Generator Ep. 005 – Shannon K Dougherty: Styling Your Life and Business

In this episode, Matt Stagliano speaks with Shannon K Dougherty, a highly published Intimate Portrait photographer and educator located in St Louis, MO. Shannon has defined her own unique style in the Intimate world and her images are instantly recognizable. The discussion ranges from styling clients, to authentic connection, to work/life balance, and the importance of The Office. To see more of Shannon's work please visit

Audio Version

Video Version

Full Transcript of Generator Ep. 005 - "Styling Your Life and Business"

Matt Stagliano 0:00
Well, you made it to another one. This is episode five of generator and in this episode, my guest is Shannon Dougherty. Shannon is an intimate boudoir editorial style photographer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. And her style is instantly recognizable. I’m sure that you’ve seen it if you follow any level of photography in the portrait world, I’m sure you’ve come across her work. She’s an educator, she’s a speaker, she’s a phenomenal human being and she has been creating her entire life. I can’t wait for you to hear this interview because she really does go in depth with every part of her process, what she does, why she cares about her clients the way she does in the space that she holds for them. So I know you’re going to enjoy this as much as I enjoyed interviewing her. So without further delay, let’s start the show and get into it with Shannon Dougherty.

Welcome to generator Shannon K Dougherty. How are you my friend? Hello.

Shannon Dougherty 1:24
How are you?

Matt Stagliano 1:26
Excellent. You know, I have to I have to thank you first and foremost for just even being here in the early days of generator I appreciate you whatever happens during this hour is going to happen. Just roll over that and hopefully we’ll make it through unscathed. What do you think?

Shannon Dougherty 1:44
I’m just honored. You asked me.

Matt Stagliano 1:46
Oh, honored now. Is it? All right, well, I’ll take it. I’ll take whatever, whatever I can get. Tell me a little bit about what’s been going on. You said you had a shoot today.

Shannon Dougherty 1:56
Yeah, so Sunday’s are kind of my creative day. I don’t take clients during the weekends. It’s kind of funny though, cuz Saturdays are my one day I told myself, I’ve never picking up my camera. I need one day a week to have that like separation. Do something else. Something creative. So Sunday, is when I usually feel inspired from having that day away from my camera. So it’s been a minute since I’ve had a Sunday to be able to create but I had just some random things in the studio, I really wanted to shoot I went and bought some tiled flooring because I got really tired of my wood floors. So they’re not laid down though. I didn’t make that mistake and take the backing off of them or anything. And they’re just like sticky tiles. Yeah, they’re just sticky tiles. So I didn’t take the back I took the back half a little to see what they were like so I knew to not take the whole thing off. They’re just like the little laminate ones. So I really just wanted to play and I kind of played a little different than what I normally do. It’s really bold when I photograph today but I have amazing friends that are local that I can really just call and be like hey do you want to do some crazy shit with me?

Matt Stagliano 3:12
It’s funny that you say bold right? Because I look at everything you do and just the the styling of it the creation of it right you’ve got flowers in different ways and the way that you use furniture and the way you use rugs just your set design is just absolutely bonkers to me so when you say bold I can’t wait to see what you create it was it was a black and white did you shoot color

Shannon Dougherty 3:34
a lot of color actually. So

Matt Stagliano 3:36
that’s off brand for you it’s

Shannon Dougherty 3:38
a little off brand so I mean let’s be honest, a lot of it’s gonna go black and white. The second set that I shot with her was intentionally going to be for black and white. But the first set is a lot of actually bold reds. So I’m pretty excited to play with that as well.

Matt Stagliano 3:58
Now was it a maternity shoot right because you do a lot of maternity or I don’t even war because it’s not boudoir which you do you do intimate portraits

Shannon Dougherty 4:08
intimate portraiture is what I usually say. Yeah, it’s tough to call myself a just a boudoir photographer because I think boudoir is such is more of a loaded word than it used to be. I think you know, it used to be a little bit more like you shoot it this way. It’s supposed to be like this and now there’s just so many people out there that are really taking it and like taking it to another level but it’s so much more so that’s kind of what I usually do even with teaching too and we can talk about that more later but you know, it doesn’t have to be what we know. It can be something else like how to go beyond so today was a little bit more not on garden goes on cars I wanted to today I kind of just for time sake with her schedule of my schedule. I really just kind of played bowls with the she was in Add, my background was red, and my tiles were black and white.

Matt Stagliano 5:05
So that really old classic feel of the floor, right? That’s what

Shannon Dougherty 5:10
I’ve loved Shakur flooring, my great aunt used to have it. And then I have just wood paneling flooring here, and it’s fine at the time I cover it and edit it out or whatever. But short of doing like aI work or something on the floor, or composite work, I just was like, I’m just gonna go buy it, it’s really not expensive. And I really wanted to kind of do a shoot where I might talk about the budget, too, that I have, I definitely spent under $100 to shoot this whole book. So.

Matt Stagliano 5:44
So this really was a more of a personal shoot than it was a client shoot, oh,

Shannon Dougherty 5:47
I can’t do clients on the weekends. After years in business, that was one of the things I really learned was the boundary of my time. And I mean, it really helps me give to my clients more when I can. I mean, most artists like we can take time to create for ourselves. And I’ve done things that like creative shoots or self portrait shoots, and someone’s like, oh my gosh, I want that for my shoot. And I might have not had that or made that sale, if they bought that image. Had I not done that. So. And I think honestly, creative shooting for me, it’s almost brain dumping, I have to get some of these wacky ideas or if some version of it out. Otherwise, I’m a cranky artist. And I just until I create it, I’m just like,

Matt Stagliano 6:34
Ah, no. Is that something like do you? Do you sketch it all out? Do you write it out? Or is it just here? straight on to film, digital film, whatever? Do you like? Do you just get in there and start to get in flow and start to shoot? Or do you write things down? Like, oh, I want to play with this lighting setup. And I want to do this kind of backup. Like, how does that work for you? I am

