Mattia Pighin15 min read

Hello! Who are you, and what niche are you active in?

Hi there! I’m Mattia Pighin, and I am a passionate photographer from the far north-east of Italy. I’m lucky to live in a very varied environment leading from the Adriatic Sea to the Julian Alps on one side and the Dolomites on the other. I love to spend most of my free time in nature, mainly exploring the mountainside.

Being outside keeps me alive and happy; I love to bring my camera during hikes and roams and capture visuals, from tiny flowers to epic landscapes. My favorite weather to shoot is moody bad weather and fog, it’s not an easy thing to achieve, and I’ve learned that you have to adapt to what the sky has in store for you that most of the time day.

Tell us about your first introduction to photography, what’s your backstory?

2019 has been a tough year for me; I was going through very dark times, and I was constantly looking for an escape that I eventually found in the mountains. During these visits, I took many pictures with my smartphone, which weren’t the most beautiful pictures, but people started to share them. This made me buy my first camera: a tiny and lightweight Sony A5100 that I mainly chose because of its littleness. My pictures were still horrible, but at least they were taken with an actual camera, and I learned how to use it. 

Then the pandemic kicked in, and as you may know, it kicked in way earlier and way harder in Italy than other European countries. I had to spend the first months of 2020 locked in my apartment or, at most, in my town. At that time, I decided to improve my skills; I watched youtube videos about photography compulsively, read articles, got in touch with other photographers, and discovered the world that is hidden outside the AUTO-mode of the camera.

The transition from the ugly to the shots I actually like took some while, and my style changed so much I deleted my old pictures from Instagram. If I have to choose one picture that marked that transition, I think the “Waiting for the snow”-cabin was the first shot I took consciously, and that drove me into my new style.

Since starting, how did you develop your style?

When I first started, I tried to recreate some of the shots that inspired me in my personal style, and I think that this is a good way to understand when and how you can do certain kinds of things. You can’t shoot a moody landscape during a bright afternoon or shoot perfectly lightened mountains if the weather is overcast.

I started to leave behind the “Yeah, Lightroom will do the rest”-mindset and focused mainly on getting the shot I had in mind right on the camera sensor, and that’s the main point that helped me increase the quality of my shots.

Don’t get me wrong; editing is still a fundamental part of the workflow. The style of a digital photographer is for a huge part in the editing. I shoot only RAW, and the images that came out of the camera are obviously flat and aseptic. It’s only when I add my touch in color grading and little adjustments on lights and shadows that they start taking shape. But it’s impossible to achieve a good result if the idea does not precede the shot.

I love to give my shots a moody and nostalgic look; I prefer dull and calm colors rather than oversaturated and colorful palettes because I just feel more related to those feelings at this time of my life. I always experiment with different shots and editing styles, even if I will never share them on social media. I also try different subjects and environments: I like to shoot stunning cars and portraits too. I think it’s crucial to broaden the horizons and shoot more subjects than what is shown on an Instagram grid or a Tumblr page.

Since starting, what has worked to attract fans and followers? 

A key learning about Instagram I’ve made in the last few months; a nice shot brings the likes, but a nice gallery brings the followers. I am not the first one to say it, but the reality is that consistency is the key. You have to post often, and it must always be quality content. 

Most of the debate is on the “bangers or stories“-state. I think that banger shots get the most engagement: an epic sunset shot at Tre Cime or the Braies Lake under the snow are awesome achievements to share. However, you should also show alternative shots and give context to your work, and show who you are as a human being and how you see the world through your eyes. 

Unfortunately, the Instagram algorithm does not agree. Right now, it seems that the only way to get some visibility on your post is to get hundreds of shares and saves in the first hour. This is doable with these bangers but almost impossible with the “normal” shots. This change has begun in the last few months, and I suffered from it too.

The only way to get over it is to go ahead with your ideas and keep posting, without losing enthusiasm and, most importantly, without judging yourself as a photographer for the low engagement that you could get. A good portfolio is worth more than a couple of cool pics at the end of the day.

Another big part of the social media experience to me is actually being social! The community is a wonderful world; Instead of just opening an app, dropping a post, and letting it go, it’s crucial to get in touch with other photographers with whom you have shared interests with: leave and get feedback, inspire, and be inspired by others’ content. Like, comment and share others’ shots and support their work. This is very helpful to learn new things and to grow a valuable and affected audience.

Through starting as a photographer, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Patience and planning.

Especially in landscape photography, where you can’t really control what is going on in the environment. If you are looking for the perfect shot, it isn’t easy to get it right when you arrive at the location. You have to be willing to wait until the right conditions come, and that could take a lot of time, sometimes.

It’s also imperative to plan well what you are going to do and what you will need. How much time will you need to get to the location? What will you need there? Have you checked your gear to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything? 

There is nothing worse than waking up at 4 am, driving for two hours, hiking three and a half hours to reach a beautiful alpine lake, just to find out that you left the SD card into your computer at home (and yes, I speak from experience).

What’s your biggest achievement so far?

When I first started, I didn’t take it seriously; I took photos for myself and shared the best ones on Instagram. I started putting more effort into photography, thanks to the feedback I received in and out of social media. 

Seeing my shots getting shared by bigger and followed pages, receiving good feedback from famous photographers, and above all, people in real life who say that they love my work, are inspired by that, or actually started to love mountains as I do thanks to my work, is the best achievement.

How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?

