This interview is excerpted from our Art Direction Show series. Visit us there for more interviews, inspiration, resources, and avant-garde mayhem.

Photographer Maggie Shannon has been thriving, recently working with editorial giants Wired, The New York Times, and Vice.

Your portraits and still lives feel very connected in spirit although the subject matter is obviously so different. Are you more comfortable with one vs. the other? Have you always done both?

I think they both feed very different aspects of my creativity. I love the wild spirit of a portrait session. Sometimes there’s very little control and it’s a total collaboration with another person. On a lot of my shoots I have very little say about the space or how much time I have. It’s a very fly by the seat of my pants situation, which I absolutely love. Hello adrenaline rush! But with still lives, it’s the opposite. I have total control over most aspects of the shoot and can really focus on getting the light perfect and play around with props. It’s very meditative and relaxing. I really enjoy both portraiture and still lives! Though working with products is newer to me. It’s a fun challenge and I really enjoying bringing my style to this new way of shooting.

Do you have a go-to way of getting portrait subjects to trust you and feel relaxed in front of the camera? (Recently we’ve LOVED your Jane Lynch and Roxanne Gay portraits!)

You’re so kind, thank you! I’ve been told I have a very calm and soothing presence, which was one of the sweetest things an editor said to me! So I really do think that’s a huge part of it. We all bring something to the table. I always try to take a few minutes to chat with the subject before the shoot. Even if there’s a time crunch, there’s usually a little bit of time where my assistant is setting up equipment so I can sit and connect with the subject and try to gain their trust. Being photographed can be really intense and scary, I want people to feel comfortable in front of my lens and understand that I’m on their side, that I want them to look their best.

Credit: Maggie Shannon

When someone approaches you about a project, are there certain red flags you look out for? Things that typically appeal to you? What do you want to know right up front?

I was recently told that a project would be “fun” even though it had a miserably low budget. I’m all for fun projects but I still need to eat! So that was a red flag for sure. I feel very lucky where I have a lot of people reach out to me with a ton of weird assignments but my favorites are the stories. Longer form assignments where I can really dig deep into something and tell a narrative with images. Also traveling for a project is always a plus for me! I love exploring new places through my work. I think it’s super important to get the budget figured out up front and have very clear expectations of the shoot and art direction.

Credit: Maggie Shannon

Can you think of a time when you wished a client gave you better direction and support? (We’ll keep it anonymous!)

I can’t think of anything specific for this, I’m sorry! I guess I’ve been very lucky!

“I LOVE THE WILD SPIRIT OF A PORTRAIT SESSION.”

What is your most used tool or tools?

Gosh my flash for sure! It’s my old trusty Godox Winstro and I love it so much.

Credit: Maggie Shannon

It seems like you’re super productive with lots of clients. How do you keep yourself inspired and avoid burnout?

I try! The hustle is real and it can get pretty intense! But I think it’s important to be honest about the slow periods, too, and to have a strong community of friends that you can rely on or even just complain to when things are dead. My friends are really what help keep me inspired and avoid burning out. Also working on personal projects and just getting out of town for little photo road trips. Shooting just for fun is so important and it can help you work through some ideas without the pressure of a client.

Anything else you want to share?

Nope! You asked such great questions, thank you!

View Maggie’s portfolio.