Shannon Dougherty 6:56
better at making notes now. Yeah, I used to literally let it all live in my brain. And luckily, I have the most amazing friends and clients that just trust. I mean, I’d be able to trust with them, of course. But now I make notes. Or when I talked to the girl I photographed today, I said Ironically, it was just like Twin Peaks day or something. I never really watched her show too much. It’s like the first season but the red curtains and then they had that bowl flooring. No, I didn’t want to do this exact flooring. I was like I sent her just a photo from that show. And I was like, this is kind of the vibe, but did you know anything about the show if that’s not where we’re going? So and she was into it. I was like I literally can’t tell you much other than these are kind of the things I’m playing with wardrobe. I honestly was gonna go a completely different direction until she came and I was like, let me just do a test shot with you in this really quick. And so the background is red. Her dress is red, and she has red gloves on. It is all red. Not any of the makeup or anything but yeah, I was like let’s just go for it land just kind of looking at the back of the camera so far. Like we’re pretty excited. I think the the only

Matt Stagliano 8:17
reason I tease you about the colors I know you’ve got summer black, you’ve got autumn black, black, shooting black and white, it tends to be a monochrome world for you

Shannon Dougherty 8:27
a little bit. I do have a I do have a red dress I can play with a meaningless now I do have a red dress in my closet now. And some leopard print. But no, I think for me, as far as like creating my work, it’s almost I think there should be some cohesion with with people’s work right? Like you know, what’s theirs. I just always liked black and white softer tones. I love shooting. Like we’re getting close to spring. So I have a bunch of different floral things. I want to photograph I have all the tools. I’ve got all of the like big pretties coming up. But I really just wanted to do something that’s kind of just a little different.

Matt Stagliano 9:08
It’s really easy for me, I don’t know if it’s because I worship your work. But you know, you’re one of the few people that instantly recognizable in terms of seeing something across my feed. Your work is phenomenally cohesive. Over the years I’ve seen this right. And is that something that you intentionally craft? Do you feel like you know you, you are confined by that? Do you love just shooting what you’re shooting? Or you know, like today going a little bit more bold? Is that how you release pressure to produce the same thing all the time? And I’m not saying you produce the same thing all the time, but you understand what I’m saying? Like you take this hard left sometimes just to do it. Does it help you define your voice better? So where does this you know this personal work? Look, how does that drive the client work?

Shannon Dougherty 10:03
Well even say today, I knew I wanted to shoot this bold look. And then I did a black and white look really quick, which is definitely my style. Like when I post it, you’ll 100% know that it’s my black and white boudoir style. And I almost did one of my like, lighter, pretty like still like a lot of contrasts. But I think my singing like I guess signature style really is what it is because I think everybody in some form has some form of that, like artistically, I have almost signature lighting that I almost unintentionally look for if even if I’m not shooting. So I like I love studio lighting. But even a natural light, if I’m outside here, like here’s your camera, here’s your model or client, like go photo, like, you know, a line of us like all photographing the same thing, I’m going to look for certain contrasts in light that you might not look for, you might want that like super hard light. And I’m going to try to find some way to filter that. I just always really loved softer light, but still contrasted. And a lot of that comes from my background as an artist, I was a painter, I did a lot of figure drawing. And a lot of times too, I loved having those like heavy shadows and shading and all of that. So, I mean, that 100% has translated to my work and how I like to shoot. But occasionally, like, my brain just wants to go off and do something else. And I think that that’s actually a really good thing. I think that’s a really healthy thing, to kind of step out of comfort zone, because originally today I was going to put her in like a whole black outfit. And she’s like, No, you should do the bold one. So really, it was kind of nice to have the other question person, excuse me, push that out of me to be like, Yeah, you know what, and I was like, let me just like test it, let me see how it looks with my lighting. Because you know how we are like control freaks at that stuff. But I was like, I don’t want to photograph this whole thing, and then not feel excited about it. But I am excited about it, because I took some of the elements that took me out of my comfort zone. And then some of the ones that I really love doing, and kind of married them together.

Matt Stagliano 12:21
It’s really nice that you’re able to do the styling, and the lighting, and you can do makeup, and you can shoot the photographs clearly. How did you pick all of that up? Right. So I know, I think styling is one of these things. And I mean, it’s, it’s easy for me to sit here and be like, I don’t know how to do makeup, right. But the styling aspect, you have such a it’s a mix of classical and glam boudoir and Renaissance and modern, like you really do take elements from everywhere and you define this style. Is there a way? Is there a word that you can use? Is there a nursery rhyme that you can relate it to? Is there a food that it would be if it was a food? Like what would you do? How would you describe all of that in what you bring into your styling?

Shannon Dougherty 13:15
The Shannon?

Matt Stagliano 13:17
The Shannon? Try try again?

Shannon Dougherty 13:21
Um, I don’t know. And the thing is, too, so I when I talked to my clients to, you know, I always say to them up front was like the number one stressor other than reaching out. That’s step one. So, you know, I always congrats people on that. It’s, it’s styling its wardrobe. That is like the number one stressor for people. They’re like, I have no idea what to do. And I have a lot of colleagues that bring in a stylist for their shoot. But and I mean, their stylists kill it. But I’m always honest with people like I love styling, I love being able to pull wardrobe for people and have them feel incredible in it. And I also like to pull wardrobe and have maybe, maybe there’s a little question mark over their head like I don’t know how this is going to look I’m like, trust me on this one. And I always will be able to back at the camera regardless throughout a shoot because I think that’s important to kind of, especially you know, they can’t see what we’re doing. But I love showing them like hey, here’s this a lot of times to I’m styling things that maybe don’t necessarily like taking a dress and tucking in the top of it or something and using a different tab and showing them really see how cool this is. And this is unique piece for you for this shoe. Like obviously the client wardrobe things are getting reused and different people and stuff, but sometimes just changing the styling for them. I could have the exact same setup, the exact same lighting. Clearly it’s a different person. But changing the styling literally makes it so personal and a little more fun and fun. I kind of give a little credit of that, too. I grew up, my grandma was a seamstress, my mom sewed all the time. I don’t know, if they really like styling as much. You know, they were they’re definitely they were, you know, jeans, T shirts kind of gals and stuff. But I like to think of myself as stylish. But, you know, I love being able to have an extra level of creativity with people. And I think but I think it is intimidating. I, I hear that from a lot of other photographers. They’re like, I have no clue. Yeah, um, how to tell people like sending out like a guide, if like, yes, these are the things that you should bring. And if people aren’t doing that they should. But it can be hard, it can be a little intimidating to and trust me, I’ve definitely had people be like, I don’t know about that. And I’m like, try it on. Let’s see how it looks. I’m gonna take a couple shots, I’m going to show you what it looks like. If you’re not into it, that’s totally fine. We’ve got so many other options of what we can do. And one question I’ve gotten about that, too. It’s like, well, I don’t have a client closet, yet. I only have or I have like two things in it. I don’t really know what to do, how am I supposed to style people with nothing. And that’s why I always like to see what my clients want to bring to. And you can really style it from there or even have like, have them bring a couple extra things. Maybe there’s a jacket, they wouldn’t think that would go over like a gown, like a leather jacket over a ballgown. That’s amazing. Like, it looks great. So you know, little things like that, kind of think about what maybe doesn’t always go together, that would look really neat. But also thinking of these things in the environment of how you’re going to shoot it too. You know, that’s kind of another element. That’s a whole other fashion element, of course, but like, that’s how it is and like Vogue and all those magazines to some books wouldn’t make sense in certain things. So really think like if you photograph it, and it just maybe feels weird. Maybe switch up the lighting, maybe take like a shoulder down or something on the dress and kind of have that little pop or something like even that is styling it different and can totally change the whole look.

