Matthew lives north of Seattle with his wife, Erin.
While spending three years in Mexico volunteering on humanitarian projects, he began exploring documentary photography, and focused his skills on high-end weddings after returning to the Pacific Northwest. He still enjoys traveling and working with NGO’s during the wedding off-season.
When Matthew is not behind the camera, he loves to surf, enjoy coffee at home, fix up mid-century modern furniture, and surround himself with close friends and family.
Matthew loves weddings and photography and still considers himself blessed to have them both part of his career.
Dan: Thanks for listening today. I am sitting across the desk at Matthew Land Studios from Matt Land. How are you, Matt?
Matt: Hey doing well. Thanks for coming.
Dan: Yeah. I've been excited to interview you. You're a longtime friend of mine. I use your services personally - you use my services - well, we'll talk more about that later on. I wanted to introduce you and introduce Matthew Land Studios and let you talk a little bit about what it is you do.
Matt: Oh boy, that's a big question. We do mostly wedding photography, lots of commercial, and family stuff too. We serve the Seattle area and beyond. We do a bit of New York photography as well as out of country.
Dan: You do a lot of out of the country photography and it feels like you're in New York at least once a month.
Matt: Not quite - but yeah, we're there quite a bit throughout the year. You just never know where we'll end up.
Dan: You do more than just wedding photography as I can attest to. You do family photography.
Matt: We do weddings for great clients and then your family...
Dan: My family? Is that pretty much it?
Matt: No, we've taken a lot of family photos, too, as well as different businesses that need commercial photography.
Dan: So now being that this is called Matthew Land Studios, I'm not going to ask you what your role in the organization is because that seems pretty evident. How long has your company been around for?
Matt: I kind of kicked it off when I was in college and I think the first renditions of the website started in 2009 or 2010? In 2011, I left my graphic design job and went full-time.
Dan: Was that a bit of a scary adventure to kind of go full-time into this?
Matt: Yes. I had just booked an all-inclusive trip to Mexico for my best friend's wedding and was told that I was being laid off the day before.
Matt: So, I went and drank margaritas by the pool and thought about being unemployed. Then I came back, my photography took off and fortunately, I haven't looked back since.
Dan: There's a lot of similar stories when it comes to starting up businesses. People either "jump off" on a whim and just go for it even though all intelligence would tell you not to or life kind of thrusts you that direction when you're not expecting it.
Matt: Yeah, I'm pretty low on risk taking so I think that being thrust probably kicked me off sooner than I would have on my own.
Dan: So, you're a photographer and by some people's standards, that may seem like a pretty cut-and-dry thing. You take photos, right? I've known you long enough and I've worked with you long enough to know that there is a whole lot more to the photography business than what's initially seen. Things such as post processing and client communications - which all business people are going to have those extra things.
What are your goals for your business and personally moving forward in life?
Matt: That's a really good question. I think I would be more intentional with using my time so that I can do my business well and do my personal and family life well.
I really like the photography side of the business. We're always excited to grow and get new clients. But also, I'm really excited to be traveling and hanging out doing non-work things. Growing the business is still really exciting even this far in but then I think that the further down the road we get, being strategic with time off and traveling.
Dan: That's that whole work-life balance. Everybody's trying to figure out the right mix and how to achieve whatever that Zen mixture of those things are.
Matt: Yeah, whatever that looks like. There's still lots of 3:00am editing and taking photos till 2:00am at the after party - which I enjoy both. There's some seasonality to the work too so during winters, I'm sometimes semi-retired and enjoying that, sleeping in a little bit, or getting extra family time.
Dan: With some of your destination weddings specifically, I know that you've been able to bring your wife along with you and maybe stay a few extra days and turn it into more than just work. That seems like a really great way to combine work with a personal element.
Matt: Yeah, fortunately Erin is a really talented photographer too. She steps in and generously volunteers to come when we're off to Europe or Australia.
Matt: Yeah. I'm just so thankful for her commitment to the business.
Dan: She sacrifices.
Matt: So that's fun. We do tack on time and we've been fortunate to to make good friends with people along the way. We just recently got back from a trip to Italy though and found out how much more relaxing it is without a backpack full of memory cards. The repercussions for losing that backpack would not be good. We had a really fun vacation and realized we need to do more of that too.
Dan: So it's a little off script but I was wondering if you might want to talk a little bit about that vacation because the little bits and pieces I heard were pretty amazing.
Matt: We had a lot of fun. We did an Italy trip. Erin's from Italy, and I had never been, so we kind of retraced some roots. We started off with a week in London. We loved London from some work stuff we did there before. We saw some family there. I found out that Erin's an amazing International traveler and she led me across the country and we AirBnBed it everywhere.
We ended up on a sailboat on the Amalfi Coast and did that for a few days. It was great. I highly recommend it. We just kind of ate our way around and got the art tour from Erin.
Dan: That sounds like fun. So let's bring it kind of back here onto business rather than that awesome trip. So having gone full into this photography and having to find a new way to earn some income for yourself and your wife, I'm kind of wondering about some challenges and bumps you've encountered along the way to get to where you're doing photography full time. What are some of the things you've had to overcome?
