Pensacola, Florida
Friday June 22nd 2018


Shooting from the Hip

By Hana Frenette

Portrait photographer Matthew Coughlin creates amazingly original images full of detail and dimension, especially for someone who just picked up a camera a year ago.

“Ten years ago, I took one photography course as a prerequisite for my film and graphic design degree,” Coughlin said. “I really didn’t take an interest in it at the time.”

Coughlin bought a Canon 7D last year, strictly for video, and ended up snapping some pictures of his kids.

“I was very intrigued by the images I was taking,” Coughlin said.

Coughlin got online and started researching how to shoot with external flashes and off-camera lighting, with the help of YouTube videos and blogs.

“Fast forward one year later, and here I am today,” Coughlin said.

Coughlin is technically moonlighting as a photographer and currently has a full-time day job as a graphic designer at a law firm in Pensacola.

“I feel more original now than I ever did when I was only doing graphic design work,” Coughlin explained. “With photography you get that instant gratification, and with graphic design you have to start out with a blank canvas, and you’re not really sure where it’s going.”

Coughlin has received quite a bit of attention in the past year and has recently been picked up by an agency in Philadelphia. Although it was quick, it didn’t happen from shooting weddings and hoping the right person would see the link on Facebook.

“You’ve got to sell yourself,” Coughlin said. “I’ve been busting my ass to get my name out there.”

Coughlin has shot a wedding and the occasional family greeting card, but the direction he’s headed in is editorial.

“There’s a lot of talent in Pensacola doing weddings and baby portraits, but it’s not for me,” Coughlin said.

One of the main things Coughlin would like to check off his list is a cover of ESPN The Magazine. Coughlin was an athlete as a child and all through high school, but decided to pursue a job and further schooling after graduating.

One of the main reasons Coughlin is pursuing the photography path so feverishly now has something to do with that age-old story you’re told as a kid.

“You can be anything you want to be, everybody hears that,” Coughlin said. “But how many people actually do it? How true is that statement?”

If Coughlin is able to pursue his new interest in creating original images and portraits, and loving what he does every day, he will serve as a walking role model for his kids and prove that the often heard cliché your parents spout off can become real.

“Photography is new to me, and if I can go out with my camera and pay the bills I’ll be doing exactly what I want,” Coughlin said.

Another thing about Coughlin that’s innovative, other than his images, is the fact that he’s not shy in telling people exactly how he arrived at the end result of a photograph. Many photographers are very guarded about how they edit, light, or shoot their work, but Matthew has a blog he updates regularly with videos and tutorials detailing all aspects of his photo shoots.

“I’m self-taught,” Coughlin said. “I want people to learn how I do it, if they want to know.”

Most of the originality is in the lighting, but Coughlin does discuss some of his editing techniques as well, though they are fairly minimal.

“Sometimes I do some dodging and burning, to add contrast, but I try to keep my work as environmental as possible, no fake backgrounds added in or anything,” Coughlin said.

If you haven’t taken a look at his work, check out Coughlin’s website, or Flickr stream. The images are exciting, well executed and addicting to look at.

“I’m just trying to take pictures and make my phone ring,” Coughlin said.

He seems to be doing a pretty good job so far.

Matthew Coughlin
Creative Portrait Photographer