Matt Stagliano 17:17
Yeah, you know, that’s something that can’t afford coats. friend of ours mentions all the time is take the shot, change one thing, take the shot, change one thing, see what works, right. And it sounds like you kind of adhere to that a little bit. What are a couple of things that are staples for you. Like if someone if someone had to do styling like this? I am admittedly not a great stylist. I have multi jean jackets, several different colors.

Shannon Dougherty 17:52
I have multi leather jackets.

Matt Stagliano 17:55
The same thing. Now, are there staples like Do you have a piece of fabric ballgown? A leather jacket? A scarf? Like are there staples that that are part of your client wardrobe that you know you can always reach for and always pull that regardless of the client or kind of what you’re doing will provide you some of those shots that you

Shannon Dougherty 18:17
that’s actually kind of a semi loaded question to me. Because I tried to buy a lot of my stuff is either thrifted I’m very lucky. I’ve been gifted a lot of things to or clients will be like, you clearly love this when we were photographing it up. But I always look at Staples. Well, I mean, wow, that is a loaded question. Well, one of the popular things that I photograph too, when it’s a little less completely styled is like the Calvin Klein look, right? It’s simple underwear. It’s a simple bra. If somebody doesn’t want to have to stand there with that, I usually throw a jacket on them. So I have a couple like leather jackets like a couple blazers. Blazers are a really good one too, because Blazers also transition to when I do personal branding work. And if somebody doesn’t have a blazer that they bring, and they think oh, I really wanted to do like a headshot with a blazer, I forgot one I’ve gotten into my closet. So I don’t know if there’s necessarily staples I would say I would say build things slowly. And also think about you and your what your brand is what speaks to you. Not everybody wants a big fall gown. I actually have a lot of things that are sequence in my closet, and almost never get picked anymore. Sure, like in my early work maybe. But a lot of times too when I really thought about it I was like the things I’m photographing that are full blown sequence are more party dresses, those are more creative shoots, I’m using those for. So it just it’s it literally takes years and things might change again in a couple of years. I actually went through my closet yesterday too. And I was like, Alright, I really need to get serious. What do I photograph? What do my clients actually like? And can I just put the other stuff away for now, I did pay clean out, I donated to a shelter to I just needed to like be like, Okay, this served its purpose now other people can have it as well. So I don’t know if there’s really a staple other than what I enjoy shooting and what my clients come to me for. So when I’m doing my border consultation with them, we talk about those things. But then I asked them, Is there anything like on my website or Instagram that you saw that you’re like, oh my gosh, like, no, I need to shoot that because or be photographed in that. Because it happens. They’re like, Oh, I love that dress. I love that jacket, whatever. And, you know, I tell them, I was like, 95% of that isn’t my client closet, I will occasionally post something that maybe somebody else brought for their own shoot. But I want them to see that there is variety. But I’ve over the last couple years, I’ve really simplified a lot. Like just honestly, there’s so much you could do with a blazer, like a plain like Jersey dress. And, and like a cotton. Like, from panty set. Or even like, bra and like jeans. I’ve been starting to buy jeans for my closet to because maternity sessions they weren’t great, like, have the jeans low have like a bra top on? Like, those are beautiful and classic.

Matt Stagliano 21:22
You know, it’s, I thought when I started my studio that I needed all the wardrobe, right? I needed all the things and so I was just drifting dresses in, you know, getting things from people and, you know, Friends, I was like, clean out your closet, I’ll take anything, and then I’d sort through it and kind of figure out what would work what I like what I don’t like, and then I’d have other clients come in, and I’d have them be like, I don’t know, styles or trends. Tell me what to get rid of. And maybe like, absolutely need to lose this dress. And you’ll never photographic and I never did, right? So do you find that you have to keep up with trends? Or does that even matter to you? Do you try to stay? You know, in a simplified, classic style like you do? Or do you keep an eye towards what is trendy? Or do you feel like that would date your work in a weird way? How do you how do you look at that?

Shannon Dougherty 22:18
I don’t think there was ever really a point my life and I completely follow trends. To be honest with you. I do like little elements of trends, like obviously, like the 90s are popular again. So I can really push. Especially if my client is younger, I can be like, oh, like the 90s Calvin Klein ad looking. They’re like, Oh, yeah, I know that somebody’s more my age or older. They remember those ads, they remember the Kate Moss, they remember all that stuff. So it is kind of nice IT trends happen sometimes because it makes it a little bit more relevant. And when I’m talking to them about Excuse me, but I steer clear of trends as much as possible, not just in my personal life. But with how I shoot too. And for a couple reasons. One, obviously if I one example I use with clients, I’m like, I want you to come in and obviously feel like you. I say it’s personal branding clients, especially because this is their brand. I’m like steer clear of anything that’s too dated. And my example is sometimes like tie dye or something like a polyester shirt from the 70s or something like not that that’s not cool, or we couldn’t layer it in some way. But it is a trend. It is something that is more dated. I’m like, I want you to look at this in like 510 20 years. And really the only thing that looks like that’s changed is when you did it. All right. That same goes for like styling, lighting everything. So no, I think that there’s some amazing photographers out there that can shoot trends, and shoot like more streets. I like trends, I have no way we think street style trends. Because I can’t do it. Like I literally my brain does not go there. Like there’s so many great people that do that. And I’m like, That scares me giving my studio and a light. But there’s so many people that do that so well. And they do this while like in their commercial work, that they can photograph trends and not make them look dated. I think that the word dated scares me a lot. Because I want there to be more of a legacy to people’s images and their photos and really just have a timeless look. And yeah, I think that sometimes wardrobe can make or break. It’s no different than photographing something fashion from a magazine like, again, the wrong outfit and the wrong setup. It could break that whole editorial.

