Knoxville- JUTN sophomore Hannah Mattson has transformed her passion for photography into a job and part-time business.
Mattson is currently pursuing a degree in human services with a focus in psychology at JUTN. She is exploring various ways in which she could use this degree in the future but is still unsure of what she would like to do. However, Mattson has been able to express her passion for photography through her job in the JUTN graphics department as well as her own business, Hannah Mattson Photography.
Mattson’s love for photography started when she was a young girl and continues to grow.
“Anytime I had the chance to get a camera and take pictures I have loved to do that,” She said. “I remember from when I was little I have loved to take pictures and take detailed pictures and pictures of people or whatever it might be. I’ve always had a passion for it.”
Mattson began working in Johnson’s graphics department as one of the two student photographers in September. She works alongside the graphic designer each week. The graphic designer will share with Mattson and the other student photographer what her vision is for the week and then the photographers have the freedom to plan and execute photography sessions.
“We get pictures for sporting events, chapel, any type of Founders Day, Homecoming, basically any big event the graphics department – the other photographer and I – try to get as many pictures as we can for that,” Mattson said.
Currently Mattson is working on a project to photograph each of the majors offered at Johnson.
“We are trying to get more pictures for every different major so that we can market the majors better and so that people can see really hands-on what we do (at JUTN) through pictures,” She said. “We are giving students that are possibly going to come here a perspective of what it is like to come here.”
Once the photographs are taken and edited, the graphics department along with the director of communications may feature the content in the Johnson Magazine, the annual report, marketing brochures for prospective students, or social media content for the university. Mattson’s work has been featured in many of the publications that Johnson produces.
While Mattson has always had a love for photography, it was not until she began working for the graphics department that she began to make great strides in work as a photographer.
“I kept falling more in love with (photography) as I was able to use the camera that we have here and so after that I started thinking ‘maybe I could make a business out of this or potentially do something more apart from school,’” Mattson said.
After some brainstorming, Mattson decided to begin building her business. Last semester she did this primarily through building her portfolio and getting more pictures so that future clients would have past work to view before choosing her as their photographer. This semester Mattson decided to launch her Instagram, which can be found at @hannahmattsonphoto, in order to get her name out more.
“It has kind of been a slow and gradual process of starting my business and I don’t really know where I want it to go or where I am taking it, but I am taking it slow right now since I am in college,” Mattson said.
At this stage, Mattson views her business as a “side gig” and an extra way to make money. If someone asks her to take their photos, she is happy about it, but if someone does not ask her to take their photos, she could not care less about it.
Balancing college and a photography business present itself with some unique challenges for Mattson.
“A lot of times photo shoots are done on the weekends and a lot of times I want my weekends to be kind of chilling and not doing anything,” Mattson said. “I think it is hard because I have to sacrifice my time that I want to go out and take pictures or whatever that might be.”
Along with school and photography, Mattson also works at Starbucks, so with an increase of people asking her to do photo shoots she has had to find a balance in managing her time, but she has found a way to make it work.
Not only has finding a balance between her jobs brought about challenges but learning how to edit her photos in a way that makes them original has been a learning process. Mattson had help from a few people, including her sister who started her own photography business when she was in college, but she has mostly been learning how to photograph and edit on her own.
“I think in a technical sense, getting my editing styles the way that I like them is one of the greatest challenges that I have faced,” Mattson said. “It can be really hard, and you can find a lot of easy imperfections in those and a lot of times it’s hard to not get discouraged about those things.”
Finding an editing style that worked for her was an important feature, to stay on track with one of her main goals.
“My goal is to get natural looking photos, so I guess that is one of the bigger challenges,” she said.
While running a business brings about many challenges, there are many aspects that bring Mattson joy as well. One of the most exciting parts for her is the marketing and social media aspect of her business.
“I did a giveaway a few weeks ago that was a lot of fun that I was able to make a few posts about and then it was cool to see all of the people that entered into the contest,” Mattson said.
She has enjoyed seeing how marketing works, especially seeing how influential social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can be for an individual and a business. Alongside the media, Mattson enjoys getting to know different people.
“I’ve enjoyed learning different ways to pose people and bring the natural side of each person out because obviously when you are in front of the camera it can be intimidating so and seeing the people and their personalities coming out in the pictures,” Mattson said.
Mattson would love to travel to a beach and take pictures of people with the sunset. Taking photos at the Grand Canyon would also be a dream photo shoot session for her. No matter where she is taking the photos, Mattson enjoys photo shoots with multiple people because she loves capturing the way that people interact with one another.
While being a photographer has its challenges, the joy that Mattson receives from it inspires her to continue doing what she does.