As an artist, you have to both nurture your creative side and manage the business aspects of the profession. This is especially true for wedding photographers, who require a unique combination of artistry and business acumen to succeed. In our latest Featured Photographer series, we interview Brandi Salerno, a ShootDotEdit customer and the owner of Dallas-based wedding photography brand Brandi Allyse Photo, who has successfully navigated this balancing act.
In this interview, Brandi, who admits that it was not in her “nature to be a businesswoman”, shares her journey as an artist and entrepreneur, offering insights into how she’s mastered both ends of the service industry. From her transition from a portrait photographer to second shooting weddings and establishing her own business to the various gear and tools that have helped her along the way – join us as we unpack and celebrate Brandi’s incredible achievements.
The Becoming Of Brandi Allyse Photo
ShootDotEdit: Tell us about your story. How did you get started? And how was Brandi Allyse Photo born?
Brandi: I went to Texas State University and graduated in 2009 with a degree in photography. Initially, I was reluctant to do weddings, as it just seemed like a daunting world, and so I stuck to portraits. I did portraiture for about 3 years because that felt safe and did not make me anxious!
After I got married in 2011, I was just in love with my wedding photographer! She was like a celebrity to me. There was this time when she was looking for a second shooter, and so I reached out to her and asked if I could second shoot for her, which I then did for several years. I actually shot about 100 weddings with her. And this experience gave me the confidence to start shooting weddings on my own and go full-time with it.
ShootDotEdit: Any budding wedding photographers reading this, make a note! So what was it about your experience of being photographed as a bride that changed your mind and made you want to try photographing weddings?
Brandi: So, for my wedding, I regret this now, but at the time, I didn’t hire a wedding planner. Even though I had a wedding coordinator, I planned my whole wedding. It was stressful at times, but I really did enjoy the wedding world, and just planning the wedding got me all excited! And again, my photographer was just like such a celebrity, and she only did weddings, so it was kind of like any chance to work with her no matter what she was doing. I wanted to be able to learn from her. Even if she was doing portrait stuff, I would have asked to assist her.
ShootDotEdit: Were there any big moment(s) while you were second shooting that stood out to you as particularly meaningful or even made you recognize the value of it all?
Brandi: I learned a lot being the second shooter and witnessing my photographer’s skills and expertise in action! I was so impressed by how quickly and professionally she was able to direct her clients. She knew just what she needed from them and was able to get it done in a timely manner.
A lot of times at weddings, we are working on a timeline and sometimes a very tight one, and so it was amazing to watch her just so professionally go about a day, stick to those timelines, and still get those amazing portraits. I learned a lot about posing and prompting from her. Seeing her move through the wedding day gracefully and confidently without ever seeming stressed or overwhelmed definitely made me learn a lot.
I am incredibly passionate about second shooting for weddings. For someone who is specifically wanting to get into the wedding industry but does not really know how to get started, I would say shoot weddings and learn! Whether you’re second shooting weddings, reaching out to people for second shoots, or even assisting photographers, just watching somebody and getting the learning experience is incredibly useful! You can observe the flow of a day, what can sometimes go wrong, how timelines can shift, and how to be assertive in the middle of all of the wedding day chaos.
Suggested Read: 5 Quick Tips To Empower Your Second Shooter
ShootDotEdit: Prior to shooting on your own, was she the only other person you assisted?
Brandi: Oh yes, she was absolutely incredible! Simply observing her helped me understand time frames for different things, and how she did it is definitely something that I have taken into my business. I learned her way of laying out a timeline, and I was comfortable with it, so I kind of mimicked and changed into my own. It’s wild that she has now been a second shooter to me a couple of times! The first time she did, it felt like life was coming to a full circle – I was overwhelmed with emotion.
ShootDotEdit: Wow! A classic “the student has become the master” situation! So Brandi, now that you’re a full-time Dallas wedding photographer, when you look back on your journey, is there anything that you would have done differently?
Brandi: I think my whole photography journey has just been very well played out. I have talked about this a lot that it’s very much a confidence thing, and you have to have a lot of confidence to shoot a wedding, in my opinion. Some people know how to work the camera and go right into shooting weddings, but that wasn’t the case for me. Each step of my photographic experience was like building a puzzle piece. From the Texas wedding photographers I worked with to the places I visited, this journey that has brought me to where I am today has been an incredible adventure. I think I wouldn’t do anything differently because each step was like a part of building the confidence that I needed. Looking back now, I wouldn’t want any part of this adventure differently, as all of it has been essential in forming who I am today.
Business Lessons With Brandi Allyse Photo
ShootDotEdit: You have a successful wedding photography business now, but did you already have the business side of things intact before you got into it full-time?
Brandi: Although I had a basic understanding of the business, it has been quite a learning process because it was not my nature to be a businesswoman. Thankfully, I had the help of my husband, who is an accountant and could provide me with sound advice when making decisions about pricing for customers – something which seemed daunting at first given that everyone around me was familiar. He has always encouraged me and pushed me to make better business choices. Eventually, I have become more comfortable navigating these challenges, so now I can confidently manage all aspects of running my business as a Texas wedding photographer.