Matt Stagliano 24:41
So I was I was actually going to mention that is like it depends on the environment that you’re in the editorial style that you’re going for, right the whole concept of the shoot, right some of those pieces that are trending might fit they might not but you really have to have a clear vision of what you want the shoot to look like overall for it to be cohesive, knowing that you You have a certain approach towards your clients. And then you also kind of have this certain approaches towards your personal creative work. Do you measure success? The same way? Or? Let me let me simplify that question. Yeah, this personal shoot today, this creative shoot today? How do you measure the success of that to you? Right? So it’s not a commercial necessarily a commercial success, because you’re not selling the images, right? What makes a shoot like today successful for you in your mind?

Shannon Dougherty 25:34
Well, the artists to me says, I don’t hate it. Right. Like opening it really like Oh, man. And I don’t mean like missing a shot, or, you know, just sometimes if you especially like speaking from personal experience of going and doing something that’s not completely out of my realm, but like bright colors, I just don’t photograph as much. That kind of scares me. But I don’t feel that fear after looking a little bit and knowing I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot this too. So having those clear notes in my head about it, even though I didn’t say everything out loud, she the this girl that works with me today, like she always works with me. She knows she’s like, we just what are we doing today. And sometimes I don’t know until she gets here. But success for me is really just for personal shoots. It’s not hating it later. And again, that’s the artists me speaking. And one thing I’ve always learned, like when I was in art school, it’s like, if you can look back at your work five plus years later, and see growth, that’s a great thing. You don’t have to hate it. I actually like a lot of my old work. But I see growth. So to me that’s successful. I’m like, Okay, I’ve grown a little bit, I’m actually getting out of comfort zones and moving and like, I probably will really love this for a long time. There’s a couple shoots from a couple years ago, I’m like, still my favorite. I love that. And success on with like clients is really, I don’t view success as like $1 amount. I never really have yes, we’re a business, we have to pay 100% Yes, I charge my worth. But Success to me is having a client come in, have an amazing session, purchase things that are going to make them excited. And then I hear from them again. And then I hear from them again. And then I hear from them again. And then their sister comes to me. And then they come for a maternity session. And having that like repeat relationship with somebody. Because they love their images so much that they just wanted more and more and more.

Matt Stagliano 27:41
I’ve heard you mentioned that before as well in some of the talks that you’ve given in your education, about having just this really solid client base, people coming back over and over and over. And do you find that there’s anything in particular that you do? Or is it just your experience, right, and I want to talk about your branding and a little bit because that always blows me away. I know that you you put so much emphasis on customer service in the experience. And it’s clear that you give a shit about what you’re shooting. And you’re not just saying, Yeah, bring t shirt and jeans and we’re going to crush it. Like you really want to craft it uniquely for each and each client is that what drives you in in some of these things is making it unique, giving a shit like, how do you find that you’re bringing so many people back all the time that you form these tight bonded relationships with them. Clearly the work is beautiful, right? Let’s call it that. But there’s got to be something else.

Shannon Dougherty 28:39
Well, I think it’s I mean, I give a shit. Clearly, I mean, I wouldn’t be doing this. If I didn’t, you know, it’s hard running a business 100% And I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t give a shit. I I would say it’s really just myself with people. Yeah, and I think authenticity authenticity. People see that people can see right through it if you’re not. And I never want someone to feel like oh, this is not what I signed up for. And that’s one thing too, when I’m doing my consultations with people or they’re standing in front of me, I’m like, you might have said you wanted to do a and now you don’t want to do a so that’s fine. We have a plan B, it’s okay. And to me, it’s so important, especially with doing work that’s a little bit more intimate boudoir, all of that. I have to be able to listen to people. And if they decide that they just don’t want to do something, how can we pivot it and make it work for them? Like and I think that that is something I’ve heard from my clients like getting reviews and testimonials to it, like I just made it easy. And every person that steps in front of a camera has some form nurse at least for a second. Even models that I know even my friends today i think it takes a second to be like alright, being photographed. And you know our clients typically Aren’t photographed on a regular basis, and I want to make sure I’m kind of holding your hand in a way to be like, Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay to be vulnerable in front of the camera, things are gonna feel, maybe something feels kind of funny. So let me show you what it looks like and how amazing that looks. I’m a really good, I will give myself props, I’m a really good height girl. I’m like, that is so beautiful. That is, you know, and even as I’m shooting too, I’m the same way and it’s not ever not authentic. I literally just say these things, because I need it, I will literally be photographing it and like, wow, this is incredible. This is exactly the shot that we wanted. This is the shot that you said, it was like your dream look that you wanted to do, how incredible is this? And I think that that’s really what it is to, like, they know that they’re gonna walk away. I mean, I think a lot of us who have had clients in the past, like, I wasn’t really sure if I was gonna like anything, and then they ended up liking pretty much the whole set, right. And I, you know, I kind of joke when I’m having these, like, in person sales with them. And I’m like, I know you would. And just to kind of take that ease. And I’ve also had no pressure salesman. I know, they’re gonna love their images. They’ve even seen sneak peeks on the back of the camera as I’m shooting them. The other than that, like, you know, I don’t pressure people. Like, I feel like I want them to be excited and not have this feeling of like, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, do I really want to spend that money? Like, let’s talk about it. It’s okay. You know, and nobody’s ever walked away from anything?

