From Finance to Helicopters and Aerial Photography: An Interview with NYC’s Misshattan

From Finance to Helicopters and Aerial Photography: An Interview with NYC’s Misshattan

One of the more clever Instagram handles we’ve come across, Natalie Amrossi aka @Misshattan, shoots beautiful aerial photography of New York City. Today, her work has appeared on the Wall Street Journal and Vogue, and she’s photographed for brands including Jaguar, AT&T, Nike, HP, and Beats by Dre.

But Natalie did not start out shooting from helicopters. Quite far from that. She held a lucrative finance job at JPMorgan, but after two years, realized that path was not for her. In 2014, she left it all behind to pursue her love for New York City and aerial photography.

Today, with an Instagram account that features stunning shots of the city (and with almost 420,000 followers and climbing), we spoke with Natalie about some of her more challenging shots, plus why she believes structure is the key to a successful photo business.

How would you describe your style of photography? What advice do you have for photographers who are trying to build their own brand?

My style tends to involve a healthy mix of street and aerial photography, but I am always open to experiment with unfamiliar territory. I think more important than style, is mood. Social media has really changed photography, essentially graying the lines between styles and genres. I notice that many photographers can have a range of styles, but they almost always have a consistent mood. Sometimes this mood is conveyed through tones, lighting, composition, or even their editing process.

My biggest advice for photographers who seek a strong and consistent brand is to stay focused on what you’re trying to accomplish and figure out a routine that allows you to efficiently and effectively tell your story.

When you decided to go freelance, what’s one business tip you wish you learned earlier on?

I wish I had a better daily routine once I became a freelancer. It’s very easy to get off track without the structure provided by a typical 9-5 job. Building a consistent routine can help you stay on track and focused. It can even foster creativity despite the usual adage that structure can stunt creative growth. 

It’s still something I struggle with to this day, though. When you devise a daily routine, and hold yourself to it, it makes you responsible for your progress and content. I find when you allow your days to lack structure, it’s much easier to procrastinate and let things slip through the cracks.  

You’re known for your aerial photography of New York City. How do you prep for these? Which of your more recent shots have been the most challenging to take? Why?

When I first started shooting aerials, I used to get overwhelmed when deciding which gear to take. With so many options, I would bring along 2-3 different lenses and rush during the shoot.

I’ve come to realize that, in some cases, less is more. Switching lenses can be distracting, and the process takes you out of your element when shooting from a helicopter. I believe the best shoots result from when I choose one lens, focus on what’s in front of me and have fun without being worried about changing lenses and missing a shot.

As for the most challenging shots I’ve taken, definitely while trying to capture the snow during a blizzard, or shooting in a helicopter in the winter in general. It can be distracting and grueling when your fingers and face are numb from the frigid and windy weather.

Is there a particular photo of yours that carries a lot of meaning? Why does this photo mean something to you?

I did an aerial shoot on the 4th of July while it was raining hard with pretty hectic winds at that altitude. For the first time, I was nervous and scared during a flight. Aside from being soaked in a doors-off helicopter, I wasn’t sure if the helicopter was stable enough to get us back safely. There was a moment when my pilot looked at me, and asked if we should head back, but my gut instinct told me that we could pull through the rough patch of weather and get fantastic shots. It turned out that we did, and they are some of my best aerials yet.

You have a tremendous following on Instagram. How do you like (or not like) Instagram Stories? Any advice you have for photographers who want to use it to better showcase their personality?

I love Instagram stories. It’s a chance to show your audience who you are, without cluttering the aesthetic of your feed. My advice is to just have fun while doing it! If you’re having a good time, the people watching will too.

I have noticed some people tend to outline their editing process on their story, which allows other aspiring photographers to learn some new techniques. I personally try to avoid that because I think it lends to a “copy-paste” mentality. I would much rather post fun and engaging pictures and videos on my story, and let aspiring photographers figure out their own post-processing groove.

In your opinion, what separates a good travel photo from a great one? In your own work, how do you determine whether or not your images are successful?

I think a great travel photo is the one least expected, like making a wrong turn and stumbling upon a place that’s unique and off the beaten path. Sometimes the most beautiful photos are the ones that are unplanned. It’s easy to get caught up in capturing the most iconic landmarks, but it can be just as fun to explore aimlessly and shoot what you see along the way.

What’s next for you? Is there an upcoming assignment or personal project you’re excited about?

I’m excited to be working on a series of photography tutorials to help people get comfortable using a SLR camera and take incredible photos. Another awesome project I have in the pipeline (and shameless plug) is my new and improved website coming in March 2017. A totally revamped blog, full store with prints and merchandise, and some pretty cool interactive experiences for those that love travel, food, and photography.

Follow Natalie Amrossi:


Instagram: @Misshattan

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