ProFiles | 8 Seconds Ltd.

Travelling the globe, cameras in hand. Hugo Pettit and Finn Pomeroy have been lucky enough to shoot some of the world’s most exciting sports and subjects. Together they represent the brains behind 8 Seconds Ltd. a photo and video content agency working with some of the most exciting clients in the business.

With a penchant for extreme sports, the boys and their team put their camera gear through its pace, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down for 2020. We wanted to know more, so we invited Hugo and Finn over to the Fixation showroom to get the inside track on how they built their success, and what their next moves might be…

Fixation: So, Hugo and Finn, for readers who aren’t familiar with your work, tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

Hugo: Finn and I have been photographers for about ten years. Originally we were working on the same jobs for a long time, and it got to the point very organically were it simply didn’t make sense not to start an agency. Everything since then has actually been very natural – the clients have become more varied, the work has become greater, and the requirement for bigger teams and greater variation in skills has grown. We’ve always been really lucky in the industries we’ve worked in – skiing, surfing, skydiving, base-jumping – that we’re surrounded by these incredibly visceral, visual things that are just impossible not to capture in some way. And with that also comes being surrounded by lots of inspiring people and creatives.

Finn: Deeply passionate people. Whichever field we’ve been in – sports, automotive or anything – people we’ve worked with and for have been deeply passionate about what they do. That has been an ongoing theme with everything we’ve done.

Fixation: How are responsibilities divvied up between the two of you?

Finn: It’s very vague really. We just, kind of… work together!

Hugo: It’s definitely evolved. What we love to be able to do is bring together almost a menu of amazing creatives who specialise in different fields, and allow clients to choose the best team. In terms of responsibilities – I wouldn’t say Finn or I are any good at admin, so that’s something we’ve both had to learn. We’ve made it work by giving ourselves a kick up the backside every now and again.

Finn: There are always different projects on the go. At the moment we’re prepping for a couple of big shoots – I’m planning a Mercedes project, and we’ve got another one with Fever-Tree that Hugo is managing.

Fixation: Do you do much actual shooting these days?

Finn: Yeah, a lot. The idea was never to step back – we started this whole thing because we love filming and photography, and the idea was always to have that at the forefront. We’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of people who also enjoy these things, so we’ve pooled everyone together, but we’re still hands-on.

Hugo: Five years ago we used to want to travel as much as possible, to be the ones going away all the time, but now we’ve got a few more responsibilities back here, so it’s nice to have the ability to pick and choose the shoots we personally want to do. But also being surrounded by people that inspire us to be more than the sum of our parts, I think is amazing, and to be able to get these amazing creatives together in one room to make things that individually we never would have been able to do is really exciting.

Fixation: Do you find yourselves having to stay on top of the latest trends in photo/video content?

Finn: We try! It changes a lot. Again this comes back to working with good teams – I wouldn’t say we’re old guys, but we work with younger guys who are pretty on it with that stuff.

Fixation: What kind of trends have you noticed over the last few years?

Hugo: That’s an interesting one. I would say the big thing we have had to change is just the length of edits. The first time we were asked to make videos we considered two and a half minutes to be a short edit. A short edit is now six seconds. It is just a whole different way of thinking. If someone had said to us five years ago that they wanted us to shoot something with the camera on its side, we’d have thought they were totally crazy. But now, shooting in 9:16 and producing fifteen-second, eight-second and six-second videos…

Finn: Is perfectly normal. It’s the go-to, in every contract we have now.

Hugo: We live in a world where everything has to be so fast, and people’s attention spans are so short, and these days the way you have to work from client briefs is very prescriptive and very formulaic, because there are rules of how viewers watch things on Instagram.

Fixation: And if you don’t follow them, people will comment to tell you…

Hugo: Or not comment at all! Because it gets no traction. It means that our creativeness has to sit in a box, and it’s our challenge to come up with our wild ideas but then work out if it fits within these boxes. It is frustrating, because it’s definitely not the reason why we started the business or why we became filmmakers and photographers. That’s why we’re trying to explore our own projects as well. The bigger the agency becomes, the better we become as business owners, the more we can allow ourselves freedom to follow other passion projects.

Finn: Which is essential, I think. If we were just shooting for clients day-in, day-out – it is an easy trap to fall into, and one we kind of did fall into in the past.

Fixation: So what have been the professional highlights – the projects that remind you why you do this?

Hugo: For me it was a photo I took on holiday! In 2015, in Indonesia. There was this swell [a surfing term for a cluster of large waves]. They could see it from ten days out, which is very rare. It was absolutely huge and I had to go out. So I came up with a really lame excuse and stayed there, and there was just some amazing surfing. The timing, everything was right, and I got a lucky photo that has essentially allowed me two trips and hopefully annual trips out to my surf heaven.

Finn: For me, it was a shoot where I was actually away on other projects, and Hugo had taken a team on. It was Day One, we’d brought a load of new guys in, and they had to shoot and release everything in a 24-hour period because it was going out to Selfridges, so it had to be put together pretty quickly on the road. The first edit came out and I was blown away, thinking “This is seriously good.” It was at a level we’d been aspiring to get to for a long time, and for it was a really pivotal moment.

Hugo: I’d second that, actually. It’s taken a lot of man-hours of Finn and I shooting and managing teams and running everything ourselves from the start to the finish of every project, and we’re slowly getting to the point where we’re running a business and aren’t just two freelancers under one name. People recognise the name and are proud to be working for the agency. That’s really special.

Fixation: On that note, I’m curious, where does the name “8 Seconds” come from?

Hugo: We did some research online and played with loads of different names.

Finn: A lot.

Hugo: But we found that the attention span online, back when we started the business, was eight seconds.

Finn: That was your timeframe to get someone’s attention with a piece of online media. Which, now, I’m sure would be like 0.2 seconds.

Hugo: I’m sure it’s decreasing. We’ll have to change the name incrementally.

Fixation: What kit have you been using lately – has anything particularly impressed you?

Hugo: Kit’s a really interesting one. I think one of the problems with our industry is that people can get so bogged down with kit, and it is so easy to feel that you don’t have the right kit.

Finn: We’re as bad as anyone else for that.

Hugo: We are. But you have to know what is right for the job, and actually what is right for the client. You look at the output and then you work backwards.

Finn: We’ve primarily been doing photo and video on some 1DX Mark IIs for a fair while just because they’re bulletproof. In different situations, when we’ve been in the mountains or in the sea or on a beach or something, they’ve taken a beating and stood up. Even once when we were shooting some kayaking, one got fully submerged underwater and came back out and kept shooting. It didn’t falter, and just shot continuously for the rest of the day.

Hugo: If we need something else then generally we will go for a C300 Mark II or Sony FS7 II. Photo-wise a couple of times we’ve used medium format and things with very high pixel counts.

Finn: But for the majority, the 1DX II has done 99% of the work.

Hugo: For our adventures, it’s perfect. And, while as a general rule we try not to do this, if you ever have to flick between photo and video, which we’ve both had to do…

Finn: You get the quality of both.

Hugo: In the last year, I don’t think there’s any other camera that could have competed with it.

Fixation: Do you have any dream projects – stuff you’ve not done but would like to?

Finn: I don’t know – we’ve done some pretty fun stuff!

Hugo: We’re doing Kilimanjaro next month! And one thing we’re doing this year is producing two feature films. And personally that’s one of the directions I’m desperate for 8 Seconds to go.

Finn: it’s the equivalent of going out and taking a medium format film camera – shooting slowly and working with fifteen shots, not rattling off two and a half thousand. It’s the other end of the spectrum for us – with everything getting faster and faster, it’s nice to slow it all down.

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