Matt Stagliano 31:42
No, I think we talk about it in a bunch of different ways. When it relates to us when it relates to our clients. A lot of it boils down to fear, right fears of certain things, fear of looking a certain way in a broad panty said Fear of, you know, appearing the way that you think you look to the world fear of not delivering to the client, what you know you’re capable of right, there’s everywhere. But one of the things that I’ve noticed about you over the years is that it’s become apparent that at times, you are absolutely fearless. And it sounds like there’s a level of comfort that you’ve gotten to not necessarily fearless where the absence of fear, but you’re just so comfortable with the entire process that people can’t help but be comfortable around you with that is that is that basically what you found? I mean, do you still get butterflies? Do you still get fear before shoot,

Shannon Dougherty 32:36
I get more butterflies before educating than anything else. Because being with my client, like, you know, if it’s me, if I have an assistant for the day, or the makeup artist is there, that’s my comfort zone, I’m in my studio, or we’re out wherever shooting like good, like, you know, I have my wardrobe, I have my things. And it’s just me and that person. I love having that moment with my client, just the two of us. Even if I have assistants and stuff, which I typically don’t I usually have either a hair and makeup artist here or sometimes they say sometimes they go. So sometimes it’s just me and the client. And I don’t I don’t get nervous before she’s only when I’m shooting live. When I have students. That is the only time but even then sometimes I don’t too because I’m like, You know what, I’m just going to come in. I’m going to be me. Some people are going to know who I am. Some people aren’t. And I want them to know who the authentic person is. And not this like, okay, lovey. Point A point B, I just don’t really work that well like that. I don’t know, I grew up a punk rock kid. I never followed rules. So yeah,

Matt Stagliano 33:51
so speaking of speaking of education, right, I know you’re teaching at WPI this year, and that you teach it workshops and you do all this stuff. What’s your favorite thing to do with students? Is it shoot live? Is it talk about process, like, What’s your favorite thing to do? Not necessarily what you’re hired to do, what’s your favorite thing to do when you’re educating?

Shannon Dougherty 34:11
I do like shooting live at workshops. I like I really love workshops too, because they are a little bit more intimate. And for the boudoir Summit, it’s shooting pace. So they are a little bit smaller and more intimate. And I think that that’s really awesome. I’ve also shot live in front of 150 people before, and it’s kind of funny, once I take a second I’m like, take that number out of your head. Right? And just pay attention to what you’re doing. It’s so much easier to like, like I’m being on this podcast. This is exactly how I am when I’m teaching too. But I do get to the point obviously. And I think my favorite thing to do is shoot live and then I also just love styling people especially in front of other photographers that are uncomfortable with it, like, it’s little things to do here and there, that will totally change. Like you, you could have somebody walk in and have two outfits. And you have to do five looks. How can you change that enough? Or shoot that? Even if you don’t change the look too much? How can you shoot the variety with that, you’re really walking through those things with students like that makes me really passionate. Talking business is totally fine. Like, you know, there’s, I feel like there’s like, when I did the workshop with cat four coats, I love that we had to shoot a creative day of shooting day. And then we had our business day. In the business, it was second, like everybody had their images, they got to go through them at night, bring them in, show them off and stuff. And then we talked business, and it was so awesome to do with that way. And like I have to give her a lot of credit for that. I’m glad that I was a part of that.

Matt Stagliano 35:58
Yeah, I think it’s super important to do things that way. Because it maintains focus in the right direction, right? Let’s use our creative brain to use our business brain. And a lot of times, people mix the two up, or at least, I know, just speaking from experience, I’m not gonna speak for anybody else. I know that when I’m trying to do both at once, it’s nearly impossible for me to do it, I get, I get frozen and stuck in the mud of trying to think in both directions at once. So being able to separate out the creative day and then a business day. Yeah, I think that’s a great model.

Shannon Dougherty 36:34
Because you can really even leave that you can be like, Okay, I did all my creative stuff and got the energy out really excited for the next day, I can grab my notepad, my pen, and really soak in the end of it. I love the way she set that up. And probably every photographer, creative person, you know, is a visual learner. So I think it helps to have that excitement from the visuals that you just created.

Matt Stagliano 36:58
But it’s also it’s also tactile, right? That it means something more to you than if you’re using someone else’s images, you’re using your own stuff, and you learn a little bit more about how to market learn how to sell or what you would do differently, right and how to make that better. So in that you’re crafting the aesthetic, the voice that’s yours. And I wanted to use that and lead into the aesthetic that you’ve created. Right. And we’ve talked about the styling and how your stuff looks. We’ve talked about your customer experience, but you in the conversations that we’ve had, where I’ve asked him like, how do you? How do you package your stuff, right? So my level of packaging, I’d like to say is, is one step above brown paper bag, about 11 150 steps below what you do for your clients. And I’m in awe of how beautiful your packaging is for your clients. Now, is that something again, that comes from just giving a shit? Is it that you want your logo everywhere? Is that that you love the packaging? Right? So so many people use Dropbox? Or just you know, wrap something in tissue paper and toss it in the bag? You pay attention to every single detail can you like just describe basically your your packaging your approach to that that aesthetic, that part of your business?

Shannon Dougherty 38:22
Well, I will say I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Dropbox. In a pinch, I’ve had to use it for clients that are far away, right? Sure, of course. But Dropbox also works for certain things, too. If I have a personal branding client, I Dropbox it, they need those images, they name for the website, they don’t need prints. Like that’s the easiest way. Oh, hey, like, I lost my link, can you send it to me again? Oh, I’ve got it right here totally fine. But packaging to be. I don’t know, I just always felt like there’s something about, like, you go to the store. Let’s say you go somewhere nice. And they put it in the package, you get to go home when you open it. There’s something that feels really special. Like, I’ll be honest, I’m like, Girl, if I buy something really expensive for myself, I usually save the packaging, and I use it for whatever. Like right now I have dry flowers and like a YSL bag. I like just think it looks cute. And it adds a little bit that little fun little pop of luxury. But that’s what it is. For me. I offer a luxury service. And I like to hand somebody a package, even if it’s digital. Now I know technology changes all the time. So my computer doesn’t even have the USB thing anymore. But now a lot of companies have the updated version. So they have like, I don’t know anything about technology. The old DVD

Matt Stagliano 39:44
it’s DVDs now. It’s a burner.

