Meet Mary Banducci | photographer interview

Today starts my second week of my photo-a-day monthly resolution, and I'm excited to introduce another talented photographer! Mary takes beautiful pictures of natural foods and herbs for her blog Sweet Roots, and also takes incredible portraits as a family and wedding photographer. Keep reading to learn from Mary, and be sure and check out her blog!

Tell us about yourself... (what do you do, where is home, what do you love?)

My name is Mary Banducci and I call the mountains and plains of Northern Idaho my home.
I have a daughter whom I call Big Blue Eyes on my blog and Witty Husband who wins at scrabble nine times out of ten.

My essence is to create and I do just that as a homemaker, recipe developer for my own blog Sweet Roots {Infusions of Herbal Living}, and photographer. I'm also a Master Herbalist Student and avid reader and DIYer.

How long have you been a photographer?

I've been a photographer for over eight years but I've been a storymaker (I'm not always great about telling them) since childhood and that's what I think I really do as a photographer.

What do you primarily photograph?

Food and Big Blue Eyes are my primary subjects.
Followed by families and weddings.

Describe your beginner experiences with photography.

I've always been a creative type. I loved to paint, draw, write as a child. When I was twelve, I even dabbled in interior design after watching too many episodes of Trading Spaces on TLC. (Dumping red and blue acrylics into a bucket of white paint I found, my sister and I painted the bathroom before my Mother came home. She was definitely surprised). I never thought much of photography, everyone else seemed to be pursuing it... but my junior year in high school, I enrolled in North Idaho College where a Black and White film class caught my eye. That seemed so romantic, so authentic to capture film. I fell in love in that dark room. The peace of the water trickling past the developer. The soft red light illuminating just the edges of form. I loved that class, the teacher wore a kilt to class everyday (except Halloween when he wore pants). It was challenging and invigorating. I took all the classes offered by the photo department which is where I eventually fell in love with the ese and forgiveness of digital photography.

Which photo are you proudest of?

Oh, that's hard.
I had to think over this question for over a week and I kept coming back to it.
It's one thing to say "I really enjoy this photo the most" or "I love this!" than to say "I'm proud to have made this, I'm proud to have captured this moment." or "I'm most proud of this image than I am of all others."
I can't pick out just one photo. I'd just have to say on a daily basis, I'm proud of the images that I churn out on Sweet Roots. I really have to prepare for those since during the week, I'm a stay at home mom with a very curious toddler which means I have to find time to develop recipes, wake up early to photograph it, stay up late to write the blog post or wait until she's laying down for nap to feed my inner photographing foodie. It feels like a real accomplishment when I have created a successful blog post.

What type of camera(s) do you shoot with most?

Nikon D7000 DSLR, I primarily use my 50 mm seconded by my macro and zoom lens and am looking forward to my 35mm which I just ordered. This proves that you can take beautiful pictures as long as you have hard-working equipment. For beautifully executed images, the most expensive, top of the line isn't necessary. Knowing your camera is necessary.

What is your favorite photo editing accessory/software?

I primarily use lightroom and it gives the ability to edit my photos in raw which I prefer over jpeg. I also use photoshop but more for final touches and graphic design. Lightroom is for professional photographers what photoshop is for graphic designers.

What inspires you?

Life. Daily observations. Challenges like my overcoming the need to eat dairy and learning to become intolerant. I couldn't have come up with a lot of the creative recipes on my blog without this obstacle.
Also magazines, books, my creative family, my beautiful child. I was blessed to grow up in a family that encouraged creative freedom and I seek to emulate that for my own children.

What Web site, blog, or book do you reference most often?

Magazines! Particularly Whole Living when it comes to food.
Whenever I have a wedding/senior/family shoot, I scan magazine clippings or pinterest and pick two or three new poses I want to try.

Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?

Oh, yes! I have a bucket list of people, places, and food I would like to photograph.

How do you preserve/enjoy your personal photos?

Blurb offers an amazing publishing service for professionals and laypeople alike. They offer clean, easy to use templates or an option to build your own.

They also make great gifts or baby albums. My husband refused to buy a yearbook of which he and his friends would only be featured in once when he graduated from his college so I planned ahead and made a personalized yearbook on Blurb for him with his close friends and events that he or we had done. He was so surprised and thrilled when I presented it to him and he cherishes it (in his own manly way). I also have a hundred page baby album I'm working on for Big Blue Eyes.

What advice do you have for a beginner like me wanting to improve personal everyday photos?

Practice, simplify and prepare.

Practice - Practice, Practice, Practice. They say practice makes perfect.

Simplify - My photography style is very relational (I've been told) and simplistic. Even when I started out, it was fairly simplistic. Making it about your subject can be hard to do when the background is chaotic. When in doubt, subtract.

Prepare - Being prepared is knowing what you plan to shoot. Keep a keen eye out for what you’re attracted to. This helps you to develop a style and also inspires you. Before there was pinterest, I turned this lovely red leather book into an inspiration album. I snipped and pasted photos and recipes that called to me. I also wrote down ideas, things I wanted to accomplish or make. Instead of writing what happened during the day, I actually write down ideas. I have journals and journals of ideas. Just today, I was looking through a couple and I found I wrote something down a dozen times and I thought to myself, “I think it’s about time I tried to do that."

Part of being prepared is being knowledgable. Know your camera, your equipment, and what you're shooting. Be prepared with questions if you don't know the people you are shooting.

Also it's always good to know the Golden Rules of Photography so that you can use them and then break them. That's right, I'm encouraging you to break the rules.

One thing you're still learning, or feel like you're a "beginner" in...

Business details. I've struggled to promote myself because I'm not naturally endowed with those skills. I've learned you need to ask, which is another thing I'm currently learning. Asking for what you need and what you want.

If somebody said, "How can I be the next Mary Banducci," what would you say?

First off, I was a little surprised by this question. I’m flattered if anyone said this.

If there is someone you admire, I would say write down WHY you want to be like them. For example, What draws you to my food, pictures, etc? Those are probably things you like about yourself as well or want to work on for yourself.

And then my second reply would be, "Don't be Me. BE YOU!" There is something wonderful and unique about you so be the next you!

Suggest one photo category/theme for my photo-a-day challenge in August...

Oooh! I love themes!

My first black and white film class, my professor gave us the theme “chaos.” My picture was a a snake wrapped around an arm holding an apple. You could tell I had a romantic, storytelling style back then even.

For your theme: "Journey"