I’m excited to reveal this month’s featured photographer: Mikko Lagerstedt. Mikko is a photographer whose work I’ve been admiring since the early Instagram days. I’ve been closely following his work for the past decade, and he’s someone who I frequently go to for inspiration.
In this interview, you’ll get to learn more about Mikko’s journey as a photographer, his thoughts about creating a recognizable style for yourself, and more.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Start by telling us a little about yourself and your photographic journey.
Thank you for the interview!
My name is Mikko Lagerstedt; I’m a fine art photographer from Finland. I specialize in minimalistic and nighttime landscape photography. I’ve been photographing for the past 14 years, and it’s been my job for the past seven years.
My first inspiration for photography came to me in 2007 while I was driving to a summer cabin, and after a rainy day, the sun started to shine. As it was close to sunset, the cold air began to form mist in the fields as I saw this one beautiful field with fog and sun coming through trees, forming those elusive light rays. I stopped the car and took a few photographs with a point-and-shoot camera. I remember going through the pictures at the cabin and being so inspired that I knew I wanted to give photography a try. Fast forward about a year. In late 2008 after graduating from a graphic design school, I finally had the time and money to buy my first proper camera, a DSLR.
As soon as I got my camera with two lenses, I knew that I knew nothing about photography. I immersed myself in the world of photography. Something I realized early was that if I wanted to create beautiful photographs, I needed to invest in post-processing on how to edit those peculiar RAW files.
At first, I tried to photograph everything and anything. I remember that the way I saw things began changing immediately. Everything started to filter through a photographer’s lens, even if I didn’t have my camera with me when I looked around. After photographing everything for a year, I captured some of my favorite photographs on a misty evening in 2009, which catapulted my style to a more sort of style of atmospheric moments. I entered the Nikon 2010-11 worldwide competition with those photographs and received 2nd place, which boosted my confidence in following my path as a photographer.
One of the memorable moments was back in 2009 when I licensed my first photograph to a big pharmaceutical company in the US. Then I realized that companies could pay for my photography and started a journey of licensing for companies throughout my career. It wasn’t an easy part of the job because I never knew if someone would contact me or not. Finding success in the early social media such as Facebook gave me a boost to continue creating what I found inspiring.
Today nothing has changed. I still create for myself first and try to create work that inspires me to inspire others.
How would you describe your photographic style and vision?
One sentence that has stuck with me for the past six years to describe my work: Capturing the emotion of places through photography. I look at life as a big movie where I can stop a frame with my photography and tell my story within that frame. I don’t mind photographing anything if it suits my vision. I find minimalistic views powerful and atmospheric; that’s why I lean towards a very clean style.
In my opinion, there are few photographers who have a more consistent, high-quality and recognizable portfolio than you. Tell us a little about how you’ve created such a distinct style for yourself.
Thank you so much! I think it’s hard to define how my style has formed. Everything I have seen, experienced and dealt with has probably formed the vision I have today. While I’m out photographing, I look for those minimalistic views and moments. Something that catches my eye and after capturing something interesting I compliment the view in post-processing. I have always been interested in editing and a huge part of my work is post-processing. Usually, it’s just simple editing in Lightroom but I don’t scare myself to work in Photoshop too.
Atmospheric is the first word that pops into my mind when looking at your work. Are there any specific approaches you make, in the field or in post-processing, to emphasize this feeling?
By photographing during sunrise, sunset, blue hour, and night, the light is more atmospheric. Choosing which type of weather to shoot is essential as well. I love the feeling a blizzard or mist gives. The way I deal with each photograph is different in editing. Colors vary, and everything depends on the moment I take a picture. Of course, some aesthetic vision usually follows a creative process.
Take us through part of your process when developing ideas for new galleries/series such as Edge, Alone and Night Animals.
I have a backward process of creating galleries and series. I usually find something that inspires me at that moment in time and capture and create those views. And by looking back at the work if I see similarities, I create those galleries.
Edge is a series capturing photographs that look like they are at the very end of the World. Very much a dreamy view to the World we live in.
The Alone series has been part of my photography journey ever since I first started capturing lonely figures and elements. It’s a series that puts me in the photograph, sometimes literally but often to give you a sense of solitude and loneliness in nature. It’s probably the series that most represents the person I truly am.
Night Animals is a series of work that represents a night in a town when people are sleeping, and different animals wander the streets. I created the work using multiple photographs. The idea for the work came to me while wandering the old town of Porvoo in a thick mist. I saw this cat walking in the frame and was lucky to capture it standing in the frame. I then went and captured animal photographs to suit these lonely valleys.
What role has social media had in your journey as a photographer?
Social media has been the most important tool to share my work. While I don’t believe it’s necessary to reach millions of people, it allows you to share and impact others. It has allowed me to continue to do what I love to do.
Despite having a big online presence, you’re not one to publish heaps of new work. What are your thoughts on quantity vs. quality in a world where attention can be hard to get?
For the past couple of years, I have photographed as much as before, but I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to rush my work out. I have to take more time and care to capture and edit the sceneries I want to share. Social media is fantastic for artists such as photographers to share their work, but it can give you a false sense of urgency to put out work every day just to engage with your followers. Staying true to your vision is important. Quality is essential, but I think it’s a misconception that I don’t take photographs often. I believe you only achieve quality when you capture a lot of photographs, and only then your work starts to shine. Everyone is different, but this is how I see myself.
Tell us a little about your new photography book “Landscapes With Soul”.
The book Landscapes with Soul showcases my best work throughout my 14-year journey as a photographer in a beautiful hardcover book.
When we started working on the book, we wanted to create something lasting and beautiful in this current time of fast media. The goal of my work is to capture the emotion of place and how I felt and saw it. Each photograph is part of me and how I look at the World hence the title “Landscapes with Soul”. When you need to take a breather and get away from the devices and immerse yourself in something unique, grab the book.
Editors note: Landscapes with Souls is a photography book that I wholeheartedly recommend everyone to get. It’s amongst my personal favorite and is proudly displayed in my bookshelf.
What are your top 3 tips for someone who’s just getting started with landscape photography?
The first tip is to photograph whatever you find inspiring. The second is to experiment with different subjects, locations, timing, and weather as much as you can. The third one would be to focus on post-processing and how to create that unique style for yourself, and you have to work hard to experiment within that realm too.
What’s next for Mikko Lagerstedt?
My goal for the next year is to create with meaning. Truly something that stands time. My attention and focus are to create work that inspires me. I’m also focusing on the world of NFTs at the moment. I find NFTs as part of our future. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong. Only time will tell. But the outlet might be one of the most important ways for us to come together to form a community in which we as creatives can express ourselves and fund our future work.