Shannon Dougherty 39:49
Phone like the little tiny USB thing. Yeah. So a lot of companies have finally updated that, which is great. But even if I’m just doing digital And I think I, I just say justed shows, but it’s still something, I put it on a flash drive, I put it in its own box, I add my brand color tissue paper, so white, black and rose gold into a branded bag, and I hand this to them. And nine times out is when I go to my client and bring that to them just depends on where they live in our availability. Sometimes it is so much easier for them to come to me. But a lot of times if I have attorney clients, or if they’ve just had the kid or Amini sessions, I go to them, like I make their life so much easier. And it’s just that one little extra step of maybe not like hard packaging, but it’s still part of the, like the luxury, like, I got this delivered to my house, hand deliver. Like, that’s amazing. I always include a thank you note, as well, because even if it’s I don’t have the best handwriting. But it’s a handwritten note, you know, thank you for coming in and choosing me for you know, to photograph your session, like especially like maternity sessions, like this amazing part of your life, I can’t wait to see your family grow, you know, and it’s just that little bit of extra touch. It’s so much more to me than like writing an email. And just sending a Dropbox again, not hating on Dropbox, because I definitely use it. But yeah, it’s just always, it just always feels like part of the luxury experience. I’m handing you a package. Tomorrow, I’m delivering a huge print box with 30 Plus images and flash drive. And I’ve been offering these IceCube prints to through the boudoir album. And this thing is heavy. I cannot wait to hand this to my client. And I know that sounds kind of silly, but associate the weight to kind of, hey, oh, it makes a difference. I show people when I show people the prints and like feel these boxes like see how well made they are see like, these are pretty incredible. Right? You know, and I just think that that kind of adds something.

Matt Stagliano 42:03
I think what might be next then is the Shannon K Dorothy branded cart that you wheel.

Shannon Dougherty 42:12
I mean, I have a cart over there and it’s rose gold. So it’s the whole aesthetic,

Matt Stagliano 42:17
one step ahead of me.

Shannon Dougherty 42:19
Slap a logo on it.

Matt Stagliano 42:22
Where do you get your inspiration? I know you love going to art museums, taking photo walks, right? How do you keep that creativity going?

Shannon Dougherty 42:31
Honestly, you kind of just said it was like give me a cup of coffee and leaving Art Museum and I’m good. I regret when I was in Italy not spending literally days in art museums, I only spent like half a day and a few of them. But to me, sometimes, honestly, I get inspiration from shutting my brain off. Just taking a little time away. I am so in love with what I do. I’m so in love with creating I’m so in love with art, like my obsession is buying coffee table books right now of all my favorite photographers and artists. If I ever move, it’s gonna be a mess. Because it’s gonna be very heavy there. I need a U haul truck just for that. But I have this constantly around me, I hang prints, I hang everything I have my own prints out. Sometimes I have to take a step back and I’m like, let me just spend half an afternoon watching something silly. Like I love like comedies and things but or going and taking a walk and listening to a podcast has nothing to do with photography. And I definitely have had people laugh at me. They’re like, I think you love this. And like, yeah, I love it so much that it’s like having a child. It’s okay to take like an afternoon away and put a pin in that come back to that. And sometimes after that I’m like, oh, you know, I listened to this podcast about this town or whatever. And then I started looking it up and wow, their gardens are amazing. So now I feel like I want to like do this whole garden shoot or something like that. So sometimes it’s the opposite way of finding inspiration than opening a book going to an art museum.

Matt Stagliano 44:09
Just giving your brain a rest.

Shannon Dougherty 44:11
Yeah. Which is hard for me to do. Yeah.

Matt Stagliano 44:15
I think it’s hard for a lot of a lot of creatives to do and I certainly don’t take enough time away and just give myself a chance to play. And that’s you know, something that Parker Pfister has always yelled at me about is just not not spending enough time just playing just experimenting, just going off and doing stuff and failing, right? What is what’s the last thing that gave you that feeling of inspiration and if you say true crime podcast,

Shannon Dougherty 44:40
I actually haven’t been listening to as much I realized that it was kind of like add again to like winter sad. I’m just I love fashion so much. And I mean, we’re cutting hands kind of trends in a way but kind of the opposite of that. Like Alexander McQueen is literally my favorite of all like I’ve missed him so much. But obviously his studio is still going. But I have a couple new pieces like I bought for my wardrobe. And then I started, I make some stuff from scratch. Like I love again, I think that’s just having my grandma and my mom’s sewing all the time, I will find something of theirs. I’m like, wow, that’s really cool. I love how they did this, you know, something with a garment. And I’m like, I kind of feel like I might make a rose out of that. And like kind of like find, like, not copying their work by any means. But you know how we find inspiration from each other’s work to, like, you might photograph something like bold reds or something, I might feel like, you know what, I need to try that too. And just, I just love fashion. I might wear all black. But when I photograph stuff, like I have a couple ideas of what I want to do. I worked on a corset, and it’s silk and pearls. And I just, I don’t know why I’m so excited about it. I just want to photograph it on everybody.

Matt Stagliano 46:04
I know that you make your environment very much part of who you are. You’ve shown me pictures of you know, your apartment and you’ve got your bats in your Halloween and stuff. And it’s like it is keeping your environment in a certain way. Does that just constantly fill that cup of? Yeah, this is what I’m supposed to be. This is where I’m supposed to be. This gives me inspiration. It keeps me going makes you feel good. Do you? I mean, do you find that your environment is a huge influence on your mood and your behavior and work and play? And, and all of that?

Shannon Dougherty 46:41
Well, I yeah, I think so. I mean, like, my home and like my workspace and everything. It’s very much style, like me. Certain parts of the studio aren’t they just keep them pretty bare, because it’s just easier to set up and take down. But like a burgundy accent while at home, I make dry flower arrangements. I love like the vases that are like the bus. I love that. I have plenty of bad tattoos to like, I love just having that like half romantic, and then a little touch of Halloween, but then just this soft, feminine. Like, if I could live in a castle, that would be great. Like, just leave me there. Because I just love that. That that look that energy. Like it just feels like it makes me excited. Like for someone who’s like more in like minimal style. They might be like, I love those grades. I love that simple furniture. I love that stuff. And for me, I’m a little bit more of the opposite. And I’m like, Yes, give me those deep colors. Like that inspires me. There’s a lot of that kind of in my work too. Or it’s like, it’s black and white, or it’s this and that. But I love these like Rosie beiges and like deeper Indies and things too. So there’s a lot of me that definitely goes into like what I do.

Matt Stagliano 48:03
There are many castles in St. Louis.

Shannon Dougherty 48:05
No, but there are these little interesting things. I can’t remember the name of them right now I had I know what I would have prepared in the river. They’re almost like little lookouts. And people used to live in they’re like they’re not occupied now. They’re very interesting. So are you kind of a castle? Because I mean, like you had to have a boat to get there. Yeah, so no, there’s no castles here that I don’t have. But there’s some neat houses.

