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Interview with Shannon McDonald

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an interview, we are trying out some varied content this year. However everyone needs to read this. Shannon’s gear requirements are pretty minimal, but that doesn’t stop her from anything really. If you’ve ever thought you needed more gear then this will put you back in your place. Enjoy :)

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m originally from Perth but have been living in Melbourne for about 12 years with my hubby and our little boy. I worked in radio for a long time before my current gig. I love films, books, coffee, wine, a roaring fire and making my husband laugh.

What inspired you to get started in photography?

About five and a half years ago I’d suffered a big knock and needed a way to express my feelings so I dug out my husband’s point and shoot and fell deeply, madly, passionately in love with photography. At first I created a lot of what I call ‘photographic art’ but I think that was because I didn’t know how to take a good portrait! My children’s photography blossomed after the birth of my own son in 2008.

What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?

I am not a collector of gear at all. I think gear can sometimes be more about ego and less about necessity. Having said that, I would love to have a lensbaby in my kit someday! My absolutely mainstays are my 5DmkII and my 35mm 1.4. I love that lens! I also have a 85mm 1.8 which I sometimes use but the crop drives me barmy. If I need extra gear for a wedding I just hire it.

How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?

Social media has been essential but I’ve stepped back a bit from it lately as it was sucking up too much of my time. My absolute best form of advertising is to do a great job every time for every single client. I’ve gotten way more jobs through word-of-mouth than from Facebook.

What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?

I don’t have one favourite so I’ve chosen a few favourites that kind of chart my course from my so-called photographic art days to what I’m doing now.

Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it? What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post?

I took this photo of my son when he was about 20 months old. You cannot direct children of this age (sadly!) but I knew I wanted to capture him by the window. So I led him over there aaaaaand proceeded to capture lots of photos of him with his head caught in the curtains with only his chubby legs visible etc etc. Then I put him back and he turned to look at me and bam. I love the way the light is only catching one side of his face. To post-process I made it black and white (can’t remember how now) and applied a texture, which I don’t normally do. This photo isn’t cropped at all as I had plenty of time to compose while taking it.

You should definitely nail the technical aspects as much as you can in-camera but I’m a big fan of Photoshop actions so I will usually apply one of those to my family and children’s photos and then adjust it to my liking.

Whats your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?

Probably my 580exII speedlite. I rarely use it but it’s great to have as a back-up.

Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?

I only post to my website/blog and Facebook. I think the two work well together as you can obviously use Facebook to drive traffic to your website. It’s also good to blog a client’s session, email them the link and encourage them to show it off to their friends. I started this whole journey on Flickr and met a lot of great people but I never use it now.

Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?

I don’t really get blocked with my family photography as it’s something I do every weekend and every family is different so I take my inspiration from that. I do get very blocked with my personal work though. I’ve come to the conclusion that perfectionism is another word for procrastination. I feel like I have a tendency to wait for the perfect subject instead of just photographing all kinds of people all the time. You can’t wait for the planets to align, you just have to leave the house.

Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?

Oh god. I wish I’d done a million things differently. I wish I hadn’t compared my work as a beginner to that of accomplished, award-winning professionals. Duh! So defeating. I also wish I’d gotten some business mentoring. I’ve wasted so much money on poor decisions simply because I didn’t know any better.

Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?

1. Number 1 has to be to learn some business skills. Do a workshop and/or hook up with a mentor.
2. Don’t throw lots of money at gear! Just set yourself up with a basic kit and add to it as you go.
3. Take your work seriously, but not yourself.
4. Make a goal. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for you can’t plan the steps needed to get there.
5. Expect to get discouraged. You will more than likely feel like giving up at times. It’s part of being an artist and a human. Pursuing your dream is the first thing. Outcome is second. One important thing that separates successful artists from failed ones is that the successes have found a way to keep going. Just keep going. Just keep going.

Visit Shannon McDonald – website, blog and facebook

Author Tristan

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