Behind the Camera with Matthew Rose-Nel, Photographer & Videographer

Our world is dominated by visual sensory input. HD TV, Netflix and visual communication platforms such as Instagram and YouTube are now a part of our everyday lives. Standards for photography and videography are also noticeably increasing. These days businesses and professionals are expected to have high quality images on their websites and clean, professional headshots for LinkedIn. Every event generates opportunities for photographs and sound bites but the human behind the camera can still remain a bit of a mystery. I wanted to find out more about being behind the lens and the challenges of the job so I spoke to professional photographer and videographer, Matthew Rose-Nel.

I have had the joy of working with Matthew previously and he is a brilliant photographer, wonderful with the people he shoots and skilled in the dark arts of wielding the camera. Matthew was good enough to set aside some time to answer my questions about life behind the camera and how he’s changed things up to survive the impact of Covid-19.

Q. Matthew how did you first get into photography and videography?

I first got into photography in secondary school. I did a module called Digital Media and someone came in and showed us Photoshop, how to use the real basics. He gave us an assignment called ‘A Day in the Life’. We had to use any camera we could find and take 5 pictures showing our day. The one condition was that it had to be shot on manual mode and you couldn’t use the automatic settings. I did it and the pictures were shocking. I think in one of the pictures I had water hitting my hands from the showerhead (trying to be artsy). But I think in the long run this is really what kickstarted my passion for photography and videography; being able to construct a picture exactly as you imagined it. After that I started shooting on manual mode more often. I bought a little camera and I tried the 50x50x50 challenge. That’s 50 photos over 50 days using a 50 millimeter lens. I started getting loads of slagging in secondary school for it. I posted one of the photos to Instagram everyday and some of them were shocking in fairness. But secondary school kids will always find something to slag, I actually nearly gave up photography because of that but once I got to college everyone was so open minded. I started just turning up to events and taking pictures for free for friends or different societies. After a year I realised I could make some money from my work and started trying to move towards paid work, which was definitely a big challenge after offering your services for free for so long. I was always interested in videography too and when people started asking me about video projects I was delighted to give myself a challenge and try to teach myself a completely new side of what cameras could do. 

Q. What’s the most important thing that someone should look for before they hire a videographer or photographer?

It’s so subjective, but be sure that they fit your style. You could have someone that’s really skilled and has the best equipment, but if their style isn’t the same style that you’re looking for…it just won’t work. If you have a really trendy, on brand, upbeat style and you hire a videographer with really clean, static shots, it might be a nice video but it’s not going to fit the style you’re going for. Style is one of the most important things I think. When I was starting out I thought good and expensive equipment was the most important but it’s not. Starting out with a cheap camera, taking pictures at different events, using the manual settings and discovering my own style was more important. Style, experience and how the photographer or videographer interacts with the subject are what you should assess. 

Q. Describe your photography and videography style.

Personally I love candids and capturing moments as they happen. Really candid, raw emotions. I feel they show off the best memories. When I first set up my business I came up with a little phrase; “Memory Making Picture Taking” and I always try to live by that no matter what project I’m working on. I don’t want to take pictures just for the sake of taking a picture. I want to create photographs that capture all of the complex emotions and feelings that go along with that very moment in time, which are so often lost when we create very posed and ‘proper’ photographs.  I love capturing that raw energy and what’s happening in the moment. And I think it’s so important for brands running events or creating platforms to try and show these moments to their audience. After all, it’s becoming increasingly clear that people these days are choosing brands that align more closely with their own personal values. With social media overflowing with content now, the days of posting pictures just to show something happened isn’t enough anymore. If we, as brands, want to stand out we have to try to connect with our audience, our followers, our clients on a much deeper level, to create a bond, to give them a reason to choose you over everyone else in your industry.

Q. Why should someone invest in good photography or videography?

The most obvious one of course would be that it just looks more professional if you’re using good photography or videography for your business. Professionally made photos or videos for your website set you apart. There are plenty of little tricks that photographers and videographers have to help clients to get across the right emotions and feelings they’re looking to portray. Things like the music played in the background, the lighting used and a wide range of other things all play into the feelings conveyed by the pictures or video. That just comes with experience. I know clients that I work with take photos themselves and they are often fine for their Instagram following but for their website or branding they really need good photos and video. When it comes to photo and video editing, a lot of people just pull their hair out too because it’s so confusing and stressful. Videographers often have subscriptions to huge music libraries and motion graphic template libraries which are often too costly for just the occasional video. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to get in someone that knows what they’re doing and has the proper gear to do it. One of the main things that I’ve noticed with Covid-19, particularly in the days of our strictest lockdown, is people recording their own videos and sending them on to me to edit.

Q. How do you as a photographer and videographer meet the clients needs and make their experience special?

One of the nice things about being self-employed is flexibility. I’m often more than happy to stay a bit overtime if needed or spend a bit extra money in certain areas of the production if I feel it will benefit the overall project. I don’t have to run things by a higher up, which means we can nearly always cater to the clients needs instantly without any issues. I always spend time on research before starting new projects, to be sure I fully understand the clients needs and also to be sure I cater to their needs. Listening to the client, seeing what they need and bringing my ideas, this is how I make the experience special. I’m always genuine with my clients and discreet, people have come up to me after taking pictures at an event and they say “we didn’t even notice you in the room, you blended in.” It’s a skill I didn’t know I had but it’s great for weddings and other live events. It’s a skill I have found to be really desired by many clients. 

Q. As a photographer and videographer, how have you adapted to COVID-19?

I’ve been doing photography and videography professionally for almost three years now and had bookings all the way into 2021, then on the 17th of March Leo made his speech and all those bookings were cancelled or postponed indefinitely almost overnight. This came as quite a shock for me as this was the year I had finally hoped to go full-time into working for myself once I finished my Degree. The ability to adapt and cater to clients’ needs has proved more important than ever. I’ve been working on a number of different things now to try to adapt to the current climate and things have thankfully started picking up again.One of the more successful adaptations I’ve had was the new ability to produce online live events.  Doing an online live event stresses a lot of people out and can be really overwhelming for some. I took a gamble a few months back investing in new equipment and spending a lot of time teaching myself how exactly to produce these events, but luckily it has paid off. When people approach me looking to do an online live event they are often very stressed as it’s a completely new territory for everyone, but once we have a call and chat about their options their nerves are often put at ease. Live Streaming is such a new area to me and it’s a lot more stressful than being able to have everything perfectly edited before it goes anywhere, but that’s where the business is now and what people are turning to.

You can view Matthew’s portfolio here:

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