Meet Marg Johnson: Photographer and Moderator

Marg Johnson VA

Today we’re getting to know Marg Johnson. Based in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, USA, Marg is a photographer, an Elements Author and one of our forum moderators. Check out our interview with her below!

I highly value the freedom to create and upload when it suits me and to earn an income even when I’m away from my studio for days at a time.

Marg Johnson Photos Author, Envato

Tell me about your background: have you always been a creative person?

Yes, I love creating things! I have worked as a florist, a cake decorator and in a camera store. Hobbies include baking, scrapbooking, beading, painting and, of course, photography. At the moment, it’s just me and my tripods in the Shenandoah Valley.

A beautiful lone tree on a rocky cliff overlooking the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where Marg Johnson lives and works as a photographer.
A beautiful lone tree on a rocky cliff in the Shenandoah Valley by MargJohnsonVA

How did you get into photography? 

I’ve always loved snapping photos and owned several types of cameras throughout my childhood. Taking a photography class in high school introduced me to the world of SLR cameras and the rules of composition, angles, and lighting. My interest was further enhanced by running a photo printing lab for several years. Editing photos is still one of my favorite parts of photography. 

In 2004, I discovered a website that not only let you post reviews of recipes you tried but also photos. My passion for food photography was ignited! I was one of the moderators on the photo forum until the forums were discontinued by new owners. Over the following years, I ended up sharing 100s of recipes, reviewing 100s of other people’s recipes and uploaded 1000s of food and drink photos.

Above: Some of Marg Johnson’s food photography from her Elements portfolio.

What do you love about photography?

Being able to capture fleeting moments for further enjoyment later or to share with others. I also love the challenge of coming up with an idea for a stock image and the satisfaction I feel when I manage to create it.

I encourage our community of Authors to find things in their creative process that bring them joy.

Marg Johnson Photos Author, Envato

Your Elements portfolio has a variety of kinds of photography. What is your favorite and why?

I have always been fascinated by beautiful lighting and trying to capture light is what motivates me to pull my camera out the most. That can be while out in nature or with simple objects around the house. As far as subjects go though, travel landscapes plus food and drink photos are my favorites.

Dew covered spiderwebs on lavender, by MargJohnsonVA
Dew covered spiderwebs on lavender, by MargJohnsonVA

What main programs, tools, or techniques do you use to create your work?

I am not a big fan of gadgets. Besides props, my equipment consists mainly of a Nikon D500 with several lenses, both traditional and flat lay tripods, handheld reflectors, and the available light in my sunroom. I don’t even own studio lights, a flash, or a meter. For editing, I use PaintShop Pro by Corel.

Tell me about your creative process. How do you find inspiration for photography?

In my mind, I divide all my images into two categories: pretty and stock photos. The pretty photos are the ones I take to decorate my house with or put on a calendar for my mom or even to just share on social media. I am constantly on the lookout for lovely scenery or settings or props I can use to create a work of art, if you will. 

Stock photos are usually the more “boring” images that sell well. Photos of medical supplies, computers, money, books etc. To increase my earnings, I am always looking at news articles, ads online and in print, and watching commercials for inspiration. I also pay attention to trending topics that might not have a lot of stock photos available yet.

Example of Marg Johnson's photography: Medical personnel picking up vial of generic vaccine booster tripledemic concept
Medical personnel picking up vial of vaccine by MargJohnsonVA

What/who inspires your work?

There are several photographers on Envato whose work I admire. I have a Collection of images I’ve saved whenever I see something that catches my eye. It might be their lighting technique, their subject matter, or a unique presentation. I also have a Photography Bucket List (which has been added to and revised a lot over the years) that I use for inspiration. 

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

“Learn how to use your camera in Manual mode.” It made a huge difference in capturing what I saw versus being disappointed with the results because the camera had already processed the image. 

How has Envato helped your journey as a creator?

It has given me the ability to work on a very flexible schedule. I never know when I’m going to receive a text or call that my elderly parents need my help. I highly value the freedom to create and upload when it suits me and to earn an income even when I’m away from my studio for days at a time.

What do you think is the most influential trend in photography right now?

Authenticity with an emphasis on good mental health and self-care. People are growing weary of all the fake news, illusion images and unreal expectations created by misleading social media photos. 

What are your top tips for photographers just starting out?

Participate in Project 365! It requires you to take at least one creative photo each day of the year. I did my first one in 2015. It was a lot of fun and pretty easy…at first. Then as the days piled up, it became a little harder to find things to take photos of in a new, interesting way around the house or yard.

However, it pushed me to learn how to use more features and settings on my camera, to look at ordinary objects from a different angle and even become more sensitive to how the changing light can affect the outcome of a photo. The feedback from more experienced photographers in the group was a huge help also. 

My second tip would be, when it comes to equipment, prioritize better quality lenses over anything else, including a new camera body.

Tell us about being a moderator on the forums! (give the forums a plug, too!)

I enjoy trying to help people find solutions to their questions, whether regarding photography or just Envato in general. It is also fun to hangout with other Authors and “talk shop” or discuss more ordinary topics like vacation plans. 

I think the forums are a valuable resource that is often under-appreciated. I’ve certainly learned how to better use the tools on Envato from staff tutorials.

I have gained insight on making submissions and learned about new trends from other Authors. I have even garnered valuable feedback from customers who helped me improve the descriptions of my photos to increase my sales.

Moderator logo
Moderator t-shirt logo designed by truenorthstudio

Is there anything else you want to share with the Author community?

On a very personal note, I’d like to encourage all Authors to protect their mental health. While being a freelance creator can be extremely rewarding, facing item rejections or sales slumps can be difficult to handle.

As with all ups and downs in life, I encourage our community of Authors to find things in their creative process that bring them joy that isn’t dependent on anyone else. You and what you bring to life is valuable. Period. 

Toasting with champagne sparkling wine in front of Christmas tree by MargJohnsonVA

Enjoyed getting to know Marg Johnson? For more creative inspiration, check out some of our other Q&As with more of our amazing female creatives, including photographer luckyshoe and video Authors motionstate and SuzanaTArt.

Do you find this article useful?