Ally Frances Photo

January 20, 2022

Behind the Scenes to Ally Frances Photography’s Journey in 2020

Hello =) for those of you who do not know me, my name is Ally Coghlan and I am 22 years old – this is my photography business. I recently graduated from Rutgers University in May 2020. My major was Environmental Policy, Institutions & Behavior. For most of my life, the most interesting and fun thing for me to do was be outside. I played soccer when I was little, and then went full time with track in high school. Back then, my big dream was to run in college. That happened, but my journey kept leading me away from track. Long story short, I no longer did track and focused on finishing my degree.

With more time on my hands, in June of 2019 I decided I wanted to get a real camera. I got myself a Canon EOS Rebel T7 and I was blown away. I loved working in manual and was so intrigued with this new world I opened. From then on, I practiced on it as much as I could. I realized how important photography was to my life. When I was younger I always took photos on my phone for fun. This was the very first time I had my hands on a “real” camera in *manual* mode. I fell head over heals in love. Here is an example of one of my first photoshoots with my best friend on June 25th 2019.

Further, I have always been obsessed with the night sky and stars. I was determined to catch stars in my photos. This photo was from Cape May on July 3rd 2019.

I was spreading the word to my friends and loved ones that I was getting more serious about photography. I wanted to practice as much as I could with as many people that I could. I went dirt biking with my close friend and her boyfriend and brought my camera. I was stunned by the action shots I was able to capture with my new camera and a fast shutter speed. This photo was from July 13th 2019.

I kept pushing for more opportunities and more photoshoots. I was led to the opportunity to do my sister’s engagement photoshoot. The theme was Disney’s UP movie. This was on July 20th 2019.

The next big moment for my life, and for my photography, was my road trip of August 2019. This trip changed my life forever. I spent 2 weeks with my twin brother Declan and our best friend Matt on the road. We started our journey from the Denver airport. We drove from Denver, Colorado through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah and then back through Western Colorado towards Denver. We saw Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park. This trip was the most important thing for me at that time. It helped me to overcome struggles I was going through and to push myself mentally. Being on a road trip, driving to places that are many hours away, leaves a lot of room for thinking. This road trip allowed me to personally grow and explore more of this country, which I really needed. Here is a photo from Glacier National Park in Montana.

Moving forward, I was back to the fall semester at Rutgers. I was still practicing my photography and trying to learn as much as I could while I was in school. This photoshoot was my favorite that I took of myself during that fall season. This was from October 25th 2019.

Then, I had the chance to do a couple photoshoot with my sisters’ best friend. I reached out to them and asked if I could practice on them. I was still a beginner looking for as many sessions to do as possible, so I jumped on the chance when they said yes. This photo was from November 15th 2019.

In addition to my photography story, I also was adding to my Etsy shop “Avantura by ally” at the same time. My Etsy shop included wall decorations and stickers using my nature photography. I did my first craft show for my Etsy products on November 30th 2019. Here is a link to my Etsy shop if you’re interested in seeing my adventure products:

Fast forward some more, with my photography and my Etsy in the works, that leads us well into 2020. Now, we all know why 2020 makes this story a bit more interesting…So. I continued to work on my photography but my exposure to other people was extremely limited during the beginning of 2020. The lockdown occurred and everyone was stuck at home. Even so, I tried to do social distanced photoshoots. My best friend stopped home from college for a weekend so we did a social distanced photoshoot. This session took place April 4th 2020.

Now, as I tried to grow my Etsy shop along with my photography, some of my best friends became brand ambassadors for my Etsy products. We did a session to advertise Avantura on May 17th 2020.

My photography was getting better slowly but surely. I did a portrait session with one of my best friends in Princeton. This session felt like somewhat of a turning point for me. I felt like my portraits were getting better and I was really happy with this experience. This took place on June 16th 2020.

THEN – another turning point, I got a 50mm lens with an aperture of 1.8. THISSSS SHOOKKKK MYYYY WORLLLDDDD. I was like OMG I am so legit now. I was like NOW I CAN MAKE THE BACKGROUND BLURRY YES. I did a session with my best friend and I was on another planet. I felt so happy with the results compared to my earlier work. This session was from June 24th 2020.

At this point, I was trying to become more known and actually do real, paid, sessions for people. But I knew I still had a long way to go. But then, out of the blue, an opportunity came to me. My best friend’s brother needed a photographer for their backyard wedding. I was offered the position. I nearly hid in my sister’s closet – I got the message while I was at my sister’s house and I really had a heart attack. A wedding???!!! Already???? Like I was no where near where I wanted to be talent wise, but I knew that I could get better before the wedding and do it right. I knew I wanted to get to know them behind the camera before their wedding, because I found out in July 2020 and their wedding was August 15th 2020. I did an engagement session with them on July 19th 2020.

