How Photographer Matt Granger Teaches the Art and Beauty of Portraits
March 10, 2023
Hong Kong-based photographer Matt Granger has led a decade-long quest to educate the masses in the art of photography and how to take the most eye-catching portraits.
First creating his YouTube channel in 2011 exploring new camera releases and reviews, tutorials for Photography tips and tricks, Matt Granger is a whizz on shooting Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, and Leica. The Beat Asia quizzed Matt in exploring his global work and passion for capturing the beauty of everyday life through portraits.
What first piqued your interest in photography?
My father and his mother were both very active amateur photographers. Since I was 5 years old, I have been playing with cameras and following them around as they documented daily life. I enjoyed cameras as a toy until I was 14, when I was able to start studying photography at high school.
Despite being a small rural school in Australia, they had a complete dark room set up, so I learnt how to roll film, develop, and enlarge, and get my hands dirty in the process. That was a big turning point for me. After that I won a photo competition at university, which gave me the confidence to start thinking about it as something more than a hobby, and I started taking some side jobs before graduating.
Creating your YouTube channel more than a decade ago, what inspired you to make the move online, primarily, to share your reviews of Nikon products?
It was a matter of chance. My parents were visiting New York, and I had asked them to buy me a camera bag. I searched online for reviews and found one on YouTube showing what you could fit inside. Sounds crazy now, but I had no idea that people did this at the time. I decided I would make one of my own when I got the bag. I set up a YouTube account the same day, and that first (terrible) video is still up.
A few months later, I won a competition at my local camera club and the guest judge happened to run one of the biggest camera accessory distribution companies. He gave me access to his inventory to make videos. I got my lucky break early, meaning I could put out far more content than would have been possible otherwise.
In aspects of shooting, what attracts you to the art of photography?
It may sound hokey, but there is a particular moment you get sometimes as a photographer that I love more than anything. When you are in the moment, lining up a shot, you dial in your settings, compose the frame and that moment just before you click the shutter, when you know you have created something special, it's unbeatable.
How can a novice or beginner photography get paid for their work and build their hobby?
I wouldn't encourage a novice to go straight into paid work. Photography is a great hobby and creative pursuit. But as a job, it is like any other. Your role as a professional is to create the images that your client requires. You are no longer shooting for fun, passion or necessarily for creativity, and honestly for many people, transitioning to paid work can kill the joy of the hobby.
If someone really does want to go down this route, selling prints is a good way to start to make money on the kind of work you enjoy creating. If you want to get into other fields, I suggest working with a professional and learning what goes into making a business from it and see if it is really for you.
What influenced your move to Hong Kong and what makes the city great for photography?
I have always loved Hong Kong! I used to visit regularly whilst i lived in Australia, and once we had moved to New York in 2016 through 2020. When the pandemic hit, my business running photography tours was put on hold, and I didn't need to be on that side of the world for work. We decided to move here to be closer to family and friends, and for an adventure.
We have been living here for two years now, and I am always finding great new places to shoot. I really enjoy the fast pace and mix of old and new scenery. I think Hong Kong is one of the best cities for photographers wanting a mix of traditional travel photography.
What advice would you give for followers and fans of yourself to master travel, boudoir, dramatic, business, wedding etc. photography?
Nothing beats learning from an experienced professional, and lots of practice. I have two online schools where I teach people in long form courses on all those genres, which is a great place to level up skills and get inspiration. But at the end of the day, mastery comes with work and targeted revision.
The more portraits you shoot, the better you will become, and a key to that process is stopping to take stock, see what is working and what isn't, and challenge yourself to grow by taking on big projects that are outside your comfort zone. It's those challenging shoots where the lightbulb moments of learning occur.
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