Donovan is the photographer behind Focus Edge Photography. I interviewed Donovan to learn more about his photography and the mindset behind it all. He had a lot of interesting things to say, but the most important was that he wants to help people build their confidence and see themselves in a positive light. If you’re local to NJ or PA then check out his profile and book a session. IG: @focusedgephotos
The interview was extremely long as we are friends and eventually just started casually chatting, so I have posted a shortened transcript. Contents of the transcript have been paraphrased and edited for length and sensitive language. After reading the transcript, check out some of Donovan’s photography skills with his before and after pictures in the clips below!
Focus Edge Photography Interview
Damiera: What do you want people to know about you?
Donovan: I love photography. It’s something that I didn’t think I would love. I picked it up as a quarantine hobby…I’m pretty sure it’s a passion now. I do travel, and I just like to have fun. I’ve been doing this for 8 months now. Currently, my charge is about $100 per hour.
Damiera: You almost have your first year down. The longer you do it the more experience you’ll gain. In terms of this being a quarantine hobby, were you looking at any other hobbies or did someone push you into trying this out during quarantine?
Donovan: The other quarantine hobbies were to start programming for my main job and learning more about IT, but I wanted to do something more creative, and I had a camera sitting around.
Damiera: Why did you start an instagram page?
Donovan: I am planning on making a website. Most people have instagram, and when I’m scrolling through Discover I see a lot of models. Photographers have websites, but to reach people you need a social media platform. Instagram seemed like the best way to do it.
Damiera: Why do you think people want to work with you?
Donovan: In the beginning it was difficult. If a random page hits you up and asks to do a shoot, you don’t know who they are or what they look like. There were definitely people who helped me. One of those people who really helped me was Nhu (model). She actually helped me come up with my logo. I don’t want to say any names, but someone helped me come up with my name.
Damiera: Oh, who?
Donovan: I don’t know…might be the host of this interview (me). It was a group effort.
Damiera: When you first started the IG page, how did you see it developing?
Donovan: I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t. I was just going to show my pictures and post my friends. Eventually I got the courage to reach out to people who hadn’t modelled before. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to pay models with tons of followers, and a lot of my equipment costs are out of pocket, but I can see it becoming a second job.
Damiera: If there was something you could change about the start what would that be?
Donovan: I wish I would have started sooner. I’ve been missing a creative outlet for a very long time. I did commercial art in High School, but then I stopped after school. I have the “eye” to see different things in photography like the location, the people etc. I want to make my page about people who don’t or can’t see themselves as models, and when I photograph them they are like “Oh yeah, I can see myself on the cover of a magazine”.
Damiera: Describe some of the photos you post onto your instagram page.
Donovan: Recently, the photos have been expressive. That’s the word we’re going to use. I believe people are like art, in a way. Everyone has their own thing. Some people are good at the grungy, cityscape art, and some are good at catalogue. There are other people who are very expressive about themselves and their physical looks. Some people like to show out. Just because people do express themselves in a certain way doesn’t mean you should judge them or assume that’s how they really are. A lot of the models on my page are very down-to-earth chill people. I do everything from casual looks to birthday boudoir. I will lay down in dirt to get a good shot. I try to do natural looks. It’s about honesty, genes, and what your body wants to be for you. People have stretch marks, moles, extra skin or fat so what are you going to do. I want people who see these photos to think that they can do this too. Love yourself for who you are.
Damiera: What do you say to people who feel like your page is just another shameless device for half-naked women and just another standard instagram account for women seeking attention?
Donovan: I say that you can’t get the full story unless you ask. A lot of the shoot concepts are actually from the models. I’m not forcing anybody to do something they don’t want to do. I ask if they are comfortable, and if they really want to do the concept they came up with. It’s what the people want. I do some shoots where the models were comfortable enough to do the shoot, but then they don’t want it posted and I accept that. Ultimately, it’s up to the model. I don’t mind adding in spice to a photo, and I don’t mind posting as long as the model gives permission. If I can show this photo to my mama without getting [raised eyebrows] then I can post. At the end of the day, it’s about how comfortable and empowered the model feels.
Damiera: Do you reach out to men?
Donovan: It’s hard to find male models, especially on instagram, but I will have some. I definitely want to work with dudes who are mad chill, full of life, and things of that nature. I want to build my portfolio up, but there will be male models too. It’s art.
Damiera: What have you learned from the models?
Donovan: No matter how pretty someone might be everyone has confidence issues. Angles are your best friends, and the models have helped me learn how to get people’s “good” sides. Some of the more experienced models helped me with photographer-model etiquette. I’ve learned a lot over these last 8 months.
Damiera: What other skills are you hoping to learn?
Donovan: I want to learn how to heavy edit – manipulating the environment, adding things that weren’t there. I want to learn natural lighting. Another skill I want to learn is to network better. There is always more to learn. Like I can be 95, my hands are shaking, and there will still be more to learn.
Damiera: Where do you see your photography going?
Donovan: The goal is to have a shoot once a week that I enjoy. I don’t want it to become a job that makes me miserable. I definitely want to mentor other photographers. There are people who definitely want to help you. There are some photographers who are just like “ I can’t let you get to the top. I’m trying to get to the top!”. I want to be one who can help others.
Damiera: What are some of your photography goals for the next year.
Donovan: I want at least 500 – 1000 followers to build my reach, exposure, portfolio, etc. I want to be able to have consistent shoots and for people to love my work. I want to shoot in more interesting places, like hidden places – a speakeasy or more interesting places. I also want to do more interesting concepts.
Damiera: What advice would you give to others just starting in photography?
Donovan: Look up YouTube videos to learn some things. Also, the first three things to learn about are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Finally, just have fun and enjoy yourself. Do what you want to do.
Meet the Photographer
Hello! My name is Donovan and I’m the owner of Focus Edge Photos (@focusedgephotos). I am based in the Pennsylvania area but work with clients in New Jersey as well. I’ve been shooting for about 8 months and love to shoot portraiture. The goal is to help everyone feel like a masterpiece or, at the very least, have nice photos taken of them that they can take pride in.