In this week’s Community Story I want to talk about a photographer whom I think magically creates drama in her images. I have been admiring this fellow Offbeatle from afar for some time now! I was immediately drawn to her work as soon as I began seeing it. She is also a fellow Saskatchewanian! One thing I have come to love about her is her straightforward approach. She makes a plan, executes the plan, and knows where her priorities lie. Her family is clearly very important to her. I’ll be honest, I’m going to fangirl here! She is another local(ish) photographer that I hope to one day meet because I think she’d be a lot of fun.
I’m sure you’ve seen posts stating this floating around in Instagram stories. I strongly believe that we spend way too much time competing with each other. This results in us feeling low and being drawn into the comparison game, which sucks. Last October I attended my first ever in-person photography workshop with Offbeat and I discovered something profound. Working with, collaborating with, and learning from other photographers can only up your game. That experience started my Community Story series. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the Offbeat Community. I think what Dave and Paul are building is important and so much more valuable than you might imagine. As I heard Paul saying last week, there’s enough room for all of us.
So every week I feature one photographer who inspires me and influences my work. They deserve to be recognized. So let’s meet Maegan Toews.
As you might have noticed, I love the drama created by movement, rich colour, and darker tones. All things that I think are uber magical but don’t seem to be the popular style in these days of light and airy or desaturated colours. You wouldn’t guess that judging by Maegan’s successful business. I have been creeping her Instagram stories and her studio is coming along nicely! Shooting everything from families, graduations, Post-Wedding Portraits, to boudoir and headshots, she is incredibly talented.
So let’s talk about what drama is before breaking down these incredible images! According to my Canadian Oxford Dictionary, “drama” is an exciting or emotional event as well as a dramatic quality. “Dramatic” means sudden and exciting or vividly striking. I think that sums up Maegan’s work quite nicely! So let’s see if we can figure out what she’s doing to create this epic drama.
I think I first saw this image when Maegan shared it in the Offbeat Facebook Group and I was just blown away. I remember thinking, I want to make magic like that! There are a number of things that I think make this image work so well. The first is contrast. And there a few kinds of contrast. The contrast of light and dark. Her light skin and pale dress pop off the screen compared to her dark hair and the dark wood. There is a contrast between her elegant and lacy dress and the weathered and worn building. Not to mention the contrast of complementary colours found in the rich colours of the green grass and red lips. Strong leading lines found in the wood planks direct your eye to the beautiful moment who appears to be experiencing a quiet and private moment. Stunningly beautiful!
This image took my breath away when I saw it. This one is both epic and timeless. If I were to start shooting boudoir-type images, I would want to shoot images like this one. It’s raw, vulnerable, and intimate but also abstract. Such a powerful image. While I typically love colour, I am not sure this image would have the same impact in colour. So I love that she took this in the monochrome direction.
How did Maegan accomplish this magic? Three things come to mind right away. Her use of light and shadow, her use of focus, and the movement she captures. Light and shadow are contrasted in such a way that the lines and curves of the model’s hair and body are highlighted. I would guess that she shot this at a wide aperture to give that softness to the background, but she also used it to give just a sliver of strong focus to the model’s arm and hair. I love how dreamy and surreal that feels. Lastly, she captures the movement of the model’s hair blowing in the wind to create that sense of time and place. Epic, just epic.
So far we’ve talked about two outdoor images, but Maegan is also incredibly talented in the studio. This image of two youth (sisters) for their dancing is nothing short of amazing. So what makes this image work? Again, light and shadow play a big part. But what’s different about this is that Maegan could shape the light in any way she pleased using strobes. I believe her key light was set above the girls and then she either bounced light or used a fill light to reduce the shadows on the vertical planes. This tells me that Maegan has an intuitive understanding of how light works and how to manipulate it to achieve that drama. I think shooting this on a black background increases the drama and mystery of the scene in a way that a lighter-coloured backdrop wouldn’t.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the posing. These ARE dancers and they know what shapes they are capable of, but Maegan would also have to have some knowledge of these shapes. Having an understanding of what your subjects can and will do gives you some incredible creative licence. I absolutely love the points of connections, the reaching out, and the sense that these girls are supporting each other. It’s beautiful.
Aside from that fact that I adore it? LOL. I have learned that high contrast can create tension, vibrance, and mystery that helps develop the drama in a scene. Movement, connection, and an understanding of your subject are also incredibly useful tools to have in your toolbox. As I’ve mentioned previously, I am using the lowkey light, a form of Tenebrism in my Tarot Photo Project. I shot the fourth card yesterday so a post will be coming soon about it (in case you’ve been dying of curiosity!).
Of course, Maegan is another photographer I’d love to grab a cup of coffee with. Make sure you go give her a follow.
Here are few images of mine that I think are dramatic.