Natalie Amrossi’s future is up in the air. She left a burgeoning a career in finance to pursue her interest in photography, and now spends most of her time photographing city skylines from rooftops and copters.
Her photography often portrays cityscapes from above, revealing order and organization in the architectural landscapes that only becomes apparent from afar. Living in New York, Manhattan is her most frequent subject; she’s garnered a large following on social media under the name Misshattan. It’s a classic, if rare, story of leaving a stable career in pursuit of a passion and actually finding success. We spoke with Amrossi to learn about how she works.
Location: New York City
Current Gig: Photographer, currently filming various public locations for Instagram’s marketing team
One word that best describes how you work: Ebullience
Current mobile device: iPhone 7 Plus
Current computer: iMac
Tell me a little about how you became a photographer. You were working in finance before, right?
I graduated college in 2011 with a degree in finance. I was fortunate enough to land a great job at JP Morgan and moved to Manhattan shortly after. While I didn’t always have the most high-end gear, I’ve always had a deep interest and curiosity in photography. My first DSLR camera was a Canon T3i, and in the beginning it was just a passion-something to do to take my mind off things. As I started gaining a following on Instagram, I started to get messages from brands to do more professional work. It slowly escalated with each job, and before I knew it I was doing a prime-time gig for a major car manufacturer.
I pulled an all nighter photographing one of the cars, and dragged my ass to work when the sun came up. I couldn’t focus on my job; all I could think about was how the photos came out from the hours prior. That was probably the defining moment where I knew I couldn’t stay in finance any longer. I felt that I had enough traction with my freelance photography, and I could make it work. I talked with a few family members and friends and they were cautious but supportive. I sent in my two weeks notice, and it was the beginning of a new chapter of my life. I couldn’t be happier despite the challenges that freelance photography comes with.
What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?
Oh man, where to start. If we’re talking completely bare bones essential software, Adobe Lightroom. I am constantly editing photos and even when I’m not, I should be. I must have about 20,000 photos that I haven’t even looked at yet. If you catch me on the computer, I most likely have Lightroom open.
Other apps that I tend to rely on: Moleskine’s calendar (iOS), Dropbox, Google Drive, Hootsuite, and Spotify come to mind. I also heavily rely on the basics: Mail, Pages, Safari, Notes; I’m deeply integrated into the Apple ecosystem, and really enjoy the synergy between the applications. I occasionally use Google Docs when I am collaborating with someone. I also just bought a Philips Hue starter kit so I can make my room feel like the Hotline Bling music video, and berate Siri to toggle my lights before she becomes sentient.
What’s your workspace setup like?
In my home office (where I get most of my work done), my desk has my iMac, a tiny aloe plant, USB hub, a notepad with tasks written/crossed out in Sharpie, Western Digital My Book Duo (12TB), and a nice smelling candle to set the mood right. When I’m on the go I use my MacBook Air, which I plan on upgrading as soon as Apple updates their laptop line.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
My biggest time-saver really only applies to photographers. I made custom presets that fits my style of photography which help me speed up my editing time. I’ve noticed that beginner and intermediate photographers are intimidated by making their own presets, but it’s invaluable. You might not have a dialed-in preset overnight, they take time to develop (pun intended) as you find your style. As for a life hack that can be utilized by everyone, Steven Covey’s (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) time management grid [also known as the Eisenhower matrix]. Stay on tasks that are important but not urgent to avoid spinning your wheels or doing damage control.
What sort of tweaks do your custom presets make?
For those who don’t know, custom presets are essentially like more complex Instagram filters. They are a template for the various levels of contrast, saturation, histogram/light curves, shadows, highlights, etc. By utilizing custom presets, you are more easily able to capture a certain style and aesthetic for your photos.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
Pen and paper; nothing feels better than crossing out stuff off of my to do list!
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget or tool can’t you live without and why? Other than your camera!
As strange as it is to say: My car. I became an ambassador for Cadillac last year, and I’ve been driving the new CT6. When I first moved to Manhattan, I was forced to sell my car, but Cadillac was gracious enough to give me a car for the duration of my contract (still wrapping my head around it myself) and it has been an absolute game changer. Often times I need to drive to remote parts of the city with a trunk full of gear, and public transportation just doesn’t cut it. The car also has massaging chairs, which is a fantastic way to cap a long day of hauling gear.
