by Donal Doherty Published 01/10/2013
Enjoying a successful career in PR and marketing Donal Doherty was given the opportunity to shoot a wedding in Australia and realised that photography was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life
Sometimes successful photographers have known all along what they wanted to do, and their career is something they have mapped out logically over a number of years. At other times realisation that a life behind a camera is what you were born to do comes in a blinding flash of realisation, and that's certainly the way it happened for Londonderry-based photographer Donal Doherty.
"I've always been passionate about photography," says Donal, "and I knew from an early age that I wanted to work for myself. This led me to study for a business and marketing degree at the University in Edinburgh and Örebro, Sweden, and I then worked in London and studied photography at Morley College. From there I moved into marketing and PR, working for some of the world's leading brands, and I returned home to Northern Ireland to set up the first PR agency in my home town, Derry. I also opened up a modelling agency, and was shortlisted for the title of entrepreneur of the year at the end of 2009.
"Despite this success I had the feeling that something was missing, and it took a request for me to shoot pictures at a wedding in Australia south of Melbourne for me to realise what I really wanted to do. I was standing in a vineyard, the sun splitting the sky as I shot an amazing couple, and I suddenly had my 'Jerry Maguire' moment! When I got home from that trip I went about selling my other interests and set up a website for my new photography business in February 2010."
Part of Donal's challenge was to find a style that differentiated him from his competition, and he decided from the outset to go for a natural approach. "At the same time I loved fashion photography," he says, "and I wanted to inject some editorial flair into my images. My look is based around lifestyle photography, mostly opting for natural light and either talking a lot to get clients laughing or using the 'Beloved' method [a style that encourages couples to behave naturally in front of the camera] to capture gorgeous authentic moments. I nearly always shoot wide open with fast apertures and love shooting at f/1.2 with my Canon 50mm f1.2 L. In addition, I love capturing sunsets and cool night images using off-camera flash and these hero images usually finish out my albums."
Developing the brand
Last year Donal worked with designer Melissa Love to develop a new brand and website for his business and it made a big impact, both on how others perceived his business and on his bottom line. It was enough to persuade him that he needed to continue to develop his brand over the coming years and to roll out other collateral, ensuring that every touch point with his customers communicated the brand identity and ethos.
"Although I've only been in the photography industry for just over three years, since I started the competition, especially from lifestyle photographers, has increased exponentially," he says. "When I launched I was the only one offering my particular style of photography, and I experienced really fast growth. Others then entered the market and adopted many of the strategies and product offerings that made up my business, so the challenge is that I always have to be one step ahead.
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