The Brandon Hill Interview

Brandon Hill has been the photographer for some of the Nintendo Switch’s Top Secret product launches and lifestyle photography (Nintendo Switch Lite, Mario Kart Home Circuit, Nintendo Switch OLED). He’s also an amazing portrait shooter and has photographed some big names — Bill Gates, Bill Nye, Will Ferrell (the three main Williams) — and now Reggie Fils-Aime. He’s also the main reason I found out about Reggie Fils-Aime’s book Disrupting the Game, which I was able to write about last week for its release.

Disrupting the Game book cover image •photo by Brandon Hill

Brandon is also a fellow member of the Nintendo Voice Chat (NVC) Podcast Forum Facebook group, and he always shares some behind the scenes photography and stories of his big Nintendo projects with the group — once the projects go live.

He doesn’t only take photos for Nintendo. His portfolio is full of great portrait, lifestyle, product, fashion and even more projects. His work inspired me to get back into taking pictures of stuff with my DSLR camera. I recently had the chance to send over a few questions for him to answer about working on the Reggie book cover and some other stuff for this unofficial Disrupting the Game: Part II post.

The Interview

myVGBC: Did you get the Reggie book photo gig through your previous Nintendo gigs? How did you become a Nintendo photographer?

Brandon Hill: Interestingly enough, the two jobs came to me completely unrelated.  Harper Collins is a publisher I’ve photographed for a number of years and they approached me because of my portrait work on some other non-fiction book covers. 

myVGBC: How was meeting Reggie in person? What do you talk about when you’re shooting someone?

BH: I’m the type of photographer who talks with the portrait subject from beginning to end. As long as they’re receptive, we will be talking. Partially, I’m just that way with people, and he was extremely engaging and interested in having a great experience and result. I didn’t shy away from telling him I know of his work and have been an owner of every Nintendo console since the early 80s. 

With these types of portrait shoots, I’m constantly asking questions about their story, what they’re trying to accomplish and then telling them how I will strategize to get them the most effective photography results. By laying that down clearly and early, the portrait subjects end up trusting me more, and Reggie was no exception. He held still for literally every idea, and didn’t even question my approach one time. Which I didn’t expect knowing I had a strong leader entering the room. After the traditional approach, he allowed for an experimental idea which was less traditional with colored lights, and then my idea of pixelating his face. Which to my shock, he and the cover designer and publisher went with. Clients almost always go for the standard “safe bet!”

myVGBC: How did you get into photography, and as a gamer is it a dream come true to be doing gaming related shoots?

BH: I actually got interested in photography because an art professor named Jonathan Bouw planted a seed of inspiration years ago in my college classes. He didn’t even know I would be a photographer and I hadn’t done much with a camera either. He teaches illustration and design. But his work was so influential, because most of the time it involved conceptual ideas often represented with people. Sometimes funny, and sometimes clever and thought-compelling. I wanted to make THAT kind of work but I didn’t have a tool to do it until digital photography came along about ten years later. At that time I shifted my career focus from design to commercial photography. Then portraiture came about five years into that. 

Yes – it’s absolutely a dream-come-true to photograph gaming related photography. When I’m not geeking out about photography, it’s likely I am about upcoming Nintendo products. I grew up with a NES, Genesis, and Gameboy in the house. I took a break from gaming when I went to art school, I just didn’t have the bandwidth for it. But then I got my first full time graphic design job and spent some of my paycheck on a DS Lite. It was the “New Super Mario Bros” that sucked me back in! Then that system exploded and so did my grown-up interest in video games.

myVGBC: What’s your favorite subject to photograph?

BH: People are what I’m drawn to. But lately objects have caught my attention, especially when I can incorporate an overarching idea conceptually. Working in a studio all day with people, models, authors is extremely fun, and you walk away with a high afterward when it goes well. But it’s also very relaxing to spend a day in the studio photographing objects, tweaking with the miniature sets and refining the studio lighting.

myVGBC: What has been your favorite project? Was it the Reggie shoot?

BH: Photographing Reggie was definitely one of the best, because there wasn’t too much of a battle to get the best image on the cover AND everyone involved was such a great collaborator. 

I think the Nintendo Switch OLED photo shoot was really exciting. A couple years ago, I photographed a fashion editorial piece in Seattle, and as a location we used an old but beautiful train station, and then the interior of a clock tower. It was a stunning environment and completely unique to any other work. It really taught me how much location matters.

myVGBC: What’s your Dream Photography gig?

BH: I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. Nintendo is a big checkbox for me personally and professionally. Similarly, it’s made me invested in striving to photograph for companies which I consume A LOT of their product: Apple and La Croix, I’m lookin at you two next. 

myVGBC: What game(s) are you currently playing?

BH: Currently our family is fully engaged with Nintendo Switch Sports. My 5-year-old and I play that and Kirby and the Forgotten World a ton, and my 8-year-old and I play a lot of Fortnite. I’m grateful they’ll have plenty (too much?) memories of playing games with their dad. 

The problem is that I haven’t carved out enough time to finish big first-player games that I’ve purchased and started (i.e. God of War, Ghosts of Tsushima). I used to have time to play those when they were much younger. Oh well, when they’re teenagers we’ll jump on those. 

myVGBC: Anything else you’re looking forward to?

BH: I want to play Breath of the Wild II just like everyone else!  Make it so, Nintendo.

BRANDON HILL is a concept and portrait photographer. His photography is seen in advertising campaigns, magazines and publishing. Through his personal and assignment work, his goal is to draw a distinct response; from laughter to bewilderment. He lives in Seattle with his creatively patient wife, Kristin and sons, Maddex and Hayes.

Check out Brandon Hill at website and be on the lookout for his work:

*The photos throughout this post were all taken by Brandon Hill.

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