The viral Instagram hit these days is something along the lines of a VW camper van perfectly framed in soft light with a dreamy landscape as a backdrop. For photographer Meg Haywood Sullivan, that was her childhood. Growing up on endless road trips with her artist parents, Sullivan has since made a career of capturing moments of adventure. With her images appearing everywhere from The New York Times to ESPN and more recently in commercial work for the likes of Keen and Billabong, @meg_haywoodsullivan has a killer eye and an Instagram account you don’t want to miss.
@meg_haywoodsullivan on her tool of choice: I shoot with an iPhone 5C, but my main camera for Instagram is a Nikon D700 and a Nikon D810. Occasionally I’ll scan some instant film from my Polaroid Land Camera and feature it on my feed for fun.
Favorite Insta Post?
I’m drawn most to images that bring back fond memories. This photo was taken last New Year’s Eve in the backcountry outside of Bend, Oregon. I had an amazing afternoon snowshoeing in fresh powder overlooking the Three Sisters peaks. We made it back to our friend’s teepee by nightfall and started unloading gear in the below-zero temperatures. I took this long exposure serenaded by a pack of coyotes as the rest of my friends made a roaring fire inside and raised glasses to the New Year.
iPhone vs. DSLR?
The best camera is the one that’s with you. I tend to prefer the quality of the images taken with my DSLRs, but if I don’t have my camera with me, and there’s a perfect moment, I will definitely use my iPhone. This photo was taken after a long day spent surfing and exploring the coast of the Big Island in Hawaii. As we were heading home across the lava fields, I had my camera pack on my back, longboard on my head, and one hand free to take a quick snap. I would’ve missed the moment without my iPhone. It’s grainy and soft on focus, but I love it. Raw and true, it brings me back to that place every time I look at it.
Inspired to Insta
From a young age, I traveled extensively with my artist parents. Photography and traveling have always been a part of who I am. But Instagram has changed how I share my experiences. It’s all about telling a story and seeking out new perspectives to share with my network of friends and followers all over the globe. I’m constantly amazed at the interconnectivity of this world; it’s a smaller place than you think.
Honestly, I can’t pick just one! I have a few favorites whose outdoor-minded feeds I love staying up to date on. For underwater wanderlust, my favorite is @hisarahlee, who took this shot of me under the waves in Hawaii.
Story Behind Your Biggest Hit?
Over the years I’ve found that the most-liked posts are the ones that tell a story and capture a sense of place. Currently, my most-liked photo is a snapshot of my car camping setup in the foothills of Big Sur. I was on a photo shoot and my team had access to an amazing private nature preserve. We wrapped up our shoot and rallied on rutted dirt roads to our camping spot as the last rays of sun were disappearing on the horizon. There’s nothing better than having a cozy home on wheels after a long day spent outside. It’s an added bonus capturing that special moment and sharing that slice of heaven with my friends and followers.
Find your niche and keep shooting! The accounts that get the most traction usually have have a common theme—shoot what you love and it will translate through your images. Also, reach out to users with styles you admire, and give back to the social community by interacting with your followers. Social media is all about sharing your world and experiences.
Go Beyond Filters
My photography style, whether it’s the commercial imagery or social media content, is all about the natural look. My usual workflow for Instagram consists of importing into Snapseed, doing a few adjustments on contrast and sharpening, and then importing to VSCO. If I use any filters, I tone down the opacity to the bare minimum.
Respect the Square
It blows me away how Instagram has opened so many doors for me as a professional photographer. Honestly, I’ve found that it’s a great way to have my personality shine through. Instagram is a portfolio, diary, and social networking site all in one, and since my account has been rapidly gaining followers, I’ve noticed an equal increase in the amount of work in my professional career.
Watch Sullivan talk about her inspirations.