a roadmap to better pictures

Mary Dougherty

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ABOUT mary

I'm a fine art film photographer living in the mountains and traveling to tell beautiful stories





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Since I started photographing portrait and engagement sessions I have thought about ways to help the couples I work with take better and more interesting pictures. They are sessions full of possibilities, not burdened by a time line or limited to a season. They are a chance to try something new, have fun, and of course get comfortable in front of the camera. When it comes to planning these sessions there are a lot of variables in the equation and they can be boiled down to the basics of : who, what, when, where + why. The endless possibilities for these questions often leave people at a dead end.

For the past year I had a hard time figuring out how to steer these sessions in the right direction without overstepping my bounds. This left me playing it safe, tip toeing around telling people what to do and hoping for the best…

then I realized that people want to be told what to do.

When it comes to taking pictures whether you are creative or not you end up asking the photographer what looks good because sometimes it’s too overwhelming to figure out on your own. What you need is a roadmap, some kind of direction, which can take the form of what many people call an “inspiration board.”

There is not exact science or perfect combination to a successful session, but the more you answer the who, what, when, where + why questions the better. Choosing to plan for a session a give it a theme, idea, or activity will not only make it more interesting to photograph it will make the subject feel more at home. We’ve all seen it before. Someone steps in front of the camera and instantly turns into a deer in the headlights. They don’t know what they are doing or should do and need direction. It’s a lot easier to give that direction when you put them in a scene, give them a background of where they are and what they are doing.

To solve this problem I’ve decided to institute inspiration boards for my clients. It will be a collaborative process between me and them to both come up with and choose the ideas and make them happen. I’m going to start by offering clients a few options from boards that I create and of course giving them the options to create one of their own. I’ve include a little sample – my first so yes a little rough – but I made it over at Polyvore and if you haven’t visited that site it’s a must for inspiration and ideas. Often times I’m traveling to shoot engagement sessions so I can’t always help contribute props or find locations… however, I know it will be easier to work with clients towards a specific idea when we have a map to do so. Is this going to be more work? yes. Is it going to be worth it? I hope so!

I’m excited to try this out and let me know what you think! Also there’s going to be a chance to create +win your own styled session and so I’ll be posting more info on that soon :)

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