Interview: Erin Donahue Photography from New York City

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Hello everyone! I am really happy to present to you Erin Donahue Photography! Erin is a very talented and unique photographer based in New York City.

I am always looking for photographers who can inspire me, and learn something different from them and their approach to photography.

Erin has been using Sony Alpha Mirrorless cameras which is what I am using too. This is a great way to learn from an artist who’s using the same gear!

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this interview and learn a lot from Erin. Follow her on Instagram or TiKtOk

Share a few things about you and what you do.

Hi, my name is Erin Donahue! I currently still work full time in the financial services industry in New York City, but I have always been a complete creative and now I am making moves to build out a business in the photography industry.

Since I was young, I was always making something with my hands, whether it was new clothes, bedazzling phone cases, or even dancing and drawing. I’ve always been able to frame a scene in my head, but couldn’t afford a camera until I got a real, full-time job after college.

I used to want to be a “model” and be in front of the camera but was never satisfied with the photographer’s vision so when I finally could afford a camera, I invested in a Sony a6000 and started snapping away behind the camera.

I’ve since upgraded my camera, and my areas of specialties are portraits and travel photography. Specifically, colorful skies set again cityscapes and landscapes sprinkled in with astrophotography.

What do you mainly photograph and why?

Travel photography of landscapes and cityscapes set again colorful sunrises or sunsets are what I’m known for. My goal is to one day be featured in Lonely Planet and National Geographic (what travel photographer doesn’t?)

I’m also really into astrophotography, of course, the Milky Way and aurora borealis and australis, but living in NYC makes it quite an effort to get to a dark sky zone. I plan a lot of my travels around these natural phenomenon’s though, and it’s my main motivation to see the world.

Another genre of photography I’m developing myself in is portraits. People come from different walks of life and each has a unique story. One thing I’m drawn to is hearing about their experiences and paths that have led them to where they are currently. Storytelling is ageless and always compelling; I want to be able to be someone another person can trust to exhibit their story for them.

What gear do you use and why did you choose it?

Price point and budgeting weight when traveling are my main priorities so it completely drives my gear choices. When I bought my first camera, around 2015-2016, it was right around the time mirrorless cameras were starting to pick up in popularity as the perfect solution between DSLRs and point-and-shoot cameras.

I researched a lot about which one I should get, and most reviews were raving about the Sony a6000. Sony had really captured the mirrorless market and was way ahead of the competitors so that’s how I’ve continuously upgraded within the Sony Alpha universe since.

I still use a mirrorless APS-C camera and currently shoot with a Sony a6400. All of my lenses are fitted for APS-C, naturally. Although, I also use an E-mount adapter on some SLR Canon FD lenses. I decided to stay within APS-C because it’s both cheaper and lighter than getting a full-frame camera. For now, it does the job and I don’t need anything more.

Any accessories I buy are also made for travel with a budgeted price point. I like to maintain minimalism so the only other gear I really use besides a camera and glass is a tripod. I invested in a carbon fiber travel tripod by 3 Legged Thing. I really like their differentiation approach to the tripod market and the specs stood out to me compared to the competitors at the price point.

What is your go-to lens?

My go-to lens is the famous Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens (45mm equivalent). This lens is one of the sharpest lenses for APS-C mirrorless cameras according to the DXOMARK testing lab.

What is the most valuable accessory for your type of photography?

This might sound odd to some, but I barely use accessories so it would have to be my carbon fiber tripod since it cost a pretty penny. Accessories indicate bulk, and as mentioned, I try to be as light as possible.

What services do you offer?

I have tiered packages for individual portraits, couples, and surprise engagements which include headshots, content creation, all-day tours, elopements in the NYC area.

I also offer individual or batch portrait retouching. My clients so far have been from the NYC area.

Check more here.

What photo editing app are you using and what is your favorite photo editing method?

I start in Lightroom to get the basics done but do most of my edits in Photoshop. I like the batch editing ability in Lightroom, but finish my edits in Photoshop because of the flexibility the software provides as it was designed for photo manipulation.

I try to keep my pictures as natural-looking as possible, but I will color grade with the selective color adjustment layer, and depending on what kind of photo I’m editing I will determine what edits I need to apply.

For travel photos, I use the “Orten glow” effect on the highlights. I also like to create compositions from my pictures that make the viewer think that the scene could be feasible, but actually are impossible (ie: the Milky Way behind the NYC skyline).

For portraits, I like to retouch with frequency separation followed by dodging and burning.
I’ll send all of my pictures with a curves layer and vignette in order to make the subject of the photo stand out.

Do you edit on your mobile? Any good apps you use?

I barely edit on my phone because there’s more control editing from a desktop. If I do need to make a quick edit on the phone I will use Snapseed (free) or Lightroom Mobile.

What makes a good photograph?

To be 100% candid, I’m still figuring out that question. Sure, applied compositional techniques are an absolute must in order to draw the viewer in. In today’s day and age with social media though, those rules sometimes feel like they’re thrown out the door.

At the end of the day, photography is a creative expression, another art form. It’s up to the artist to be able to convey their message to the viewer of the picture and have the viewer feel some sort of emotion or reflective thought from them.

Did covid19 affect your business? What are your plans for 2021?

My business is in the growth stages so it didn’t affect it *too* much, but it did eliminate leads and client shoots that I had lined up the week the shelter-in-place went into effect in March.

Thankfully, I still have a full-time job so I had that to fall back on. I’ve been taking this time to dive deep and learn about my craft and develop new skills to help me stand out as a photographer. I only recently started putting myself out there so I’m on the move to ramp up my business into 2021!

I plan to be able to generate more leads and book more clients as my name gets out there. Once I feel like I’ve garnered enough growth then I plan to make a full transition as a full-time photographer.

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