Matt Stagliano 48:33
Now, little things that people don’t know about Shannon, right. You used to work in an art gallery. Right? And do. Were you doing the styling at an art gallery where you went to school for? I can’t recall, but I know there’s a periphery attachment.

Shannon Dougherty 48:51
I didn’t. I didn’t work in an art gallery, but I definitely would do some hanging. So hanging that yeah, it wouldn’t make stuff I know super exciting.

Matt Stagliano 49:00
There’s there’s an art, isn’t it? Yeah, I’m terrible.

Shannon Dougherty 49:03
I really don’t measure when I hang stuff, which I’m sure it makes people cringe. But I’m usually fairly good at eyeballing it. And I don’t really know if I play by the rules of like, it has to hang here and like I love or like whatever. I’m sure many people love hearing that. But yeah, I mean, I grew up as an artist my whole life before I even knew what an artist was like coloring watercolors. It’s sad to say that my grandma never really did a whole lot with it. But she did watercolour paintings on top of like when she was making quilts and sewing and things like that, too. And I think that that’s just something that always stuck with me even though I didn’t really grew up around her too much. My mom always makes a joke. She’s like, I can’t even draw a stick figure. And then you’re creating this. And now you’re photographing this. Like does it skip a generation kind of thing, but yeah, I think I could just live in an art gallery and probably

Matt Stagliano 50:02
It sounds like you idolize the women in your life or you hold them in such high regard,

Shannon Dougherty 50:08
I think I think it just love women in general, I think there’s just something so beautiful and powerful I like, ya

Matt Stagliano 50:18
know, it’s apparent it’s apparent in the work right you you’re not just taking beautiful photos you are really bring out different sides of some of these women and to be able to take people I say people off the street, right? moguls, non photographers, non creatives, let’s say like just people that come in as clients, and you turn them into true artwork. And without variants without exception, everything that I see you put out, falls into that. And it’s, it’s an incredible skill. I’ve got to believe that it’s carved out a pretty specific niche for you, in that world of intimate portraiture.

Shannon Dougherty 51:06
I think a lot of times, you know, we’re kind of taught to be like, you know, don’t do too much, right? Like, don’t be too much. I don’t know, should I hang photos of myself on the wall. And I want to give everybody there’s no reason that every woman shouldn’t feel like they’re on the cover of a magazine, or feel like, literally so like, when I photograph people I photograph in my head, like an editorial, I think close up shot, pullback shot. Like I heard another photographer say that recently, too. I’m to remember who it was. But I do I think how would this client feel if they saw these printed in a magazine, I mean, that’s kind of what prints are too. But I’m like, Hey, your photos on the wall, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be excited. By this photoshoot don’t shy away from it. Like, I understand maybe having an image or two that’s very, very intimate. Maybe you don’t want to share people, that’s fine. But I shoot so much variety with people because I’m like, it’s more than just this or that, like, You are the artwork, right? Like, I want you to feel special. They come in, they get hair and makeup done. It’s literally full service. I was like, I was like, all you have to do is just be the supermodel for the day. That’s it. And it can be kind of tiring. But so by the end the day I’m like, Okay, go eat, like, you know, go relax. But they don’t have to worry about anything. And I think that that’s something that just in general, with just humans, we have so much to worry about. There’s so many things here and there. And then it’s like, somebody comes in and they’re tired, and they’re nervous. And I’m like, we got this, it’s like you literally don’t have to do anything other than just trust us. And we’re gonna create a beautiful day for you.

Matt Stagliano 52:51
I love that. That’s exactly what happens. I love I love seeing the output of it. Right? Because everything you’ve talked about so far for the past 54 minutes has been experience carrying authenticity, right, empowering, bringing, bringing women into this place where they can be themselves and still, you know, be beautiful, no matter what they’re going through where they are in life, what age they are, where they come from all of that. You treat everyone with such tenderness and care. It’s, it’s it’s important, I think, for people to hear that. Just that little bit of extra care, that empathy, that attention goes so far, not only with your clients, but in the work itself. Right, we can get complacent and just kind of phone it in sometimes. Do you ever find yourself phoning it in?

Shannon Dougherty 53:45
In the past? Yes, yeah. When I first started a long time ago. Yeah, it felt so what, let me tell you what doesn’t work for me, is having a shoot list. For some people, it helps their brain trust me, I get distracted by things shiny things all the time. But I felt more stagnant and phoning it in when I was like, Do this post do this pose to this pose. I have like a general idea of where I’m gonna start with people. I always have like a couple of the same warm up poses I do. We’re going to start with this look. A lot of times I’ll start more full glam when their hair and makeup is fresh. And then we’ll kind of like strip it down a little bit more maybe it becomes more of like the clean black or white Calvin Klein vibe. Because it makes more sense why would I start with that too, when I have full hair and makeup when I by the end. We want it to fall just a little bit it’ll still be good but we just wanted a little bit more relaxed. And also to I just want to give people like options. Let’s do like a little glam. Maybe you’re not a gown girl but maybe we do something that was like with a blazer and some and like one of the fitted dresses and kind of work from there because honestly like even with warm up poses. I still Those are still sellable images to me. But I don’t like having like, Okay, I’m gonna go through, we’re shooting five looks. So I’m gonna do these five, okay, tomorrow’s client, I’m gonna do these five. Next days client, I’m gonna do maybe those three, then maybe two more. I think just like everybody I burnout to, um, I don’t know, many creative people who haven’t had some form of burnout in some way, at some point in their career. But part of that I just can’t have a sheet list I need, I will have like a general idea, I will sometimes even have a semi mood board with somebody if they have very specific thing they want. But other than that, I’m like, let’s just, I’m more inspired. If somebody walked in, here’s my wardrobe. Like, let’s say, if we didn’t use any of mine. That’s what I’m inspired. And then that’s when I can shoot. Because if I have something pre planned too much, and then they come in, and they I’m like, Whoa, that throws me off. And then I don’t feel like I’m can give them a proper session. So I’m, I’m a very structured, unstructured person, if that makes

