Adventurer, mountain-hiker, globetrotter, star-gazer, waterfall-chaser, Instagrammer extraordinaire, Michael Matti, shares inspiration on how to get some stellar shots.
Artists sometimes have one day that is a total game changer. That day for photographer Michael Matti was September 16, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. to be exact. It was the day Instagram, the mega-popular photo-sharing social media site, featured his work across their platforms. In the days following, he went from having about 3,500 followers to over 25,000. In the months following, his fan base grew to 50,000 followers. And in the time it took to read this paragraph, three to four more people probably started following his newsfeed, which is packed with stunning, inspirational outdoor and travel photography and bits of wisdom he’s picked up along the way.
Since then, the notoriety has landed him new friends, travel perks and professional connections with outdoor-based companies, such as Wilderness Culture, Westcomb, The Outbound, StudentUniverse and Flow397. “It’s been a crazy ride,” Matti says. “It’s pretty exciting, and a lot of fun to watch. Life changing, really. It connected me with a lot of people.”
But even if you’ve never heard of Instagram, chances are you’ve seen his work. In fact, if you’re holding a print copy of this magazine, just flip to the cover. Matti, age 24, has been the Reflections primary editorial photographer for the past few years. He’s shot everything from features about our trainers to portraits for our member profiles to articles on local breweries and ski shops.
But the Indiana native’s absolute favorite subjects are craggy Pacific Northwest mountain landscapes, rugged West Coast sea stacks and the Milky Way shot from a summit on a clear summer night. “I gravitate toward mountains; I love the size and scale of them and how small they make me feel, but in a good way. I’m just in awe of them,” Matti says.
Oh yeah, and he’s also got a thing for travel photography. He has been to 24 countries and 38 states, capturing whatever he happens to find there. “I really love the places that tie in the city with nature, not so much the heavy urban places. For example, in Italy, Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast; I love the colored cities rising on the hillsides over the blue water,” he says.
So, for our Travel/Adventure issue, we found it apropos to showcase some of his best travel work. And because he’s such a nice guy, he also shared some of his pro tips about travel photography.
“Keep a clean composition, and avoid busyness in the photo. Also, if you have people in the shots, try to make them stand out against the background, using color or positioning. The other thing that makes a great photo is subject matter, getting out and shooting somewhere interesting. Those are the two most important things: subject matter and composition.”
“I have some things to say on equipment. So many people ask what camera, settings or lenses I use. In the end, equipment is great, but it’s not going to make you a better photographer. A bad camera in the hands of a great photographer is better than a good camera in the hands of a bad photographer. Again, it’s more about subject matter and composition. Although, I will say for some things you need certain equipment; like to shoot the night sky you need a fast lens (2.8 aperture or less) and wide lens. But for most things, it’s not about equipment. I suggest that whatever you have, work with it and learn it. Get the most out of your equipment.
But, if you are interested in investing in equipment, lenses affect photos a lot more, plus they hold their value a lot longer than camera bodies. I’d rather have a more expensive lens than camera body."
Time Of Day
“Different times of day impact shots so much. Early morning and evening have much better light. I also like shooting early in the morning to avoid crowds of people, especially for wide shots, expansive outdoor spaces or urban areas.”
"Expect things not to go as you planned, and be prepared to be flexible. Go with the flow and try not to get caught up on too many things. If you’re hiking mountains when you travel, pack light and be in decent shape to carry the extra 15 pounds of equipment."
“Just don’t be afraid to try it; there’s no harm in trying. You can’t expect to be amazing at photography right away. Even the best photographers started by taking terrible pictures of what was around them. Even in my own personal growth, I can look back at photos from just a year ago and think I could have done better. Photography is very hands-on, and it’s the only way to learn.”
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