At the moment, like many other people, I’m not allowed to leave my town. It’s not the very best time for a photographer or a creator in general as it has been for the past year. I spend most of my time planning and thinking about new ideas and projects to get the best from this year.

I have recently been contacted by a couple of small businesses that share an interest in nature and the environment to start a collaboration. Unfortunately, It’s all delayed to spring\summer hoping that the current situation will soon get better.

What’s in your camera bag these days? 

When I decide to go out shooting, I usually pack my bag the evening before, taking all the gear I think will be useful the next day. 

My go-to bag is a Lowepro Protactic 350. It’s a relatively light backpack with a molle system on the outside that I find very useful for attaching the stuff that doesn’t fit inside like a tripod, a water bottle, a jacket, etc. Inside there is enough space for the camera, the drone, a couple of lenses, and the hiking equipment or whatever I will need during the trip.

Speaking of gear, my first camera is a Sony A7II paired with the Sony SEL 28-70mm lens. I also carry a Sony A5100 with a Sony 16-50mm lens and a 7Artisans 7.5mm ultra-wide-angle lens for video recording or a second camera. For aerial shots, I own a Mavic Mini, a super light and funny little beast.

I’m in love with Sony Alpha gear. I love the way they are working to build up a community of Sony users with many initiatives like Creative Space (which I am happy to have taken part in) or the Alpha Female program for supporting female photographers. A camera should also please the eye and, to me, the design of Sony cameras is way more good-looking than other brands.

So everything listed:

  1. Lowepro Protactic 350 backpack
  2. Sony A7II body
  3. Sony A5100 body
  4. Sony SEL 28-70mm lens
  5. Sony 16-50mm lens
  6. 7Artisans 7.5mm ultra-wide-angle lens
  7. Mavic Mini drone
Mattia Pighin's camera bag
Shot by Mattia Pighin

What software and platforms do you use for your photography?

It’s essential to have a well structured and organized after-shooting workflow. I work with Adobe suite, and I find it very well made and user friendly.

Boring but necessary is to organize the tens of gigabytes of RAW files you just have extracted from the SD card. I use Adobe Bridge for sorting, rating, and selecting the shots that will be edited.

Most of the editing is done in Lightroom. I usually apply the same color profile to all the pics from the same set to bring the idea that I had in mind to life, and then I work on every single image with little adjustments. 

Only a couple of shots will need another round of retouch in Photoshop for a little cleanup or removing things like cars or electric wires from the frame. Once the editing is completed, I sort the images for their use and save them with different settings and file formats.

In the end, for delivering images to clients, I upload the files on websites like WeTransfer and send them the link to download the files by email.

What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?

The most rewarding part of being a landscape photographer is when you can inspire others to get out of their comfort zone, start trips, and reach locations that they would never have thought of because of a photograph they have seen.

Showing parts of the world people never heard about and inspiring people to discover the world or just the surroundings themselves is a beautiful way to give meaning to your work.

What is your favorite location to shoot? 

Nature is my habitat. I love to roam around new places and look for whatever they have to offer. I try to find a specific subject like a cabin or a tree and then build up the composition. It does not have to be necessarily in the mountains, although it’s my favorite place. I’m surrounded by other beautiful environments: sea, lagoons, hills, and vineyards.

One of the things I like the most is the fact that nature is constantly changing. You can visit the same place ten times at different seasons, daytimes, weathers, and find ten completely different perspectives.

What is your best memory as a photographer? 

I collect memories every time I go shooting. I love the feeling of waking up at horrible times, driving my car on empty roads, reaching the location before everyone else, and then just sitting down, drinking a coffee, and enjoying the silence.

I’ve seen many sunrises shooting on top of mountains or near alpine lakes, sharing the view with marmots and ibex, and I can’t really decide what is the best since every one of these is a special memory.

What makes the difference between a good image and an iconic image?

There are many things in photography that have to be considered to make a good image. Elements such as composition, lighting, and color add to the image a unique style, and the photographers use these to show their idea of the shot.

The difference between a good image and an iconic image, just like a good book or a movie, is the feeling that can provoke. With good exposure and a nice composition, everyone can achieve a good shot. But what makes people stop scrolling or walking by is that visceral feeling that the image arouses.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Many people inspired me to get into photography, and it would be impossible to write down every one of them. Of course, I’ve been mostly influenced by Instagram. For example, I am inspired by Robin Uthe‘s beautiful alpine landscapes or the nostalgic feeling in the shots of Zack Barazowski.

Youtube is also a great source of inspiration to me; I love to spend time looking at Geroge Muncey and Willem Verbeeck videos about film photography, another thing which I definitely want to give a try this year.

Advice for other photographers who want to get started or are just starting?

Buy a camera, preferably with manual controls, and go out shooting. 

There’s no need to go crazy buying expensive equipment since you can do epic shots just with a cheap used camera. No such thing will increase your learning curve more than go out, even in your garden, and experiment. Many sources around you can inspire you, and you’ll never run out of things to learn and try. 

Most of all, you have to enjoy the learning process. To master an art is a very long and hard process made of wins and failures; photography is not different. You mustn’t skip steps, and you must take every possible suggestion from more expert photographers.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for sincere feedback. Be glad for the good ones, and be grateful for the bad ones that really help you improve your future shots’ quality.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can reach me on Instagram at @lightxfunk. I’ve also just published my portfolio website where I share most of the shots that don’t necessarily fit in the Instagram grid and which I hope to fill more during 2021.

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