Photographer Scott Mead creates extraordinary images of island life. He shares his story and the secret of taking a photo from good to great.
ABI: What brought you to Hawaii to pursue your photography?
SM: Back in 1974, my family went on a multi-island Hawaii vacation, and my grandfather gave me a little Kodak Instamatic camera so I could take my own pictures. When we got to Maui, he revealed that he’d also purchased a couple of units in a still-under-construction condo complex, and that began my yearly summer pilgrimages to Hawaii.
Maui was always a second home, but making it my full-time residence didn’t happen until about nine-years ago. I had built a career as an editor and photographer in the automotive industry, working as a freelancer, then for Edmunds.com and moving on to Motor Trend.
I essentially came to a proverbial “crossroads in life,” where I could write my own ticket, and I sat down with my wife to discuss the options and she posed a question: “If you could do anything in the world, what would your ultimate dream job be?” My reply was, “I’d love to photograph Hawaii full time,” and her response was, “So, what’s stopping us?” About a year later, we moved to Maui and I’ve been capturing the splendor of the Islands ever since.
ABI: Your fine art photography is sold widely. What types of customers buy from you?
SM: My customers are wide and diverse, and from all walks of life. My work is acquired internationally and resides in private and corporate collections. No matter who purchases my images, I find that there’s one common thread: People purchase my images because they see and feel my passion for photography, and my thoughtful use of light within a scene.
My take is very different from what most Hawaiian photographers capture. My images are more “moody.” There’s a great sense of place where my clients feel as though they can walk into the image and be there. I also strive to show the “Mana” or spiritual power the Islands possess – the strength and motion of the ocean, streams and waterfalls; the way light cuts through clouds or the beauty and sometimes destructive force of molten lava.
ABI: What do you believe artists most need to know to photograph and present their work effectively?
SM: They need to understand that, when it comes to photographing their work, proper lighting is essential. It can make an ordinary object look extraordinary or a magnificent piece look unappealing. Composition of the image and good contrast between the piece and the background is important, but photography is all about light.
This is especially true when displaying your work online, as your pieces will look different from one monitor to another. By ensuring that your piece is well lit, you know it will look good on, say an older monitor, and great on others.
Another aspect is that their work is the star. There’s the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. But a picture can be worth more than words – it can be worth dollar signs. For example, oftentimes I’ll see a necklace photographed against block of coral or a wide view of several like pieces on a countertop. Yes, it makes for a nice looking picture, and you can “see” the necklace. But a closely cropped shot against a sharply contrasting background can really bring out the details and show that craftsmanship – the value – that the piece offers to the customer. You also create a sense of drama to the work that in many cases instills a notion of, “That’s beautiful, and I have to have it!”
Photographer Scott Mead will be presenting photography tips for artists at The Arts Business Institute Workshop on Maui on September 9-10, 2013.