lee and I have started editing all of the Fstoppers original videos from photographers we respect in the industry and that has required a little bit of studying and reading on our part. Shooting video is fairly similar to framing up a photograph so in that aspect the transition has been pretty easy. Editing all the clips and making a cohesive story within 10 minutes has been much more difficult. However, I do feel a little more excited now when I export a final video than I do when I finish photo-shopping a great image. I’m sure anyone who shoots video can understand me when I say your lust for a more powerful computer is never-ending. Render, Render, Render!
JRP: With today’s economy please share with us how you keep a productive and creative edge.
Patrick Hall: That’s a tough question. There isn’t really any one thing you can do that will guarantee success in this industry. However, I have received really good advice from photographers like Chase Jarvis, David Jay, Peter Hurley, and David Bergman. When you are ultimately selling a service, which is what most photography boils down to, you really have to sell yourself more than simply promoting your product. People base who they hire more on who they know and those who are recommended to them. Everyone today can take a great photograph so I believe you have to sell yourself and have a personality that people enjoy being around. So while I always try to push my photography visually, I ultimately know that the real marketing power that will keep me being successful and productive is selling Patrick Hall and not simply just my photography. That is why these behind the scenes videos are so great because they give you a chance to sell your personality as well as your art.
JRP: Give us a video link to view from the website that provides us with a good idea of the depth of information available to your visitors. Your personal observations on the video would be appreciated as well.
Patrick Hall: I will give you two. The first video is one that Lee and I personally created featuring one of New York City’s top headshot photographers Peter Hurley. I think it not only shows you the technical aspect of what it takes to shoot professional headshots but also relates back to the marketing during a weaker economy question. Peter’s business works because of Peter, not because he takes amazing photographs. Here is the link to his video and you will instantly see what I mean:
The other video is one of the first videos we featured on Fstoppers. In a nutshell it is a behind the scenes video of how a short advertising campaign was filmed for Philips Electronics new HD televisions. You really just have to watch the two videos. You can find both at: http://fstoppers.com/philips-carousel/
JRP: Would you share with us some of the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Patrick Hall: That’s a very loaded question. I know it’s really cliche but it’s a common piece of advice for a reason. Keep it simple! If you try to complicate your photo-shoot beyond what is practical you will not please your client and you will probably miss something important that is naturally happening in front of your camera. People are interesting enough, many photographers should remember that.
JRP: What advice would you like to share with other photographers?
Patrick Hall: The biggest message we are trying to share through Fstoppers is to get up out of your computer chair and go out and shoot. Get off the message boards that harp on photo gear and put to use the gear you already own. If you are already an established photographer, I would encourage you to start playing around with video. The market is changing quickly and there is no better way to promote your business than to create a video showcasing you working.
JRP: Thank you Patrick for taking the time to share your thoughts and images with us. It has been a real pleasure.
Patrick Hall: Thanks James. I hope your readers can make sense of my ramblings.
JRP: To view more of Patrick Hall’s photography please follow these links:
And of course www.Fstoppers.com