Photographer Maegan McDowell on creating beautiful fashion photos

Maegan McDowell

Fashion and beauty photographer Maegan McDowell. Image supplied.

Beauty is a way of life for talented photographer Maegan McDowell, who creates gorgeous fashion and beauty imagery for some of New Zealand’s leading brands and publications. Maegan’s beautiful photos have showcased the collections of Trelise Cooper, Love and Object and Emma Ford Swim, as well as products by RevitaLash and EcoStore among others. Her style could definitely be described as lush and romantic, and with a background in floristry it’s no surprise that Maegan loves adding suitable blooms to her imagery too.

While she mostly shoots fashion and beauty imagery, Maegan recently launched a portrait website where she offers her services to those looking for an incredible portrait of themselves. With 13 years of creating stunning photos under her belt, Maegan knows how to help anyone feel comfortable in front of the camera and make them look like the best version of themselves.

We caught up with Maegan to find out how she got into photography, what inspires her and what she’s most proud of doing?

What made you become a photographer?
Being in school I was certainly the child who dreamed a lot in class, I was also very quiet. My influence of becoming a photographer was that it felt like it had a freedom to it that I could relate to, and to not have to answer to anyone for. I had a vision and ways of noticing things along with patience, which is often what happens when you are overly quiet – you observe. First, I wanted to be a wildlife photographer, I grew up around my father’s fascination of the natural world, which passed on to me. At 18 and 19 years old I went to Africa and experienced what being a wildlife photographer was like, and I can tell you I’ve never had such a pure feeling of freedom as being in the real wilderness far away from home.

What inspires you?
Colour. It always has such an impact on me and there are so many colour ways and textures in everything that surrounds us, it’s so hard to not be inspired in this world. I was inspired when I went to Italy, reading ancient Greek myths during lockdown, watching fantasy movies, searching through vintage items at markets, walking through gardens during Spring, watching beautiful romantic movies like ‘Emma‘… the list goes on.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your work?
I have a colourful aesthetic which is very feminine. I love a full length floral floaty dress that brings movement and confidence, which is often how I photograph my subjects. I am a romantic at heart and enjoy how some outfits can make you feel like you’re in a romantic novel or movie or a completely different era. If I feel confident in wearing things I love then that transfers into my work too.

Maegan McDowell

Fashion imagery by Maegan McDowell.

Can you tell us about the technique/s used to create your imagery?
The first part of creating my imagery comes from an idea I’ve had, most of the time it is portraying a feeling and shaping it visually. I either shoot in the studio where I control everything, or shoot in nature where I let go of control. My favourite part is the post processing where I can really play with colours further and finalise the idea completely. Another part that is important to me is connection to the people I work with, having a team that gets inspired from one another escalates the shoot to a whole new level. I always choose people who are uplifting, cheerful, easy-going and maybe even a bit more extroverted to help push my initial idea further.

What would you like the viewer to takeaway from viewing your images?
I let people take away what they like, the same as when looking at anything artistic, there are multiple opinions and take-aways from it. Of course I create beauty and colour so if someone felt invigorated and inspired it would be passing on exactly what I started with, and that’s awesome.

What does photography mean to you?
Freedom and self expression, whilst working together with like-minded people and bringing ideas to life.

How important is it for creatives to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
As a photographer I get to bring people to see their confidence, their beauty, their talent. There is nothing better than giving that to someone who has been in doubt and lifting that darkness away. For other creatives we are often doubting ourselves and critiquing our work, yet having someone in the industry relate or open up helps take the burden off of feeling alone or giving up what you so desire.

What are you most proud of doing?
Continuing being a small business and freelancer. It’s such a rollercoaster and so many times in one year it is quiet or busy and you’re just one person trying to get by and grow. But it’s almost telling my younger self that I’m making it, I’m living her dream and we’re living our freedom we wanted.

Maegan McDowell

Fashion imagery by Maegan McDowell.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been two and they are quite different but both overcoming hurdles for me. First was a more time consuming feat. My opening exhibition for my fine art series The Rebirth of Flowers when at the time I was studying floristry. I had my whole class and more convert a venue into a wild overflowing garden with my 10 renaissance style floral prints in gold ornate frames hanging between them. I had no sponsorship and had to finance it all myself (except the flowers) it was hard but I managed it and that was a highlight. The other was when I went to Milan in 2019 and did a collaborative fashion shoot there which was such a buzz!

How do you personally define success and what does it mean to you?
Success, to me, is continuously growing, expanding and exploring. Failure is being stagnant and it terrifies me. So I am most happy when I am moving forward, learning, overcoming fears and obstacles.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you keep referring back to?
I suppose it would be my parents both telling me to do what I love. Every time I am set back or feel perhaps I should get a job I remember I am doing what I love and not many people get to say that.

We are still adjusting to this new version of normal but what is next for you?
This year is just another example of pushing through hardships and finding how to keep moving forward. This year it was to gain clients overseas, to pursue fashion further with brands that I feel aligned with. I’ve been lucky to gain a few new clients these last few months so next year could be a great year.

Maegan McDowell

Fashion imagery by Maegan McDowell.

Images by Maegan McDowell.

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