Ben Patch is best known for being a BYU men’s volleyball powerhouse, but what many BYU students may not know is he’s also behind the camera for a thriving photography business.
After sitting out for 11 matches of the 2017 season because of a groin injury, Patch recently returned to the court and had his 1,000th career kill in the game against No. 1 Long Beach State.
Off the court, Patch can be found with couples taking their pictures. With nearly 90,000 followers on Instagram, Patch has built an impressive brand with intimate, expressive and story-telling photographs.
Surprisingly, Patch bought his first digital camera just two years ago.
Patch returned home from his LDS mission to Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 2015. He spent the summer in California playing volleyball for Team USA and started using his iPhone camera to take pictures of his surroundings. When Patch returned to Utah, several of his friends who are photographers and social media influencers encouraged him to invest in a digital camera.
“I’d never owned a digital camera in my life,” Patch said. “So, I literally bought the nicest one you could get.”
Patch used his new Canon 6D camera to start taking pictures of his friends, especially his teammates and their wives. They in turn promoted his photographs through their social media platforms.
Patch has since collaborated with some of Utah’s biggest Instagrammers and has traveled the Northern Hemisphere. He said his favorite shoot was in Iceland.
Photography isn’t Patch’s main focus, despite his success. He said maintaining volleyball as priority with photography as a hobby has balanced his life.
“It helps me let go and focus on something else,” Patch said. “I just make sure that volleyball stays a priority and photography as something I love.”
He does most of his photo shoots on Sundays and during the week, sometimes even hustling straight to a shoot right after practice.
Patch said he chose wedding photography because he loves meeting and interacting with people.
“I think a lot of photographers will take on any client, and they can do the same thing over and over again. But I really wanted to get into this because I wanted to learn people’s stories,” Patch said. “Before I do any kind of shoot, I spend a long time with the couple. Then it also means something for me to take photos of people I know.”
Patch said he spends a lot of time doing video calls, emailing and texting with couples before the shoot so he can truly get to know them as a couple. He said his photo shoots are rather long because he wants to express their story.
“For the first 30 minutes, we will just drive around together hanging out, telling stories, so it just feels like we are like family,” Patch said.
Patch recently held a workshop for photographers to come and learn his style and process. Patch said the workshop was not only about showing people how he shoots, but about empowering each person to be an individual artist.
“Photography to me is not a competitive thing at all. I think that photography is for everyone and really about every person being their own artist,” Patch said. “Right now in Utah, there is this thing where everyone is trying to do what someone else is doing, and I want people to be empowered to think for themselves.”
While Patch’s photography business is taking off, his volleyball life is about to change directions. Patch is headed to Europe after BYU’s volleyball season ends to become a professional volleyball player. He said he hopes the change will give him more time to take photos.
“College volleyball isn’t as demanding (as professional volleyball), but there are other things like school, family and friends that require a lot,” Patch said. “Pro volleyball also takes a lot of time, but you also have a lot more downtime because volleyball is the only thing I’ll be doing.”
Patch has already shot plenty of photos in Europe and said he hopes his photography business will grow even more once he’s there more long-term. With another 10–15 more years ahead of him as a professional volleyball player, there may be lots of stories he’ll be able to shoot along the way.