Perfectly Real – Ashley Dougherty

Our Perfectly Real artist for October is Ashely Dougherty whose selection of humorous and youthful images really made us smile.  You will absolutely want to check out her work. You can find her at or on Facebook.

girl with joke glasses yelling at brother - family documentary photography

What’s your favorite lens for shooting this type of work?  And do you have any accessories you just love (filter, bag, camera strap, etc.)?

My favorite lens by FAR is my Sigma 35mm, 1.4 ART lens. It rarely leaves my camera. The 24mm is a lovely lens as well, but we’re just dating…my 35mm and I are in love! It allows me to capture, in most circumstances, the right amount of ‘scene’ and I love playing with the distortion it can offer close to a subject. Other than that, I shoot pretty simply…not attached to too much. It’s not gear, but I couldn’t live without a bunch of white tees. I wear them often, and almost always when I am documenting a family in their home, since it serves as a reflector when I am up close and playing with a subject.

kids blowing bubbles - family documentary photography

What is your favorite type of light to shoot in?

My favorite light is early morning window light. I can walk into almost any room in a house in early morning light and get inspired…be it a room softly flooded with light, a room with a tiny window and a slice of light….it’s all just so wonderful.

girl trying out scooter - family documentary photography

What is the most valuable tip you have learned in pursuit of shooting in a more documentary style?

Shooting documentary style is all about patience. I have had many lessons in patience! Waiting for the moment to find you, to reveal itself, is critical. When you don’t pose you have to simply wait for your subject to give you what you want…and you usually don’t know what you want until you see it! I will often move around, playing with light and compositions, so that when a moment happens I am quick to capture it beautifully. Similarly, when you come into someone’s home with the intent of capturing their story, you have to be patient to figure out what that story is. Again, moving around, playing with light and compositions, all the while listening to them interact and taking in all of their “clutter” will help you develop an idea of what their story might be.

girl talking on cell phone - family documentary photography

Let’s talk clutter.  Embrace it as is?  Try avoid getting it in frame?  Does it depend on the frame?

For me, it depends on the frame. I think about what I am trying to capture and what has inspired me to shoot that particular frame. If I am inspired by the light, I will remove things occasionally that may detract from the light…objects on a reflective surface, large/dark objects that may bring the eye away from the light etc. I don’t always physically remove them from a frame, but I will shoot so that those things are not included. If I am capturing emotion I will usually be close enough to not have to worry about clutter, but if I am pulled back I will try to shoot to minimize clutter. But alllll of that said, I find “clutter” to be so important in my pictures and generally in documentary photography. If I am documenting a family, mine or a client’s, I want to be able to capture life as it is. The clutter isn’t clutter…it is another subject . It is important, it tells a story, and it can often add more to a photograph by being there than it can by not. Especially with children, I find that it is usually better to have MORE clutter…it enhances the chaos, color and free spirit that come with children living their lives. So while I will sometimes shoot to minimize, I am usually approaching clutter with arms wide open!

girl yelling into fan - family documentary photography

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