Matt Granger - Get Your Gear Out!
He is Matt Granger, portrait photographer and educator. But he also is That Nikon Guy, creator and host of a YouTube channel that showcases photography tutorials and gear reviews. In less than two years, Matt's channel has become one of the most popular online educational outlets (he gets more than 1.6 million viewers per month). That success sparked Matt's next online venture, the web site that supports his online tutorials, photographers' forum, a sign-up for newsletters, gear reviews – really, a complete and evolving community for shooters of all levels and interests to learn and interact.
Now based in Sydney and Hong Kong, Matt grew up in New South Wales, Australia in a home with lots of camera gear. He studied both photography and cinema at school and was happy to start out with knowledge of film SLRs and the how-to's of the darkroom. He founded his business in 2007 with a concentration on portraiture, Intimate Portraiture (nudes) and special event photography.
Don't let the name fool you, That Nikon Guy – aka Matt – is no brand fan boy – the community is made up of all people and Matt welcomes everyone who is passionate about learning, developing and enjoying photography. You can see his work on his web site and learn a bit more about the man with the Nikon right here.
Photographer Q & A
"Get Your Gear Out" is the inspirational mantra from That Nikon Guy web site and your workshops. Why do you think both amateur and enthusiast photographers need that reminder?
It is so easy to get focused on the process, the gear, the business side of things – and loose the joy of shooting. People can get so hung up on researching gear or techniques and engaging in forums etc. – meanwhile their gear sits in the closet and gathers dust. Researching and buying gear, reading up on techniques, studying the work of masters is all useful and fun – but it is not photography – it is just the grunt work that facilitates photography.
I strongly urge everyone – beginners or seasoned pros – to set aside time every month (every week would be better!) to get out and shoot for fun. Whether you like a group atmosphere or shooting solo, a formal shoot or workshop or a candid walk in the city – get your gear out of the closet and shoot.
A great way to encourage this is to take on a personal project. It can be anything that motivates you to get out and take images. Something that challenges you and will stretch your abilities and comfort zone is most rewarding.
You have a very affable approach in your tutorials. Are you a natural, on-camera host?
I grew up in a small country town and have always been outgoing. To be honest, the delivery and technical side of presentation took practice. But I have never viewed myself as a performer or a host per se – I see it as sharing, teaching and just connecting with the viewers. In that sense I am very comfortable.
Teaching is my passion - I come from a long line of teachers so it was kind of inevitable. There is nothing more rewarding for me that the moment when the penny drops and people 'get' a new concept. You can read about it, see it demonstrated, but for most people trying it, failing, trying again and working through the variables cements it in place. Many of the most complex photographic techniques are just a combination of quite simple concepts. Once you learn them your development takes off.
How does your face-to face-teaching differ from your online tutorials?
The tone of them is similar – I always aim to have fun and a laugh whilst teaching – however they do vary significantly.
I have three different workshops at the moment: Take Control of the Light – a 2.5 day comprehensive course on how light works; Intimate Portraiture – extremely small group nude portrait workshops; and Take Creative Control of your Camera – a single day workshop covering all the technical aspects to get the most from your equipment.
The workshops are always small groups – so I can give every participant personal attention. They are always intensive – we cover a lot of material and they are always hands on in nature. I think most people learn best by trial and error – so I always introduce concepts, explain them in basic terms, demonstrate them then the students have time to shoot with models to practice and reinforce the learning.
How has YouTube changed your professional life?
In two ways. Firstly I am much busier. Whilst it is incredibly rewarding, professionally and personally, it does require a whole lot of time to do well, and it is not something that yields results that are clear or tangible. The flipside to that is – I don't really need to undertake any paid advertising to get my name and workshops out there – the That Nikon Guy community has that covered.
What advice would you give newcomers about embracing social media?
From the start – be yourself. Unless you are a trained actor – it would be impossible to stay in character all the time. And as things grow – and you are approached on the street etc. – if your real personality does not match your on screen persona that would cause some dramas.
Secondly – take care with what you share – in terms of content and quality. You should be conscious of how much you share about your life – there is not a clear line – but just keep in mind we are all very connected and it can present risks. Also make sure you are happy with the quality of what you put out there. If you post shoddy work – that will still be bouncing around the net in years to come – and it can be embarrassing.
What photography project or assignment has been most meaningful for you and why?
I always have a few personal projects on the boil alongside work. Most meaningful personally was a two-year series taking dramatic portraits of my family and close friends. I asked them to come up with whatever crazy concept they think represents who they really are – for some it was a simple studio shoot – for others it was super hero themed, or sports… It was a big learning experience for me – and such a pleasure to spend a few hours and sometimes a full day being creative with my loved ones. I also made a portrait of my grandfather in this series which is one of my proudest images. He passed away soon after and this portrait is a family heirloom, hanging in most of the cousins homes now.
If you could choose three words to describe your photographic style, what would they be?
Personal, fun, connected (that is in relation to the shooting process – rather than the final images).
Name a geographical place that you'd love to return to or go to for an assignment.
This year I am travelling a lot for workshops – Japan, USA, Canada, plus the UK and Europe for starters. And I am planning a side visit to visit Cuba – that has been high on my list for a long time. Top of my to-do list for the future are Burma and Bhutan.
What's a surprising item we might unearth in your camera bag?
For people who think I am a Nikon Fanboy – probably the range of other brand cameras and lenses I carry! For those who know me well, probably all the batteries! I am often travelling with 100+ AA rechargeable batteries. My lighting workshops are based around off camera flash – so powering all the flashes and triggers takes a mighty set of AAs.
What do you like about your Lowepro bag(s)?
The rollers and messengers are my go to bags. The rollers are just brilliantly designed, and even the smaller one I use – the Pro Roller Lite 150 AW fits a whole bunch of stuff. That and the Pro Messenger 180 AW fit most of what I need for a complex portrait assignment – with spare everything. The big boy – Pro Roller x300 can take all that gear and more.
That Nikon Guy on YouTube
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