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How Aubrey Dykeman Built a Successful Photography Business

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

How Aubrey Dykeman Built a Successful Photography Business

Aubrey Dykeman, a passionate wedding and portrait photographer, has turned her lifelong love of documenting life into a thriving business: Aubrey Erin Photography. Starting from a young age with a simple point-and-shoot camera, Aubrey’s journey through university and into the competitive world of photography is a testament to her dedication and unique vision.

In this interview, she shares her insights on differentiating her services, managing client relationships, and balancing creativity with business acumen. Dive in to discover the story behind her lens and the strategies that keep her at the forefront of her craft.

Aubrey Dykeman

Inspiration Behind the Business

SBS – What inspired you to start your photography business?

Aubrey – Beginning in middle school, I was the friend who brought along the point-and-shoot camera and took pictures of everything — friends, family, experiences, all of it! As I went through high school, I realized more and more how much I loved documenting life, leading me to apply to go to university to work toward a degree in photography. This equipped me not only with the tools to be successful in being a photographer but in being a business owner as well. I actually never thought twice about starting my own business and have figured it out along the way!

Standing Out in a Competitive Market

SBS – How do you differentiate your services in a competitive market?

Aubrey – To differentiate my services, I do my best to lean into who I am and what I personally have to offer. Everyone is so different… personality, sense of humor, depth of empathy… I feel like I have a lot to offer in my own right! While my pricing and packages are competitive in the market for someone with my experience, there is no other “me” out there, and I do my best to show that to anyone who views my work and reads about my “why” in my business.

Challenges of Running a Photography Business

SBS – What has been the most challenging aspect of running your own business?

Aubrey – Wearing all of the hats. Through running my photography business, I have learned how to hone in on the editing style that I love and best represents my work, how to create a website, how to do my own taxes and be an accountant, how to keep myself organized, how to better work with people, disarming them and allowing them to feel comfortable for what is usually a short time frame. Being in charge of marketing, social media, and running a blog is also incredibly important but time-consuming and not always where I’d like to use my creativity/time.

Most recently, I’ve been learning how to outsource the things that I hate to do in my business the most, which has been incredibly freeing. Creating and maintaining boundaries has also been hard for this recovering people-pleaser, but it has ultimately allowed me to enjoy my business even more.

Client Relationship Management

SBS – How do you manage client relationships and ensure their satisfaction?

Aubrey – Care about them as people and invest my time in them! I aim to find people who are my ideal clients, and although they are hiring me to work for them, I want to make sure they know I am 100% on their team for this. I have actually found some of my greatest friendships through previous clients, and that’s such an ideal for me. I work very hard to accommodate my clients in every way possible.

Marketing and Attracting Clients

SBS – What strategies do you use to market your business and attract new clients? What role does online marketing play in your business, and how do you use it effectively?

Aubrey – As of now, I am using social media, blogging, and Pinterest in order to market my business and attract new clients. Networking is also an incredibly important and underrated way to get new clients. This could be an entire lecture, as online marketing is ever-changing, but I’d just say this is another bonus of being a business owner: doing your research and figuring out what works best for you and your business!

Staying Updated with Photography Trends

SBS – How do you keep your skills and techniques updated in the rapidly changing field of photography?

Aubrey – Great question! I love working with and picking the brains of my network of photographer friends on a regular basis. I also follow many photographers who are incredibly inspirational to me, and I am able to learn and grow by emulating their work and trying new things. Social media has endless opportunities to see trends, learn new things, and grow as a creative.

Handling Business Operations

SBS – How do you handle the business side of things, such as pricing and contracts?

Aubrey – This has been a long work in progress. I have a method for determining my pricing, which includes things like the cost of doing business, living expenses, etc., and I figure out from there what I need to make in a year to survive and thrive and how I’d like to grow. I re-evaluate this yearly to account for inflation, my own growth/skills, and how much I’ve reinvested back into myself and my business.

Balancing Creativity and Client Needs

SBS – How do you balance your creative vision with the needs and desires of your clients?

Aubrey – I always have meetings with my clients to really delve into what they desire for their wedding day. Usually, my clients have already seen my work before they reach out to me and feel they can trust me to capture their day in my style, but there is also room for shared ideas and the ability for my clients to lend their ideas as well. I am open to their thoughts and certainly want to make sure they get what they want, but I always come up with lots of ideas.

Importance of Networking and Collaboration

SBS – Can you discuss the importance of networking and collaboration in your industry?

Aubrey – ABSOLUTELY. Networking is a non-negotiable in the wedding industry. I spent a lot of my photography career feeling like networking wasn’t necessary, and I always felt incredibly nervous at networking events. I’ve gained a lot of experience and confidence as a photographer and human over the last several years and have learned better how to network. Like anything else, this is a skill you can grow in, and I think a lot of people don’t know how, who to talk to, or possibly even feel left out, but many around you may feel the same! Honestly, it feels so good when someone comes up to me to introduce themselves, which has encouraged me to be the first one to say hi, too. Basic interest in someone else’s life and business goes a long way, and you never know which vendors could be a great fit or even friends!

Collaboration is another thing that can’t be understated. I truly enjoy so many of the vendor relationships I have in the wedding industry. Knowing a variety of vendors I love to work with is a huge help when it comes to client service, as I then have another resource I’m able to give to my clients, which adds value to my service as a photographer. This also promotes a symbiotic relationship in the industry as well and allows us to serve our clients even better.

Preferred Equipment and Tools

SBS – What cameras and lenses do you prefer to use, and why? Can you share the software and tools you rely on for editing and managing your workflow?

Aubrey – I have two Canon R6 cameras and primarily use my 85- and 35-mm lenses. I have a few others (50-mm was my JAM for a long time!), but these are my go-to’s, and I LOVE them. The 85 provides beautiful depth, and the 35 is a fantastic tool for more documentary-style images.

I use Lightroom for culling and editing. I used to lean on Photoshop more for advanced edits, but the new AI updates for LR have been incredibly useful and have sped up my editing process! I also outsource my editing locally for larger sessions/weddings. My editor does an incredible job matching my style, though it took some time in the beginning to hone it all in. I use HoneyBook to manage my workflow. I was one of the lucky ones to sign up as HoneyBook started and have lots of perks from that.

Advice for Aspiring Photographers

SBS – What advice would you give to someone starting their own photography business?

Aubrey – Don’t underestimate your worth. Build up a stellar portfolio and then create a website (or invest the money to have someone do it professionally), but don’t settle for mediocre design on your portfolio (that’s easy to spot and makes you look incredibly unprofessional). If you aren’t creative in this, please have a professional do it.

Ask other professionals to review and critique your work. Don’t take it personally, but take it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Work with other photographers as much as possible and learn from them on what to do/not do.

NETWORK!!! Build rapport with other wedding vendors and keep up with those relationships, as referrals are a great way to get more work. Find ways to wow your clients over and over again. Research workflows from other people and find a good one that will keep you on track with deadlines. Intentionally find time to rest and unwind — owning your own business can mean freedom to do things you love in life, but it can also mean being a slave to your business and never turning it off. If you don’t rest, recharge, and renew your creativity/inspiration, you will burn out. Good luck!


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How Aubrey Dykeman Built a Successful Photography Business