Megan Simonson is a young, fashion and fine art photographer from Edmonton.
Her images are dreamy, feminine and intimate. Her incredible attention to detail is evident in her photos — in the above image, she made the headdress and did the model's makeup herself.
When she's not advising fellow photography aficionados at her day job at Edmonton's McBain Camera, she works on freelance shoots, capturing everything from fashion editorials to wedding portraits.
Simonson was kind enough to share some of her photos with us and answer a few questions.
Q: Where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
A: Well, funnily enough I'm back where I grew up, currently. I moved to Calgary for about a year and the city kind of chewed me and spat me back out so I moved back in with my parents in Edmonton for the time being.
Q: How long have you been shooting photos?
A: If you're talking about the type of photos I shoot now, since the summer of 2009. But, in terms of owning a camera and enjoying taking pictures it's been since I got my very first camera, Christmas 2003, which was a little blue film camera with pink flowers on it.
Even when I was a toddler my parents gave me a little red film camera that was empty and I ran around taking photos, then would hand the camera to my parents and ask them to develop the film even though they explained each time there was no film in it.
Q: What's the most unusual, remarkable thing you've ever had happen while taking photos?
A: I was on a trip with my family in Florida and we went on a boat cruise in Myakka River State Park to look at the alligators and such, and sitting behind me was a little French girl with what I assumed was her grandparents. All I could understand her saying was, "Oiseau! Oiseau!" as she pointed up at the sky. She was so beautiful and I wanted to capture her picture so terribly.
While we were on this trip I only brought my film camera with me. So I had only one chance to get this. I pointed my camera out at the river and guessed approximately where the focus would be and prayed I could capture something worthwhile. So, when I was ready I swung around and shot it without hardly looking because I didn't want anyone to notice I was taking her photo.
Later, when I developed the film and to my surprise, she had actually looked directly at me and was perfectly in focus! It's one of my favourite shots if only because of how incredible it was that I was able to capture it and that it has some intrigue to it.
Q: How do you choose the locations for your shoots?
A: One thing for sure is I like variety. Whenever I can, I want to choose someplace that maybe no one has thought of before, locally, even if it's not the best and then make something unique out of it. I especially love abandoned locations. I also try to pick spots away from a lot of people for the ease of shooting, both for the model and so I don't have cars or people in the background. I also avoid anything too modern.
Currently, most of my shoots are based outside both for the ease and because nature is so naturally beautiful and can offer a lot to the story of the image. I do plan to use more indoor locations in the future, if only I can get over my anxiety to call and ask for permission!
Q: What are some of the challenges of shooting fashion photography?
A: Definitely the cost. You have to invest in your props, clothing, team if you want to make something special. Sometimes simplicity is key and it works out wonderfully, especially if it's utilizing things you or the model already own, but it can get expensive to take photos that look like they were taken by a world-renowned fashion photographer, especially for the wardrobe.
Investing in equipment and the fact that I tend to shoot film is costly for me at times. The shooting itself is quite easy if you have a vision and a plan. More so, it's breaking into the industry and getting jobs that is a lot tougher. Most fashion photographers don't get their break until they're over thirty unless they're very lucky and talented. I have yet to experience said break.
Check out more of Megan's work. Interview continues below:
Q: I see that you shoot with both film and digital. Do you have a favourite type of camera to shoot with, or a favourite piece of equipment?
A: When it comes to digital, I love my Canon 5D Mark II (dreaming of upgrading to the Mark III soon) and my favourite lens is my new Sigma 50mm 1.4 — which I actually haven't even shot anything with yet, but I was drooling over it for the last two years until I could replace my Canon 50mm 1.4.
For film, I know most people like the Canon AE-1, which I have but always forget to reach for since it was given to me by a family member. I got a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm 1.4 lens for Christmas — it's my baby that I take with me more often.
When I can afford it and I don't have too much else to lug with me, I grab my Rolleiflex TLR that has an awesome f/2.8 lens.
And, sometimes when I shoot black and white I dabble a bit with some hand-colouring. It's a technique that was used in the late 19th century and early 20th to paint black and white photos. And I was inspired by Shae Detar — a painter and fine art photographer based out of New York — to try. Still definitely need to practice, though!
Q: What's your advice to people who want to learn how to take great fine art photos?
A: Look to those who inspire you. Even to start, try copying their style while also keeping it uniquely you.
Until you find your own voice or what style speaks to you, it's a great way to explore your possibilities and find out what does and doesn't work for you. Research photographers old and new to discover who inspires you and who you can learn from. And, they don't have to be world renowned either. Many of the first artists I looked up to were just girls and guys around my age that posted on an art website — I thought what they were doing was really special and I wanted to do it too.
Also, don't hold back. Plan things out, especially if you want it to be a story, unless you work better impulsively.
Q: What do you like to do when you're not taking photos?
A: When I'm not binge-watching Netflix or spending my life online, I like to doodle, paint watercolours, go to festivals and local events. Every now and again when I have the time I will audition for a local musical theatre production. Otherwise my life is mostly taken up by photography in some capacity.
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