Composition. Where the subject is positioned in the frame is very important. The viewer’s eye is naturally drawn off center, so instead of shooting something dead on in the middle of the frame, consider placing the subject off-center. This not only makes it more visually appealing, but it makes it truly unique. Here’s a pro-tip you can put into practice. If your phone doesn’t already have the grid setting on, activate it and play around with shooting subjects off-center.
As part of my series about “5 Strategies To Take Stunning Photos”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Coniglio, a social impact photographer and creator of Project WonderFULL. She’s traveled to over 25 countries in the world capturing their beauty with her camera.
While traveling, Sarah has also worked with many non-profits utilizing her 18 years of experience in the fundraising industry to help them grow and gain awareness through photojournalism. She is also author of There’s Always Something WonderFULL: Small Wonders and Big Beauty from 2020.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ten years ago, I went to Kenya to visit my sister and family. During my time there, I not only captured the natural beauty with my camera, but also had the opportunity to visit with a non-profit organization school, that was located in a slum. I was so struck by the devastation there, but also, in contrast, couldn’t believe the wonderful community that they had with each other there. I captured this community, took school portraits, and photo documented the amazing work that these leaders were doing to provide for these young children education and meals at the foundation. It was this experience that prompted the creation of Project WonderFULL several years later.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Through Project WonderFULL, I’ve been able to work with a few beautiful non-profit organizations all over the world. The most recent of which was in Argentina: Moksha provides yoga to inmates in prisons in the Buenos Aires area. I was connected with Moksha last minute and asked to come in and photograph one of their classes. I had never gone to a prison before, let alone one in another country. I was full of trepidation, but when I got there, met the founders, and saw the community taking the yoga classes I was in awe. It truly is amazing what people are doing to serve and make the world a better place!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
My niece, Bella and I were in Mumbai, India on Elephanta Island. This is a beautiful place with temple carvings dating back to AD 450. What we didn’t expect were dozens of monkeys literally posing for pictures. It was a dream for me having my big camera ready to capture their beauty. As I was taking a photo of a mama monkey with her babies, I heard my niece laughing, saying “that monkey stole his water bottle.” I turned around to see the monkey gulping down what actually turned out to be a soda. Of course, I snapped away and captured this hilarious creature.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
After the trip, I did a little research on those monkeys. I found out that these animals, also known as “evil monkeys” were known for stealing items from tourists every day. Doing some research before-hand is always helpful. Luckily, I was not the victim in this case, but I very well could have been, not knowing their M-O.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
I’m combining my background in both fundraising and photography to show the world the beauty in nature and in the kindness that exists within so many people on this earth. In other words creating social impact photography.
Can you share a story?
There’s always so many things left uncovered going on in the world. I love to show this through photography. When I was in Greece in the fall of 2019, I was able to work with an organization providing education to refugees. Through the news I had such a different vision of what was happening in these camps. It was really beautiful to see the community and all of the people helping each other after such a prominent change in their lives. It was also amazing to work with “I AM YOU” to not only photo document their work within the camp, but also strategize on fundraising growth and volunteer operations. These were two things they were longing for help with.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Take one day at a time. Practice things that are good for your mental and physical health to help alleviate stress. I personally love to do yoga and enjoy taking a walk with my camera in tow to practice what I call, “mindfull photography”.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My maternal grandmother has always been a source of inspiration to me. Even though she passed away a few years ago, she continues to guide me through the wisdom she imparted on me before she died.
Can you share a story?
At the age of 21, right before my first commercial flight to Ireland, my grandmother reminded me of a time when I was 11 years old. My mother put me in a taxi in NYC alone. I was petrified. My grandmother said “I’ll never forget the look on your face… and now look at you, backpacking through Europe! I am so proud of how brave you’ve become!” My grandmother’s words (these just the beginning of many) always stayed with me and encouraged me in the most challenging times. And they still do. In fact, one of the words my grandmother always used was “wonderful”, which is the inspiration of the name “Project WonderFULL”.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
With travel continuing to be halted for the most part, especially overseas, I am working on doing a tour around the United States, hitting at least one non-profit in each state and visiting all of the national parks. This could potentially lead to another book (maybe a second part to “There’s Always Something WonderFULL”) and/or the beginning of a podcast to share with the world, the amazing work that people are doing to make this world a better place as well as share the beauty of this country through photographs.
Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”.
- Lighting. A well-lit subject is probably the most important factor in capturing a beautiful photograph. Personally, early morning sunrises and late afternoon sunlight are my favorite conditions to shoot in — often these times are called the ‘golden hour’ and it’s a perfectly peaceful time of day. When the sun is out I can feel it and love getting that hit of Vitamin D.
- Composition. Where the subject is positioned in the frame is very important. The viewer’s eye is naturally drawn off center, so instead of shooting something dead on in the middle of the frame, consider placing the subject off-center. This not only makes it more visually appealing, but it makes it truly unique. Here’s a pro-tip you can put into practice. If your phone doesn’t already have the grid setting on, activate it and play around with shooting subjects off-center.
- Perspective. You can change the entire scene by taking the same picture at different angles. Sometimes I am crouching or laying down to get a unique perspective of the subject to highlight the beauty that may not be as apparent head-on. Here’s a challenge for you to do. Take three pictures of the same object from a different perspective: kneeling, laying down, and shooting up from underneath the object.
- Depth. I love to play with depth of field to create a blurred background. This can be done by simply zooming in by 2X on your camera. I’ll do this a lot when I’m taking closeup pictures of flowers to capture their beautiful and intricate details while creating a blurred effect in the background.
- Patience. Especially when in nature, patience is key. Sometimes it can take a little while for the sun to hit perfectly or the animal to come close enough to capture their expression. I usually use this time while I’m waiting to take the perfect shot as a moment for mindful meditation. I like to call it mindful photography! I get present, take some deep breaths and enjoy the beauty all around me, appreciating that I’m not staring at a laptop screen in the moment. It took about 15 minutes for me to get this shot of the cardinals, and you know that saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? Now, it gives me a cool story to share behind the photo and share more meaning with the people enjoying the photography.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would love to inspire people all over the world to practice mindfull photography and build a community of people that are capturing what is wonderFULL in their surroundings. At the same time, I’d love to build a community of people who would showcase the many grassroots non-profit organizations to help them to grow, raise more money and ultimately further their mission. In other words, I’d love to create a social impact photography movement to impact millions of people in a positive way!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
The best place to see what I am up to is on Instagram:@project_wonderfull.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!