Perth Product Photographer Matt Reed
Interview with professionals series
Today we will be talking with Matt Reed. Matt Reed is a talented and successful professional commercial photographer from Australia. With his team in his beautiful studio Matt creates all types of studio product images: jewelry, food, wine bottles, clothing and fashion, industrial photography just to name a few.
As a former e-commerce business owner he has a rather unique perspective at product photography being able to look at the problem from his clients’ point of view.
Now after over than ten years in product photography business Matt continuously keeps experimenting with new gear, testing new technologies and developing new lighting techniques for the purpose of creating the strongest product photographs possible.
We are very excited to announce that Matt will be one of our instructors on photigy.com.
Please, welcome Matt Reed!
Matt, please tell our readers a little bit about yourself. Where you are from and what is your background.
I currently live in Perth, Australia. Our home is in Fremantle which is a bit of a hub for creatives. It’s a pretty chilled out beachy hippy city.
I grew up on a wheat farm 250 kilometres from Perth, which is a long way from most places. Our nearest neighbor was 10 kilometres away. I spent my boyhood days thinking up things, making things and wrecking things.
So how did you get into photography?
Well I didn’t go to photography or art school, I wasn’t handed down a camera from a family of photographers, I wasn’t sitting on a cliff one day and in a magical moment knew that my calling was to become a photographer… my story is far less glamorous than that.
In 2002 I started a retail store selling and teaching people how to play the didgeridoo and other world instruments. From day one, our strategy was to also offer the products for sale online. So out came the point and shoot camera and I started taking photos of the products. As you can imagine, the photos looked pretty bad… but that was the beginning of a product photography journey. I was in that business for 10 years.
I also did a stint in the UK for a couple of years as product photographer and ecommerce manager for a ski, skate and surf clothing and equipment retailer. It is a heavily competitive industry, which helped sharpen my photography and business skills.
In hindsight, running retail and ecommerce businesses was a fantastic testing ground to see what worked and didn’t work in the way of using photos to sell products online.
There came a point in time where I got more excited about taking photos, so made the transition to full time commercial photography. Happy days!
What is your favorite subject to photograph?
To be honest, if I do the same thing over and over, pretty soon I get bored. I thrive on variety.
Fortunately with the nature of the work we attract, we are always bouncing from subject to subject. One day we might be photographing diamond rings in the studio, the next out on location photographing food for a restaurant and the next creating a library of marketing images for a coffee brand.
I guess I’m drawn towards the extremes… on one side I love photographing products as it’s all about the technical and you get to really fine tune and finesse the lines, the light and the details. On the other side I love taking photos of people as you can really capture the essence of a business – what you can’t say in words.
I’m a big believer that businesses need to tell their story in pictures, every way they can. Sometimes it’s pictures of their products, sometimes their workplaces… it almost always involves their people.
What do you think is the most important skill a photographer needs to have?
For me, the most important skill is being a nice person – kind, honest, positive and fun to work with. Business is all about people and you spend a lot of time interacting, collaborating and working with others.
I’ve found that our clients value the positive experience of working with us just as high as the finished photos. As the saying goes “people don’t remember what you so or do, they remember the way you made them feel”. It’s important not to underestimate this.
Second to this, I would say problem solving. When photographing products, it’s not important to know everything. It is important to start somewhere and know how to build the shot you have planned, overcoming the technical challenges as you go.
What gets you excited?
Learning new stuff. I love learning and can never do enough. I’d rather learn something new and put it to use, than spend hours mastering a specific skill. Fortunately I pick up things pretty quickly, maybe that comes from the practical skills learnt growing up on a farm.
I am a gadget man. I like buttons and dials and things with batteries. Photography is the perfect outlet… the wish list is never ending. I am a better shopper than my wife. There is a running joke amongst the team when the courier knocks on the door at the studio, someone will bet that “It’s for Matt”.
What is your most recent purchase?
Camera bags. Can you ever have too many camera bags? We are forever travelling to locations and are always experimenting with the best way to store and carry our kit.
At the moment I am in love with my speed light bag. Packed will all the little accessories needed to do amazing things with small lights.
Can you tell us a bit about your team?
We’re a small team of four and we work our little cotton socks off to do the best work we can for our clients. Our vibe is informal and high performance. We run a pretty relaxed ship and we’re always up for a laugh.
Shelley is our studio manager, and the first point of contact when clients get in touch. Shelley will happily suggest ideas, make recommendations and guide our clients through their project. She also has a wealth of business expertise to draw from — having had prior experience running a multi-million dollar product wholesale company.
Janelle is a photographer and experienced make-up artist. She also has a strong background in portrait photography and artistic nudes. A true artist with endless energy, Janelle has heaps of creative ideas and helps us get the most out of any photo shoot.
Henry is one multi skilled fella. With a background in film and multimedia, as well as photography, he is the perfect person to shoot still or motion. No mention of Henry would be complete without acknowledging his patience, which dare we say it, is saint-like.
While I often have a camera in my hand, more recently I have moved into a Director of Photography role, which means I get to think up weird and wonderful ideas for the team to execute. I’m happy to be thrown into any situation and always up for a challenge.
Tell us about your two photography brands?
I started with Perth Product Photography (http://www.perthproductphotography.com.au), which specializes in product photography. Our clients require us to do both white background catalogue photos and creative images for advertising.
As years went on, the types of photos our clients wanted us to take diversified. We found ourselves also taking pictures of people, places and projects. Eventually this gave birth to our second brand Photography Project (http://www.photographyproject.com.au)
Last year about 50% of our work was product photography and the other 50% was people, places and project.
What are your excited about sharing with the Photigy community?
I believe that to run a successful photography business, you need to be equal parts business person, technical geek and artist. There are many wonderful lessons on Photigy teaching you the technical and creative skills. I hope to shed some light on the business side of things as well as some photography gems.
At the end of the interview at photigy.com we have a tradition to ask our senior photographers a word of advice for those of us who are just starting on the path. What could you say?
Excellent… the years have gone by so quickly I feel like I’ve just started so I love this question.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a new skill. With incredible resources like Photigy, I believe this can be sped up but there is still no substitute for experience. Keep a camera in your hand as much as possible. Keep shooting, experimenting, failing and succeeding. Don’t get too caught up or bogged down on any particular moment, photo or technique. Keep moving, keep enjoying it, go easy on yourself, keep learning and most importantly keep a big smile on your face… because after all, you’re a photographer! How cool is that!