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Matt Crump’s Candy-Colored Brand

By Terri Stone

Matt Crump had been an art director in the advertising industry for almost a decade when he began taking photos and posting them on Instagram. At first, it was just the normal fare of friends and food, which he shot with a camera in auto mode. As his subject matter broadened, his photography skills improved, and his aesthetic solidified, the positive likes and comments grew. Brands started to notice his popularity and offer Crump paid opportunities. “That’s when I knew I needed to decide whether to stay in advertising,” he remembers. “Ultimately, I switched to photography full-time. It was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken.”

While Crump has no formal training in photography, he brings key skills from his previous career. He composes his still-life shots as carefully as a designer composes a page. “As an art director, you spend all day coming up with ideas for commercials and advertisements,” he explains, “so I was in the habit of thinking of ideas before I produced something. Now I imagine what the scene will be before I make it.”

The photos he captures when travelling are more spontaneous, but like the still lifes, they share the candy colors that are Crump’s aesthetic signature. “There are a few things in my photography that tie everything together. One of those is color. When I‘m out and about I’m searching for everything that’s colorful, whether it’s architecture, murals, public art installations. Those are the things that catch my attention.”

STYLE EVOLUTION

Crump doesn’t restrict himself to natural hues. Since his early days as an Instagram standout, he has digitally manipulated photos by imposing colors. “At first I used any bright, saturated color,” he says. “Then I narrowed it down to a handful of neons and pastels. That’s what gives my work consistency when you look at it all together.”

Crump also edited out much of a scene so the focus would be solely on the primary subject. “That candy-colored, minimal look was visually striking for a lot of people, and it lasted for maybe two years. But I wanted to try new things creatively. I felt that bringing back some of the natural context would give the photo more dimension. I kept the color palette, though. That’s why the audience accepted the experimentation — it wasn’t a complete overhaul of my work.” Browse his Instagram feed today and you’ll see examples of both styles. 

He’s also been experimenting with stop-motion animation and, in the past nine months or so, some of his captions reveal a goofy sense of humor. “In advertising,” Crump says, “they teach you that words are as important as visuals, and I wanted to bring that concept into my posts. It’s given me new ways to express myself. A lot of people on Instagram don’t focus on writing as much as they should.”

Crump has even posted a few shots that are (mostly) monotone. “Canon challenged me to shoot something in black and white," he says. "It was a hard assignment, a really foreign way of thinking. It affirmed my obsession with colors.”

CONTROLLING COLOR

Crump captures most of his images with a D-SLR camera. (He prefers it to a mobile phone because the greater resolution of the D-SLR lets him print in larger formats.) He imports the files into Adobe Lightroom CC, where he spends most of his time manipulating — no surprise — the colors. “In Lightroom, you can adjust the hue and saturation and brightness of every color in the rainbow. I spend a lot of time editing the images to get the colors into my brand’s palette.”

After adjusting colors in Lightroom, Crump turns to Adobe Photoshop CC, where he’ll remove distracting elements, such as power lines or a stray tree branch. “But,” he adds, “I mainly use Photoshop for its smart Adjustment Layers. With options like selective color and hue/saturation, I can further fine-tune colors.”

Two of Matt Crump's images before and after editing in Lightroom and Photoshop.

PASTEL PASTIME

Crump’s big risk paid off. The follower count on his main Instagram account is nearing 200,000, with another 122,000 followers of candyminimal, the feed he curates. Appreciation from those followers keeps him going: “I’m not making this stuff for myself — I’m making it for my audience. It gives what I do purpose. Making someone happy for a brief moment feels good to me. If I were only doing this privately and not sharing it, I wouldn’t be as motivated to create.”