Liam Doran – Making Photography a Profession in a Colorado Mountain Town

Living the dream means keeping up with the hustle for local photographer Liam Doran 

By Shauna Farnell

When Liam Doran submitted his first photograph for publication, he received a scathing rejection letter.

“The submission came back and basically said, ‘Dear Mr. Doran … learn how to take good photos or you’ll never hear from us again.’ So, I did,” Doran says.

Growing up in Parker, Colo., Doran learned the basics from his father, an amateur photographer. Even when the family moved to Connecticut, there were always copies of National Geographic and Ski Magazine on the coffee table. After a stint in North Carolina, Doran’s passion for the outdoors brought him back to Colorado in 1997, when he settled in Breckenridge.

His early years here were spent working in a ski shop in winter and painting houses in summer. He got outside as much as possible, exploring the wilderness and the high alpine on foot, skis and bike. He always brought a pocket camera.

“At that time, photography was a hobby with the idea of trying to make it a profession,” he says. “The only way to learn was to try and fail … a lot. I was not a naturally gifted photographer. It took me a while to pick it up.”

After that initial submission and rejection from Powder Magazine in 2002, Doran advanced his photography skills while also navigating the industry shift to digital. He started submitting to Powder again. The publication, along with many others, began running his photos. By 2007, photography was his full-time job. In 2014, he stepped on stage to receive an award for a Powder Magazine cover photo featuring a skier ripping down a slope ensconced in a cloud of powder with ethereal snow crystals glistening in the foreground. 

“That same editor that sent that rejection letter hands me a letter about winning a photography award,” Doran recalls.


These days, Doran travels the world photographing wildlife, action sports and stunning landscapes. He is an ambassador and public speaker for Sigma Corporation and shoots commercially for numerous international companies. You’ll find his work in Breckenridge Magazine as well as in National Geographic Adventures, Ski, Powder, Mountain Town Magazine and Backcountry, among many other publications.

In his 15-plus years as an entrepreneur, Doran has managed to continue doing only “stuff I want to do.”

Liam Doran lives with his wife and two children (ages 11 and 13) in Breckenridge and occasionally meets with young local photographers seeking his wisdom. 

“Almost all of them assume that once you’ve done everything to establish yourself, the phone rings off the hook. I say, once you stop hustling, the business is over. The hustle never ends.”

Rather than naming a rate, he advises asking each client for a project budget. He emphasizes the need for responsible financial management when riding the inevitable waves of feast or famine that come with freelancing. 

Beyond the magical landscapes he’s explored and photographed – the peaks of northern Norway and Switzerland among his most memorable – Doran’s proudest achievement is his longevity in the industry.

“The most rewarding thing is to do this so long when the business bounces a lot of people,” he says. “To be able to have lasted this long puts me in a solid group of well-known photographers. It feels good.”

~As Seen In Breckenridge Magazine, Issue 6 2023

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