All images by Dylan and Sara. Used with permission
Photography duo Dylan and Sara are part of the most recent trend of wedding photographers embracing the DIY alternative art style to weddings rather than the more traditional approach that many have come to know for years. They are wedding photographers based in Portland, Oregon and are most widely known for their double exposures and landscape portraits. On top of this, they were recently named “Rising Stars of Wedding Photography” by Rangefinder Magazine.
Besides having the right creative vision, having the means and know-how to market it is another key skill to becoming a professional photographer. Luckily, Sara was a marketing major in college. But the duo has worked on a brand that is holistic and very much has a mind of its own.
We talked to Sara Byrne not only about their images but also about how they became successful.
Phoblographer: How did you two get into photography and knew that you wanted to shoot weddings?
Dylan and Sara: We were both into photography on a very amateur level when we met almost 10 years ago. We’d taken darkroom classes in high-school and college and had entry level DSLR cameras. We’d set out on little adventures together and photograph them, sometimes with just disposable cameras. Picking up our photos from the 1-hr photo was always such a happy moment.
Sifting through the prints and living those not-too-distant memories all over again. Fast forward a few years, we’d both taken our photography skills up a few notches. Dylan was photographing bicycle wheels for his handmade wheel company and I was setting up little fashion shoots for myself as a side-hobby. I’d always been drawn to weddings and admired the photography of people like Sean Flanigan and Stephanie Williams.
We had the chance to photograph our first wedding for a good friend, something that we were extremely excited and scared to do. We used all of our money to buy a few nice lenses and a backup 5D body, we spent months researching, practicing, and thinking about that day. I still remember the nervousness, would I get the kiss shot? It was an amazing feeling to be documenting such an important event. We instantly knew that was the direction we would go with our photography and our lives. A few months later we were full-time.
Phoblographer: The style of your images is very in tune with your particular website design and your style of marketing. Marketing is really one of the biggest challenges for many photographers but you two have pulled it off pretty flawlessly. How often do you two talk about it and plan for the future?
Sara: I have a degree in Marketing and I’d like to think it has helped us along the way. Marketing your work is hugely important in the wedding photography industry.
There are great photographers making no money and terrible photographers making hundreds of thousands per year, the difference is typically how well they market themselves. We’re constantly building, testing, and changing our marketing efforts. Not to book as many weddings as possible, but to put work out that we feel will resonate with certain people. Our goal is to find clients that are 100% trusting in our vision.
Phoblographer: Tell us a bit about the gear and the post-production that you two do.
Dylan and Sara: We shoot Canon 5D Mark III’s, a selection of Canon L primes, Leica M3, and Pentax 67. For post we use Lightroom 5, typically with a modified VSCO preset and then finished in Alien Skin Exposure.
Phoblographer: Your website goes against what a lot of wedding photographers do: instead of putting samples up front, you guys put your most recent blog posts front and center. How do you think that works better for you two over the more traditional site layout?
Dylan and Sara: It will probably be going even further towards just blog posts very soon. We like the story-telling aspect of a photo set, rather than a collection of standalone hero shots.
Phoblographer: Where do you two draw inspiration from when you shoot?
Dylan and Sara: Music, movies, art, our surroundings, the subjects. The typical sources. We like to scout the location a bit and start planning a few shots before we break the cameras out. Some of our favorite photographs are images that we can’t get out of our head after scouting a location, but others are spontaneous moments that we see out-of-the blue. Photography never has a right answer in that regard.
“I still remember the nervousness, would I get the kiss shot? It was an amazing feeling to be documenting such an important event.”
Phoblographer: Professional photographers are always trying to do personal projects on the side to hone their skills and explore different genres. Tell us about the ones that you two are working on.
Dylan and Sara: Dylan is days away from starting a project he’s had in the works for a year or so, building a vintage motorcycle from the frame up so he can tour around the West with his Leica. He wants to keep from releasing the images digitally, opting to do darkroom prints and just have the images for himself or our house guests to check out. My current personal work is shooting single subjects, trying to push myself to see emotion rather than just facial expression. I’ve been shooting mostly film, it has allowed me to think less about camera settings and post-processing and more about interaction with the subject or just being in the moment composing frames. Trying to make less-obvious choices than our paid work.
“There are great photographers making no money and terrible photographers making hundreds of thousands per year, the difference is typically how well they market themselves.”
Phoblographer: How do you two always ensure that you bring in enough money to support both of you, pay taxes, pay for marketing, cover insurance, and actually run a business? What’s your typical budgeting like?
Dylan and Sara: We use ShootQ’s income forecasts and try to keep ourselves as busy as possible. We try to think less about budgets and more about bringing in revenue. It keeps us motivated to create new income streams and keep marketing. There are so many income opportunities for photographers that are sometimes overlooked. One that has been huge for us is stock photography, we started licensing images on Stocksy.com this year and it has quickly grown into a substantial monthly income.