We had the good fortune of connecting with Matthew Meloney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matthew, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is a tough topic for me. I’d say if anything I’m more risk averse than I am a risk taker, but I always wished I could be comfortable in taking on more risk. In any case, I think that how much risk you are willing to take is important to evaluate in all areas of life, especially when starting a business. I have a full time day job. My photography business was started from a passion for the outdoors, creating landscape images during backpacking trips. When that eventually evolved into paid photoshoots for people, pets, and events, it was still a side business that supplemented my income and helped paid for a growing expensive hobby/business venture. For someone like me, I’m able to take my time growing my business since I don’t rely on it for income. I find my business to be more of a personal growth project; a journey to become a better more independent person, while providing value for others. I do it for those reasons alone more than to make money, and while I work hard and it is very rewarding, I don’t have a compelling reason to take on more risk than I need to. If I were to quit my day job and dive into photography full time, I think I would certainly have to take some more risks to grow my business at a rate that would support my lifestyle. Just the decision to be a full time entrepreneur in itself if a pretty impressive risk to take! I guess the point of me saying all this is that risk is going to be different for everyone. It depends on your goals and your current financial situation. Why are you doing what you do? What would you do be doing otherwise? What are the pros and cons of each? Understanding how much risk you are willing to take will help you make those tough business decisions (or not make them). What kind of lifestyle are you after, and how much are you willing to put on the line to achieve that? If you don’t end up being successful in some areas, what are the repercussions of that? I see friends and colleagues of mine putting everything on the line to achieve their dreams and I admire that, but I also hear from them how much they are sacrificing in other areas of life to make it happen. To evaluate your decisions and risk, you have to look at the bigger picture – how bad do you want it, and what is the worst case scenario? I think it all comes to striking a balance of being able to do what you love, be comfortable with the risks you are taking, and sustain a lifestyle that meets all your criteria. At the end of the day, I don’t think we take risks just to make money, but more to achieve a sustainable, happy, and healthy lifestyle for ourselves.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My journey in the creative space started when I was 10 years old. My parents bought my brother a guitar for his 13th birthday. His friend played the drums, and months later my parents bought me a bass to ’round out the band’. We started covering classic rock songs, performing around town, and our passion for music really took off from there. Although I enjoyed playing the bass, I was always obsessed with the drums and eventually got my hands on a small electronic Yamaha drum pad. My youth and teen years were spent playing bass in a heavy rock/metal band and drums in an indie rock band. I also started to sing back up vocals, which led me to joining the high school choir; I also played upright bass in the local youth symphony. My extracurriculars outside of school helped me maintain a busy active lifestyle and also developed my social skills. Music became a pillar in my life, and continues to be to this day!
Fast forward to Senior Year of college. My brother and I had picked up hiking and exploring the outdoors as a new passion/hobby. We would travel to remote places in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges to get away from technology take a break from modern life. It was on these trips that I became enamored with the beauty of the natural world, the vastness and raw power of mother nature and wildlife. I would use my phone to take pictures of the landscapes, and my brother was always making videos of our trips on his compact digital camera. After a year or two of increasingly bigger trips, I made the decision to buy my first DSLR and learn more about photography. I got really into proper exposure, composition, and light, but was just having fun with it. What really got me into doing more professional shoots was the desire to buy new lenses and dive into the mirrorless market. Photography equipment is expensive! As a musician and all around Colorado outdoors enthusiast, I couldn’t afford any more expensive hobbies… so I started to use my knowledge to make some money that I re-invested into more gear. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was shooting live concerts and weddings.
Starting my own photography business has been an incredible journey. It’s taught me about hard work, organization, and accountability. I still struggle with it – since I have a full time job outside of my photography business and play in two bands, oftentimes the last thing I want to do on my free time is ‘work’. That said, I think this entrepreneurial journey has been very beneficial to me in numerous areas of life and its always very rewarding. I’ve gotten to the point now where it’s become apparent to me that to ‘level up’ my business from here I’d really have to put more time in which means sacrificing in other areas of life. When I think about these things it makes me remember why I started making photos in the first place. I love to create. I think its important for all creatives to not lose sight of why they do what they do. Besides, if you get into a space of overworking yourself and feeling stressed out, your work, integrity, and your client experience will suffer from it. I don’t know where my photography business may or may not go, but my top priority will always be to enjoy what I’m doing, have integrity in my work, and to provide an excellent customer experience. If that means ‘plateauing’ for a while, that’s ok with me.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live out in Lyons – on the edge of suburbia/rural mountain towns. As a musician and generally extroverted person I’ve always loved being near the city, but I also love the countryside. So, my favorite spots actually aren’t in the city. When I have visitors, I typically take them outdoors. Hiking, sunsets, and making music by the river. Some of my favorite spots nearby include anywhere along the St. Vrain river in Lyons, Rocky Mountain National Park, Brainard Lakes area, and Horsetooth Reservoir area. Depending on who is visiting, I’ll always try to take them on an ascent of a big peak off I-70 if they are up for it! Or snowboarding in the winter. Of course, if there is a good act playing at Red Rocks…. can’t much beat that!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family has been an incredible source of support in my entrepreneurial ventures. My parents are entrepreneurs themselves, designing and programming Point of Sale systems in the Wine Industry. My dad has mentored me in ways of business – it can be daunting when you have no idea what you’re doing! My brother has also done a good amount of photo and video production in the music industry, so we are able to geek out about cameras and technical specs together. I learn best when I have others around to talk shop with.
My friends and colleagues have contributed immensely to my journey as well. They hire me! Even when they don’t, they are always incredibly supportive and happy to be my subject if I want to try out new techniques whether it be different lighting scenarios, using flash, playing with new compositions, etc. My musician friends and bandmates are always stoked to make music videos, band photos – anything I can do with my camera to gain more experience and level up – they are always there to lend their beautiful faces in front of the lens.
I work full-time in the corporate world for Sea to Summit, a lightweight technical outdoor gear brand. Sea to Summit has always been supportive of my entrepreneurial efforts outside of work. I am able to maintain an impressive work life balance, and they have supported my photography journey immensely by inviting me on marketing photoshoots, featuring my photography, and providing other opportunities. I am beyond grateful for my role in this company and everything it has empowered me to accomplish.
The photography community in the Denver area is incredibly welcoming and community oriented. With social media groups, group chats, meet-ups – there are plenty of other photo/video hobbyists and professionals out there eager to get out and shoot, collaborate, and learn together. I am grateful to have found a community of like-minded creatives who don’t see each other as competition as much as kin – in it together and always willing to lift each other up.