Interview: Patrick Donald’s Photography Tips

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As part of SuperBreak’s My Ireland photography competition, I spoke to one of the guest judges, Dublin-based professional photographer Patrick Donald, to get an insight into what it’s like to be a photographer, as well as some tips and tips on how you too can also take great photos!

Great for both aspiring photographers and those just looking to take the best possible pictures when out and about, Patrick tells us about his career, his inspirations and his advice. You can check out Patrick’s work on his website, Patrick Donald Photography Gallery.


Patrick’s Photography Background

Amy: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career in photography:

Patrick: “I started photography around 25 years ago, taking a lot of photographs of the Irish landscape, and now I’m a street photographer as well as also shooting landscapes. Five years ago I also opened my gallery Dawson Street in Dublin; I travel around the world for a couple of months at a time and then come back to Dublin with my new imagery.”

Amy: When did your love of photography develop?

Patrick: “I travelled to Australia in 1995, it wasn’t a serious photography trip, just a trip with friends, and when I developed the films, my family and friends thought they were well taken. I was there taking photos for six months, and from there I decided I wanted to pursue the photography path.”

Amy: What’s been the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

Patrick: “When I went to Cuba I was amazed by the way they lived over there; there was a really interesting vibe about the place, and I didn’t know what I would find to photograph around the next street corner.”

Amy: Is there anyone who inspires you in the photography world?

Patrick: “Yes, Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of many people, he was a French photographer who took wonderful street photographs in Paris – he took pictures in Ireland as well actually. He talked about photography capturing a decisive moment, and this is pertinent in street photography.”


Photography tips and tricks

Amy: What’s the secret to taking a good photo?

Patrick: “It’s definitely the element of real life and authenticity which makes a photograph interesting to me. The really good shots are taken when people are themselves and when they are unaware of the camera; it’s the emotion of everybody, that’s what matters in a picture.”

Amy: What’s are your top tips for taking a good photo?

Patrick: “First thing you need to do is find a camera which you can rely on and which you’ll be able to use easily, i.e. the focus and exposure. Professional cameras are speedy and react fast enough to capture that desired shot. Apart from the camera, I’d say take the time out to go somewhere interesting, somewhere where you can make your own look with your photos, and be sure to play around with the camera’s settings to see how your camera is reacting and the kind of results it produces.”

Amy: What camera tips would you give to get that great shot?

Patrick: “I use the aperture priority setting – ‘A’ on a camera mode dial – a lot because I can control my depth of field. If I’m shooting a landscape I might want to go to F16 or F22 to get a big depth of field from the background to the foreground. If you’re lens has the capability, I would sometimes shut it down to 2.8 as it will let in more light and you’ll get a shallower depth of field – it depends on the mood of the picture. There’s also no harm in having it on automatic focus, aperture F11 gives you enough depth of field for landscapes and captures 90% of what’s in the picture.”


Photography & Travel

Amy: Where have you travelled with your work – do travel and photography go hand in hand?

Patrick: “Yes, ultimately they do. I’ve travelled to 15 different countries including Cuba, and although you can take great photos all day on your doorstep, you also have to travel to interesting places and have an interest in how the rest of the world lives.”

Amy: Where is next on your travel bucket list for your photography endeavours?

Patrick: “I’d love to visit places in Europe, Iceland and South America, maybe Peru and Argentina. I have a lot of research to do as to where I’d like to go; it’s hard to know where to start sometimes.”

Amy: Do you have a favourite shot?

Patrick: “Yes, I have many, but I took one in Cuba with a panoramic camera – Hasselblad Xpan – which has a wide letter-box-style frame. It’s a shot of a Cadillac with many different people in the picture. It’s very interesting looking and there’s a special mood and moment captured in it I think.”


Photography Advice

Amy: What advice would you give to somebody wanting to take up photography as a hobby?

Patrick: “It depends what genre of photography work you’re wanting to get into. You could be a fashion-, landscape- or street photographer, so the advice I would give would be to go with your heart and try a few different things. I’d also recommend looking at other people’s work and getting a sense of why a picture is working, dissecting it down to see what works and then trying your own twist on it.”

If you’re planning a short break to Dublin, be sure to check out Patrick’s gallery!

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