For Natalie Doherty, photography has been a passion since the age of 13.
But it hasn’t been plain sailing for the local wedding photographer, as she almost gave up on her dream after she left school.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ recently, Natalie explained how she found a passion for photography, and how a change of course led her to starting her own business.
She started a dark room class in Pilot’s Row at 13, and although she was the youngest there, she wasn’t put off.
“I went to the class and it was full of grown ups.
“We were given black and white film and had to go out and take photographs of whatever interested us.
“We had to go back the next week and develop the film and print them then, I thought it was amazing.
“I would torture my brother and all my cousins to pose for me and I just fell in love with it from then.
“I had my camera everywhere with me, I was obsessed. I wasn’t very academic at school, and I found I was really good at that,” she said.
After completing her A-Levels at Thornhill, she started a degree in Politics at Magee, because she “thought it sounded good, and I was worried about what people thought.
“I still got looks from people when I said I was thinking of doing photography.
“People said it wasn’t realistic. So I thought that politics sounded good, and I cared what people thought. Half way through the course I thought, ‘what am I doing?’
“My mammy was working in India at the time so I went out to visit her, and took my camera with me.
“That trip really changed everything for me. I just thought why do I care what people think, I love this, it’s my passion,” said Natalie.
Natalie then moved to the University of Creative Arts in Farnham to study photography.
“I was still really shy and quiet, and I think that was the best thing that ever happened to me over there.
“It really toughened me up.
“With an Art Degree as well the lecturers criticise you, preparing you for the real world. It was a really fine art degree with 50% theory.
“I thought I was going to go on and be a curator in a museum, that’s what I was gearing towards, and I thought I’d never move back home because of the bright lights of London, but I just missed home so much,” she said.
It was with moving back to Derry that Natalie took on a masters in Design Communication, which gave her the foundation for starting her own business, with 50% creative and 50% how to apply your work in the real world.
Although Natalie started out her professional career photographing fashion for different organisations, she got the bug for wedding photography after assisting a photographer at a wedding back in 2012.
“I completely fell in love with it. It’s capturing the connection, I love that,” she said.
Bridal trends come and go, but Natalie said that the most special part of any wedding photography is capturing the connection between the happy couple.
“What matters to me is the connection between two people. You could be anywhere, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the most expensive venue with the most expensive dress, what matters to me in a photograph is having the connection.
“Tradition is definitely out the window now with weddings.
“I love it when you get a wedding when it’s just the couples vision and style, it’s true to their personality and lifestyle, and they just throw trends out the window,” said Natalie.
The long game
The local photographer explained that there was a slow build starting her business, and it has taken a lot of perseverance to get where she is today.
“It was really slow to build the business. I was in a call centre for a long time to save up the money. Even though I had two degrees. I just paid my dues in there for years. It’s about building your name up out there. It really came down to referrals and word of mouth. The first year I got two weddings, maybe seven the year after. It was really slow but it was saving for the equipment as well.
“Taking the photos is only really about 10% of the job, there’s so much more to it as well with the admin side of things. Organising the calendar, editing is so much, and designing the albums as well. Social media takes up so much time as well, because nowadays it’s so different from when I first started,” she added.
Natalie now has upwards of 30 weddings per year, and has been “kept really busy.”
“It is a great job, but it can be isolating, you run your own business and you’re working by yourself. You have to force yourself to get out there and get other hobbies as well, you can’t just work 24/7,” she said.
As for advice for any budding photographers, Natalie said: “It takes time.
“Pay your dues, but persevere, it takes time, it’s not going to happen straight away.
“When I started out I only got two weddings a year, and I thought I had ‘made it’. Don’t listen to other people, they’ll always judge you no matter what you do, and judge your success, but all that matters is that you’re happy. If you can pay the bills and you’re happy, that’s all you want really.