Matt Stagliano 56:05
sense. I think you leave room for the muse to play, right? Yeah. Yeah, that’s an important pardon. And I know, there are so many folks that look for, where’s the manual? Right? What’s the poses i need to do is the lighting setup I need to do what’s the wardrobe that I need? And it doesn’t give them the room to play? And and, you know, we’ve talked about, we’ve talked about playing a lot. But I think having that breathing room and your own creativity is just such a huge part of the process, right? It’s being less structured, less rigid. I’m, I’m always surprised by the stuff that I create, when I let go, just let go of it all. And just trust your instincts. Trust your gut. Yeah,

Shannon Dougherty 56:46
there’s a reason that something a little different, or like, I’ll even ask my clients like, Hey, can we try something new? Do you mind? A lot of times, those are incredibly sellable images for me, because they’re excited one that I asked them, like, Hey, can we just try this new thing? Do you mind? You know, I haven’t tried it before. But it’s different for everybody. Like there’s not it’s not a one size fits all thing. Some people work very well. Here’s my shortlist, here are my sellable images. I’m looking to have this sale for this much. Exactly. And it works. And it does. I mean, I’ve definitely been there too. But then I realized I had burnout so much quicker, when that’s how I was shooting. So just for myself, it just doesn’t work. That way, I have to be able to, even if we again, stick with a little bit of a schedule, I’m like, Alright, I have to throw something different in because I also want them to have their own experience too. Especially clients that are referrals. I don’t want to give them the same session, I gave somebody else that they were referred by, you know, I don’t want them to feel like wait a minute. I have that image too. Or maybe I have that image. But I have my own version of it. Right? Like, oh, I decided to do the gown for that one. instead.

Matt Stagliano 58:01
Let’s talk about the obsession with the office just a little bit. I couldn’t let you go with this obsession.

Shannon Dougherty 58:06
It’s a way of life. So that actually adds them to the turn the brain off thing. Like, it’s, it’s a nice way to just have that I can put on the office. And I actually read this somewhere, too. You could put on the office clothes, and just have the audio and listen to it like a podcast 100% I could totally do that. I could quote you the whole thing. It’s just one of those, like, feel good things for me. That makes me laugh. It has silly jokes that are no pop culture references. Some are not appropriate for certain situations. Yeah, I mean, I actually went to one of the office exhibits in Chicago to where you kind of walk through like they redo the set. And you can take photos and yeah, I did that the Office experience so it was called.

Matt Stagliano 59:00
Have you ever thought about doing an office inspired? Editorial shoot?

Shannon Dougherty 59:05
Oh, I don’t do that. I really would have to think about that. Honestly. Oh my gosh, you’re just made my brain explode. That might not work for my brain. But now that you said that, hopefully somebody else who listens to this they’d be like, oh, yeah, I got that. Now if you were like hey, can you make shoot inspired by like bridgerton I’ll be like already shot that. Let me show you. Yeah, that’s like every day of my working thing that’s like beautiful and things like that. I’ve definitely done themed things in the past like had clients who love Star Wars and things like that. I just don’t know if I’m the right photographer for that now, but it was in the past, but we can definitely add an element but I don’t know. I don’t know if I could do let’s just get the office separate. Okay. Working play separate.

Matt Stagliano 59:52
not separate. And we’re full circle. What’s going on this year? What do you got planned?

Shannon Dougherty 59:59
I’m so WPI is coming up very quickly. So I’m teaching a shooting beef for the boudoir Summit. And it’s going to be a new perspective on boudoir is what it’s called. And I’m really just going to style my model and do what I do. I really want to talk about how it’s so much more than like, Lingerie in these setups, like, how can we add a little variety to give our clients a little bit more doesn’t have to be the exact copy and everybody’s going to be different? And I think that that’s great. Like, let’s kind of take us out of this rut and like, move forward, like how can we, again, the styling thing, the styling thing scares people. So what little things can we do to like, really amp up things for our clients, like our clients are happy, we’re making more money, all of that stuff. And hopefully some more travels soon. We’re going, hoping Phoenix in September, but there might be a possibility I’m going to Portugal. But we’ll see. That’s all just not quite written in stone yet. Taking little family time to South Carolina this summer. Other than that, I’m always down for whatever means not that far away. Well means might be a little too cold at the moment. But once we hit maybe springtime flights not a drive up that way.

Matt Stagliano 1:01:24
Well, the studio is yours if you need it. I think, you know, being able to show this area bit more style would never be a bad thing. And I’m certainly not the man to do it.

Shannon Dougherty 1:01:36
I will definitely I would, I would actually ship wardrobe there instead of trying to pack that. Literally for any of the traveling. I’m doing I am trying to it’s hard to not pack the gowns, but I try not to it’s too much to travel with. made that mistake too many times.

Matt Stagliano 1:01:53
Well, listen, thank you so so so much for giving me all this time. I know it’s a Sunday night. Not something you necessarily wanted to do after a long day shooting, but I appreciate you being here for the

Shannon Dougherty 1:02:03
easy shoot today. This is an easy talk. I can’t wait to see that.

Matt Stagliano 1:02:07
I can’t wait to see the images. I really want to see this floor that you put together. I know

Shannon Dougherty 1:02:11
well, the only problem is as I didn’t buy enough panels. So it might be a Photoshop situation. Although I think I rectified it a little bit. So we’ll see.

Matt Stagliano 1:02:21
All right, well, I’ll hold judgment then.

Shannon Dougherty 1:02:25
Like, whoa,

Matt Stagliano 1:02:28
thank you so much for being here. And let’s do this again sometime soon. Maybe out at WPI

Shannon Dougherty 1:02:34
Alright, let’s do it.

Matt Stagliano 1:02:36
Thanks, Shannon. I’ll talk to you soon.

Popular Post:

Related Posts:

An Introduction to Stonetree

A lot of folks questioned my sanity when I said I wanted to start a second company. Believe me, there are days I question it as well!

Generator Ep. 019 – Susan Stripling: Finding a Quiet Kind of Magic

In this episode, Maine photographer Matt Stagliano speaks with Susan Stripling – one of the most sought after wedding photographers in the world and the creator of the Wedding School, an online education platform.

She has won countless awards, been in countless magazines, and represents some of the top brands in the business. She’s a Canon Explorer of Light, a keynote speaker, and has taught thousands of students the intricacies of wedding photography.

In this conversation, we talk about many things including her selling the Wedding School, the importance of self care, using AI, the future of the wedding industry and of course, horror films.

For more information about her work, please visit

Related Posts:

Let’s Socialize