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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stephen Matera: Real Sports With Stephen Matera

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Mountain biking, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.
Matera is happy to tweak exposures in the computer, and he doesn’t hesitate to use every tool in his arsenal to make a picture perfect. What he doesn’t do, he says, is aim for retouching that takes his images from the real world to one of fantasy. It’s either real or it’s not—and you can’t Photoshop real.

“My goal is to get it right in the camera,” he says. “I shoot too many photos to spend too much time on Photoshop. I kind of mess around with post techniques to tweak it and give it a funky look—there’s definitely some trends there in commercial imagery for that—but for the most part, I’m just trying to make it look right—tweaking exposure, contrast, white balance.”

When Matera is out on a mountain with camera in hand, he’s clearly hard at work, thus, commercial concerns are on his mind. Usually his work is directly client-driven, although he shoots for stock as well. In his photographic niche, stock photography is a piece of the business puzzle, and as specialized as his work is, it’s somewhat more immune to the pressures of microstock and crowd-sourced commercial competition.

“I do as much assignment as I can,” Matera explains. “I do some stock in a couple of different ways. A lot of my landscape work, almost all of it, is stock. Either I sell it directly to publishers myself or through stock agencies. When I’m shooting an assignment for a client, they might license the images for a year or two, but when they’re done with them, they’re great stock images for me; when I’m shooting for them, I’m also looking for potential stock images I can work in there. So I have a constant stream of new images becoming good stock from assignments I shot a year or two ago that I now can turn around and try and sell as stock.”

I actually started out more as a landscape photographer than an outdoor sports photographer, and I developed my eye and way of shooting that way. I think I’ve always looked for very graphic elements in my photography—a lot of diagonal lines, clean, simple compositions—and I learned a lot about light that way. I think that translates into my sports photography.

An understanding of the business side of professional photography is crucial if you’d like to keep living your dream. In Matera’s case, his previous life as an electrical engineer was fine, and it afforded him the ability to ease into photography. But in terms of a daily work routine, he vastly prefers his current profession.

“I did it on the side for a while until I built up enough of a client base,” says Matera, “and then I went full-time about five years ago. There’s certainly the love of what I do, but working for myself is unbeatable. There’s no desire ever to go back.”

To see more of Stephen Matera’s photography, visit www.materaphoto.com.


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