So tell me about your camera gear. What’s your go-to camera? What sort of lenses do you usually use?
I work with strictly Canon gear (even the lenses). My go-to camera is the Canon 5D Mark III, although I have my eye on the new Mark IV. I primarily use the 24-70mm lens due to it’s versatility. Whenever I’m out shooting, traveling light is of the essence. There’s usually limited space in a helicopter, and if I’m out on rooftops, there’s generally a lot of walking and climbing. If it were up to me, I’d carry my entire arsenal of gear, but minimalism is usually a necessary move.
I’m really interested in buying the new DJI Mavic Drone. Those things have really come a long way in such a short time. And I’ve been flirting with the idea of getting into vlogging on YouTube, so I should invest in a decent gimbal.
Looks like you spend a lot of time in a helicopter. Tell me about that.
I love seeing the city from above. My passion first started with rooftops, and then a local helicopter company saw my photos and reached out to me for a flight. I was super excited, but had no idea just how much more I would fall in love with the city from a simple perspective change. After my first flight, I was hooked. The adrenaline rush of looking down on New York City from the sky can’t be explained, only experienced. Getting up in the air has instilled in me an unshakeable passion for aerial photography and transformed the way I view photography as an art form.
Do you happen to know what kind of copter is usually used for this kind of work?
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
Oh man, this is tough. I may not be the best at it, but I am cognizant of how grateful I am to be doing what I love. No matter the gig, I never forget the luxury I have of waking up each day and pursuing my passion. It’s a truly liberating feeling, and I don’t plan on letting it fade. I should add for the sake of avoiding cliche: just because I am following my passion, doesn’t mean I don’t have my bad days, that’s just part of life.
You’ve become very popular on social media. Do you see that as a means to an end-that is, attention will also being new gigs-or is it fun and purposeful regardless of work?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a means to an end. I would say that it’s a necessary means of exposure. That exposure might lead to another social media platform, it may lead to another avenue of putting my photography on display, or it might fizzle out and force me to pivot. While the majority of my exposure comes from Instagram, it won’t allow me to fulfill all of my dreams. It can certainly aid in the process of getting there, but it’s not sufficient despite being necessary. I think that all artists rely on social media as a platform to succeed in one way or another. We live in a digital world, and it is an essential tool, but by no means is it enough.
As for it being fun and purposeful regardless of work, yes and no. It always makes me smile to see my followers comment and tell me that I’ve inspired them, but keeping up with my account and tracking metrics is certainly more grueling than the average Instagram user that just wants to show their friends a cool picture they took. I will always have fun with it, but it has its moments where it feels like I’m managing something rather than a free-flowing expression of my photography without consequence.
What do you listen to while you work?
I love music almost as much as I love photography. Together-I am one happy girl. I love listening to everything while I edit. I listen to just about everything, from 1950’s oldies to blasting Kanye. If remembering obscene amounts of lyrics were a superpower, I’d have a three movie contract with Marvel.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently not reading anything at the moment but I recently re-read The Alchemist. Coelho taps into this theme of following one’s dreams, and it’s something that really resonates with me. I feel as though I am living the mantra of the book, and it is something everyone should attempt to experience at least once in their life. I believe following your dreams is a never ending process. Once you reach a certain goal, it’s easy to get complacent or stagnant. “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” Kinda cliche, but true nonetheless.
How do you recharge?
A home-cooked meal, a good film (I’m a sucker for movies that can make me feel emotional), and an uninterrupted night’s rest. That last part has been revolutionized by blackout shades I recently installed in my apartment. Do yourself a favor and get those for catching unparalleled Z’s (make sure you have a loud alarm clock though).
What’s your sleep routine like?
Honestly, I lack a regular sleep routine, as I am constantly traveling in different time zones. I prefer to wake up early and get a head start on the day, but my tendencies ebb towards being a night owl.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ____ answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Andy.