Matt: Things we've had to overcome... Do you have any specifics there for me necessarily?
Dan: I'll give you an example: In starting Brand Shouter, I do marketing for other businesses and people hire me to help them with marketing. Even to this day, I struggle still with doing marketing for myself. It's super easy to tell somebody else what they need to change and even help them change it. But when it comes time to do it for yourself, especially when you're a smaller business and you're struggling to keep up with the work that's coming in, sometimes you put yourself on the back burner.
One of my bigger challenges in the beginning was not that I was struggling to keep up with work; I was struggling for work. Even so, I still didn't focus on my own business marketing. That was a kind of a hard lesson to learn and as I continue to work on my own business, such as this podcast, I'm finding more and more success with that.
Matt: I think my current issue is expanding with time management. It's been a one-man show for so long and now there is more work than I can do. I'm trying to somehow keep the same quality or the same look that I've been delivering while offering new options for people. If I'm already booked or if we're just through the roof with work, somehow trying to make it work so I'm not in the office till 3:00 in the morning every night from September through November. That's when all the editing kind of stacks up.
That's kind of what we're working with right now. I am trying to push myself to do a little bit more delegating and hiring contractors for editing help. Yeah, it's just kind of been a process. I've got some really good photographers that we do hire out for certain things and that's been great. I think the next step is getting extra help for our in-studio work.
Dan: The amount of time that you spend editing after the wedding or family photo shoot or whatever is oftentimes a lot longer than the actual photo shoot.
Matt: Yeah, and for me, it far exceeds the actual time shooting. That could say something about how slow I am editing.
Dan: Well, you're also an artist right? Part of that is spending the time to ensure that it looks the exact way that you need it to look.
Matt: Yeah. I think I'm probably still really picky and nervous - especially when there's a time crunch. To try out a new way of doing things with a deadline just around the corner makes me worried that we'll have to do it twice.
So that's probably my biggest issue right now: Trying to expand but keep the same heartbeat, look, style and customer experience. And I really love the people side of it. If I had to step back from that I'd be a little sad.
Dan: You might have just answered my next question. In the world of Photography, what brings you the most Joy?
Matt: It's the people. I still get really excited when a photo turns out just amazing and the light is perfect, the right facial expression, and the right moment is captured. There's a lot of joy in that still but the day-to-day working with clients and hearing back when they get their finished product is still a really gratifying thing for me.
Dan: They apparently really like it too as your perfect, five-star Google reviews show.
Matt: Yes, thankfully we have a lot of very kind clients. That's kind of an inside joke since I've been finally getting around to worrying about marketing and and online presence. Thankfully I've got you to help me. I've kind of just been fortunate enough to just "be an artist" and not worry about the marketing since clients tend to bring more clients via word-of-mouth.
Dan: From your experience in this excursion from starting a business and creating an actual sustainable business, if you could take one thing you've learned or offer one piece of advice to others, what would it be?
Matt: That's a really good question. For me, I would probably say something along the lines of practice makes perfect and continue to put time into the craft. I think that's something that's been really beneficial to me. Continue to push yourself to get better, and critique your art.
Dan: That's really cool. We're constantly striving to make ourselves better and we're constantly striving to make our businesses better. You don't hear that enough - the general principle of digging in, practicing and getting better. It's always "off to the next thing" and "off to this" and "off to that." Oftentimes people don't think about just continuing to spend the time to perfect what they do.
Matt: Yeah, the 10,000 hour thing.
Dan: Even if you're not great, if you put in enough time you're going to be better and better at what you do.
Matt: Yeah, I'd be curious to see my hour timer. I think there's something to that and it feels good to know that you're giving something to your clients that's worth what they're paying for and has a real value. What we do, with weddings, there's a lot to be said for having really amazing wedding photos, really amazing memories, and beautiful photos of the people you love. It goes so far beyond just the staged photos and things you might see on Instagram.
Dan: As is customary with anyone I interview that I know a little bit about their business, I like to give a little plug. Matt's been a client of mine since I started Brand Shouter. We knew each other from our past working lives and when he got into photography, it was awesome to find that he was succeeding and doing well.
Unfortunately, I was already married before we met - so you weren't able to do my wedding, but my wife and I rely on you for our family photo shoots. We typically do one a year.
Matt has a very unique style of Photography. The way he uses light in his photography is the best I've ever seen. And I'm not just saying this because he's sitting across the table from me. I just love the way he captures natural light in his photos. Even when he poses us, which is very few and far between for my family because it's hard to get four kids to sit still...
Matt: Can't get those kids to do what you want so you just got to capture them at their finest.
Dan: But even when they're posed, there's a natural quality to them. It's not like that, "Sit there. Turn your head. Tilt your head. Lift the leg." type of thing. And the photos actually look like what's happening in real life. There's something just wonderful about that. I think that's why, as a wedding photographer, he does so well. It's because he captures moments realistically and not in a posed manner. I recommend Matt all the time to a lot of people.
Matt: This is why I have Brand Shouter on speed dial. Thank you for the nice words - I'm glad to hear that. I want people to feel comfortable and look comfortable. Thanks for having me on the podcast.