A Chat with Lee Morris from Fstoppers.com
In just a few short years, Fstoppers.com has gone from being nonexistent to becoming one of the most vibrant photography destinations on the internet. We took a moment to chat with one of the site's co-founders, Lee Morris, about the upcoming 2014 Fstoppers Workshops, his hipster camera reviews, and what it feels like to ride a water slide into a pool of sharks.
The 2014 Fstoppers Workshop is the very first seminar of its kind, and you guys went big: It’s taking place in the Bahamas, there are ten professional instructors involved—most of whom are conducting multiple workshops, and you even need a passport to get there. It’s like a pop-up photography university in another country. How did this come about?
We created Fstoppers.com after going to a very small photography seminar, and then watching a really inspirational speech by Chase Jarvis. Since the creation of the website, we have traveled around the country and the world, to many different live events. A couple years ago, we started casually looking for a location in the Bahamas that was easy to get to and affordable, while also having a venue that could hold ten photography classes going on at once. Last year we finally found Atlantis Resort, on the island of Nassau. Flights from most places in the USA are around $400, and we got room rates of just $160/night for our event. We found that it was actually cheaper to throw our event in the Bahamas than it was in a major city like NYC, where hotels start at around $300/night.
Image by Aaron Nace - attend his Plan Your Dream Photo Shoot workshop
We had spoken casually to Peter Hurley about this idea for a long time, so he was the first person we called, and he jumped on board. After that, we started calling photographers that we had made connections with over the years, and I think we did a great job of getting ten completely different photographers teaching a range of photography genres including headshots, fashion, architecture, product, food and portraits.
Did you intentionally set this up to create an all-encompassing experience for the attendees?
Yes we did. The most successful locations for workshops these days are NYC and Vegas. Both of these locations are great for a very specific type of person, and neither are very conducive to families. Atlantis resort is unique because it has so much to offer. Not only is it on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it also has eleven massive swimming pools and a water park on site, which are free to use. They have a dolphin experience, and an incredible aquarium that you can actually snorkel in!
If you prefer the Las Vegas scene, they have that too—all of the table games, slots, bars, and incredible restaurants. If you are into diving like I am, Nassau has some amazing dive sites, and the prices are extremely reasonable. This location has so much to offer, that everyone is going to find something to do that they love. If you want to bring your spouse or your children, you can be sure that they will have a blast while you are taking your classes.
Image by John Keatley, attend his Lighting the Keatley Way workshop
What would you say to people out there who might be “on the fence” about attending—those concerned about missing a potential job on Saturday, May 31? How much of an impact can these workshops have on their skill sets and careers?
The great thing about photography workshops is that they are incredibly fun while you are attending them, but once you come home you should start using your new knowledge to make money. I would expect for most people that they will pay for their entire trip by booking a few jobs with their new skills. The average wedding photographer in America charges $3500 per wedding. Pye Jirsa's two-day wedding photography workshop is only $1500, your flight might be around $400, and your room for 5 nights will be around $800. That means your total trip will cost around $2700. If his workshop helps you book just one wedding during the rest of your career, you have more than paid for the entire trip. But I would argue that learning wedding photography techniques from one of the best in the world will end up helping you book far more than that.
Did you personally check out the water park at Atlantis? I’m dying to know what happens on that big water slide that shoots you down underneath the surface of that pool, after it sends you through the submerged tube. Any idea?
Before we signed a contract with Atlantis, we did travel down there for three days, and I personally "tested" every single water slide, including the one that drops straight down into a tube through a shark tank. It was horrifying and amazing at the same time. I also had a dolphin push me around their pool. It was incredible. I'm actually going back down there at the end of February to plan the details of the event, and I plan on "testing" all of those rides again.
Photo by Lin & Jirsa Photography. Attend Pye Jirsa's Ultimate Wedding Photography Workshop
You made lots of waves recently with your Nikon Df Hipster Review video. Do the Bahamas workshops have something to offer to retro-modern camera enthusiasts, and those who prefer to capture images in their favorite community gardens?
Hah! I'm afraid hipsters that enjoy taking pictures of community gardens may not want to come, because Atlantis doesn't have any on site. But for those people who enjoy trying out new gear as much as I do, I'm excited to say that Hasselblad and Profoto will be down there with gear for students to use, and B&H is planning on bringing a range of gear to loan out as well.
It’s hard to believe that Fstoppers has only been around for three years. What’s next for you after the Bahamas workshops?
I hope that Fstoppers Workshops become a regular thing, but in all honesty, this may be the only one we do. It's much more work than we ever assumed it would be, but we are doing everything we can to make this event incredible.
We are currently totally revamping Fstoppers.com, and we hope to have the new site launch in June. For those people who like casually browsing our blog, the experience will remain the same, but for those who want more connection and community, we have some very exciting things lined up.
Workshops will be held by Michael Grecco, Peter Hurley, Dixie Dixon and seven other professional photographers.
Visit fstoppersworkshops.com to learn more, and to register.