THEN – another opportunity – my sister’s wedding in Disney World got cancelled because of COVID-19. MY SISTER WANTED ME TO DO HER WEDDING. AGAIN, I WAS HAPPY BUT TERRIFIED. Her wedding was first on August 2, 2020. I did her engagement photos and her bridal shower photos, but weddings are NEXT LEVEL PEOPLE. I went hard before her wedding and got as prepared as possible. Scrolling through Pinterest for posing ideas, scanning my backyard for good places to have people pose in front of…I just went for it – and I did not look back. This was her wedding from August 2nd 2020.

I honestly LOVED DOING A WEDDING SO MUCH I took that momentum into my next wedding. I was so excited and energized after my sister’s special day because I felt amazing in my position as a wedding photographer. It felt so natural and so right. Here is a photo from my second wedding on August 15th 2020.

After these weddings – I binged wedding photography knowledge. I binged binged and then binged more. The woman who saved my life – literally – when I had the bare minimum of knowledge for wedding photography (that’s how I felt) was Nicola Dixon. Nicola Dixon’s podcast “Learn to Launch” was FULL of wedding photographers sharing their experiences, advice on what software to use to manage a photography business, how to streamline the client experience after they book you and SO MUCH MORE!!!!!! Here is the link to her website because she is simply amazing and her work is stunning – for any photographers who need help or anyone who wants to see STUNNING wedding photography, click here…

My next wedding got booked and I was off to the races again to learn. I prepared for this next wedding, downloaded Honeybook and studied more wedding photography through Nicola Dixon’s podcast. *ATTENTION if you are a creative small business owner and need help managing your business, GET HONEYBOOK.* Nicola Dixon’s podcast led me to more AMAZING women who also CHANGED MY LIFE – The Heart & Hustle podcast hosted by Evie Rupp & Lindsey Roman. This podcast enabled me to grow even more through their insanely helpful advice. Here is a link to the Heart & Hustle website because they offer so much help to business owners – AND JUST OUTSTANDING LIFE ADVICE IN GENERAL!!!

Further into the summer of 2020, I went to Lake Placid with my parents and my twin brother at the end of the summer. This was a time for me to think and recuperate. I had a lot on my mind and it was great getting away from my house after the quarantine. I brought my prom dress from high school because I wanted to take some interesting photos in the mountains and the nature surrounding me. My mom is always my sidekick for my crazy ideas. I wanted to frolick through a field in my prom dress – my mom was my accomplice. I put on a regular cropped shirt and my skirt from prom. I ran through a field with a big mountain in the background. I wanted to get creative and practice doing more outside the box photoshoots. It honestly was a lot of fun and my mom was a great photographer for me. Here is a photo from my creative session with my mom on August 21st 2020.

My third wedding was on September 26th 2020. By this time, I was able to get a full frame camera – a Canon 5D Mark 4 =) I saw such a striking difference between this full frame sensor camera and my previous crop sensor camera. I was elated to take on this wedding with my new camera. This backyard wedding was a rustic DAYDREAM. They had a giant backyard with an old barn. There was an arbor set up in front of the barn where the bride and groom would be married. The arbor had candles, flowers, and plants hanging on it. It was such a gorgeous backyard wedding. Here are my photos from this rustic daydream wedding:

Up to this point, I have been planning portrait sessions, couple sessions, creative sessions and more weddings for next year. I really enjoyed doing more sessions this fall with the beautiful colors and autumn landscapes. I also managed to plan and host a wedding styled shoot with the most amazing team that happened in October. My first blog post goes into more depth on the styled shoot. That is also in my blog if you want to check that out!

My favorite session that I did recently was a surprise proposal on the couple’s favorite farm. This couple session took place on October 23rd 2020.

Here I am, over a year later from when I got my Canon Rebel T7, growing my photography skills and running my own business. It is a dream come true. I have had some terrifying moments, lots of challenges, and so many questions after starting my own business. I would not change a thing, because the best way to learn is to do. Even though I am not perfect, I am learning every day. When a problem happens, it is a way for me to learn because it shows me what not to do next time. The best way to grow is through learning what works and what does not work. Thank you to my loved ones and to the people who encourage me to keep going. To my readers of this blog – sending my love your way, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to read about my experience so far <3

If you want to follow my journey more closely, you can find me on Instagram + Facebook:

Thank you so much for reading + I hope you can take something away from this =)



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