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Boost Your Creativity with a Project – #2 Interview with Matt Leitholt

A few weeks ago I introduced a new series I'm working on which features new photographers, upcoming stars, and possibly even you! This series is designed with you in mind, to educate, inspire and hopefully entertain a little as well. At a seminar last summer I learned that lost creativity is actually harmful to your health. That shook me up pretty good actually. So much so, in fact, that I want to help you learn how to express and use yours.

Undertaking a photography project is a great way to do this, so I'll be talking to several photographers (some pro, some amateur) about their projects to help light a fire under your butt to get going on one yourself. The first in the series featured Darcy Evans with his Doll Collection project. This week I'd like to introduce Matt Leitholt.

Matt Leitholt – Photographer Portrait Project

I met Matt at the Google Plus conference for photographers which I attended last April (2012) in San Francisco. At the time he was just 19 years old and already way ahead of many people who've been in the industry for years. Why? I believe it's because he's driven, he has no fear, and he doesn't know the meaning of the word “no”.

Recently I noticed he has started doing portraits of some rather well known photographers. In this casual chat we talk about this project, his big move to NYC and various other photography things. Check out the video, then scroll down to see some of his portraits, complete with a couple of lighting diagrams and information on how he created the portrait. Enjoy!

Matt's Photographer Portrait Project

Peter Hurley – the headshot master! (

Headshot master Peter Hurley
Headshot master Peter Hurley the one that got this started

Jay Maisel – celebrity photographer since 1954! (

Jay Maisel by Matt Leitholt
Jay Maisel – initially said “no” but here it is!

David duChemin humanitarian photographer (

David duChemin by Matt Leitholt

This was shot in David's apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada The sun is coming through a skylight creating the rim light on the back left side of him. The light on the right is coming from a Canon 580 EX II Speedlite in a 28″ Westcott Apollo softbox. The camera used was a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM lens.

David duChemin lighting set up
(Side note by Darlene: David duChemin is also one of my mentors and one of the sites I recommend for his great ebooks and information. I'm inspired by this work and his message which is all about honing your craft, not investing money in more “stuff”. If you've downloaded my free ebook this will sound familiar, right?! You can see David's work on his web site and you can find the ebooks on his Craft & Vision site. David is also author of 5 print books which I also highly recommend.)

Art Wolfe – nature photographer (

Art Wolfe by Matt Leitholt
Art Wolfe in his studio in Seattle

John Cornicello – Portrait and Headshots specialist, Seattle (

John Cornicello by Matt Leitholt

Joe McNally – National Geographic photographer (

Joe McNally by Matt Leitholt

This portrait was lit with two speedlights behind Joe, a Canon 580 EX II, and a Vivitar 285 HV. The 580 was triggered by a Cybersync and the 285 HV was optically triggered by the main light which was a Elinchrom Ranger with a 59″ Deep Octa which provides the beautiful soft light on Joe from the front. The camera was a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 40mm f/2.8 Pancake lens.

Joe McNally by Matt Leitholt
Joe McNally lighting set up by Matt Leitholt

(Side note by Darlene: Joe McNally is one of National Geographic's premiere photographers as well as having worked for TIME and Sports Illustrated and numerous other covers for such publications as LIFE, New York Times Magazine and Newsweek. He's done assignments worldwide, leads workshops, is author of several books, and is a really, really funny guy. Joe is a master of lighting and using speedlights so I love that Matt has used them here for this portrait of Joe himself. )

About Matt Leitholt

I'm a 20 year old environmental portrait and commercial photographer based in New York City and Seattle. I specialize in creating images that tell the story of a person in one shot. I want people to be able to tell me a story about that person, based on the image I take. I started shooting professionally when I was 14 years old, my first job was a product shoot for a European footwear company. I am mostly self-taught. I have no education in photography, other than watching videos like Kelby Training, reading blogs, and attending conferences. I have been able to acquire the skills I need to improve with these tools.

Find Matt online at:

Action Plan and quote of the week

If you are a regular reader here you'll know that I preach about getting out there and actually making some images, and how that's the only way to improve. If you're new here, you'll probably get tired of hearing me say it very soon. But these words from one of the most famous photographers of all time say it best. I leave you with this quote:

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
– Henri Cartier-Bresson

Boost your creativity with a photography project

Part One Darcy Evans Doll Collection


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