ShootDotEdit: Since you’ve had quite a journey as a photographer, for those looking to break into the world of wedding photography, is there anything they should be prepared or watch out for?
Brandi: Whether you are full-time wedding photographers in Dallas or anywhere in the world, shooting weddings can be incredibly labor-intensive with the amount of photos that must be edited afterward. From managing your cards carefully to ensuring redundancy is removed in the process, it’s important to consider each step – from photo culling and editing all the way through to backup planning. The time commitment here cannot be overstated. Between taking AND processing photos comes plenty of effort!
I was doing it pretty much all by myself with a couple of software when I was doing only portraits. I had Lightroom, and I had a service to deliver images, but other than that I was doing everything myself. But now that I am doing full-time weddings, I realized that it’s okay and encouraged to use resources for help like ShootDotEdit! I say this a lot of times – ShootDotEdit saved my business. Using different software and investing in really good ones to create a better client experience is something that I think it’s huge. The more I shot and the busier I became, I realized that it’s so helpful to use your resources wisely!
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Brandi’s Go-To Gear
ShootDotEdit: Saying that with every amazing photo comes equally amazing gear might not be 100% true, but we know wedding photographers love good tech. So what are you currently using for shooting weddings?
Brandi: I’m a proud Canon user, and currently, I own two of its R6s. For lenses, I acquired a few new ones, like the R50mm and R70-200. And to any 50mm fans, I know you love the L series 50 mm using the adapter, but for me, there’s never been a better purchase! It’s like nothing else I’ve ever used before, and it’s just amazing!
ShootDotEdit: So, let’s make this a little tougher. If you had to bring only three lenses to document a wedding, which ones would make it to your wedding photography gear bag?
Brandi: My first pick would be the 50mm lens. Next on my list is the 35mm. For the final pick, I would say the 100 macro because that could also be used as a portrait lens. It can be used in the ceremony even though it doesn’t have a low aperture. But it also gives you the detail shots you can’t get anywhere else.
ShootDotEdit: Really! So no zoom in your quiver?
Brandi: Not if I had to! Because my 7200 is only for the ring ceremony. So yes, I could live without it and would go with the 100 macro instead.
ShootDotEdit: Tell us about your lighting techniques. Do you usually prefer to use a flash for lighting, or do you tend to lean more toward ambient light?
Brandi: For receptions, I rely on my Neewer flash from Amazon to light up the room for me. I have used these flashes for years, and they are so much better than any other flash that I have used. They are very well-priced too! Sometimes, I will do the flash on camera and sync another one on a tripod to get some side lighting. The only other lighting I use is a panel light for the exit and not a flash because just in case it misfires. You are shooting a lot in the exit, so I use a panel light that has a hot shoe mount to my camera.
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Powering Business Operations With Strategic Investment
ShootDotEdit: Are there any software that you rely on for a seamless workflow or impeccable client experience?
Brandi: At the beginning of a process with the client, I use HoneyBook, which is an amazing customer relationship management (CRM) software. It helps me streamline my customer interactions, and with each customer inquiry, it creates a project where I can send them invoices, brochures, contracts, questionnaires, and so on. Everything is tailored to my brand, and every project can be customized according to the individual customer’s needs. It’s like having a digital database but with extra features like automated milestones for customers’ journeys. I can also use contracts that include phone numbers, addresses, emails, and something else – timelines! I personally don’t use the timeline feature of HoneyBook, but the option is there if required. Additionally, when dealing with new customers, I find it really helpful to send out fun questionnaires or brochures just for information gathering purposes. Lastly, contracts are always necessary too.
ShootDotEdit: Any other software that helps you free up time or just offer a 5-star customer service?
Brandi: I use Lightroom to edit my photos. ShootDotEdit has occasionally culled for me, but I also have Photo Mechanic for culling. I know of people who still cull as they edit in Lightroom, and it’s just not a time-efficient approach. To deliver my galleries to clients, I use Pic-Time, which offers a variety of features. I also rely on a range of apps like Canva and Unfold to create aesthetically pleasing visual content that helps enhance my brand presence online, like on social media.
A Stress-Free Post-Production Workflow With ShootDotEdit
ShootDotEdit: Could you share the rhythm of your workflow and how outsourcing photo editing, specifically color correction, has benefitted you? Are there any unique elements in your process that have proved successful in your routine?
Brandi: I usually cull with Photo Mechanic before submitting to ShootDotEdit. I send everything to you guys and get it back. I still do spend a few hours on a wedding, correcting a few things here and there or going over and hitting the blemishes and smoothing a couple of points that I know that my clients were self-conscious about on the day of.
Something that I love and is something I would do even if I was just getting that out of it, honestly, is the reception photos with crazy DJ lights changing every two seconds. You know that when you are looking at 300 of those, and you can’t do a copy and paste to each one because one is blue, and then one is purple, and then one is green and red. So, to not have to worry about the reception images at all and receiving them flawlessly edited, perfectly white-balanced without needing to be concerned about the individual variations – that has been an incredible and time-saving experience.
ShootDotEdit: Yours is also a really great example of the fact that outsourcing doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. Many photographers will assume it’s about letting go 100%, but it’s okay to save 80% of your time and use that 20% to do your own thing – whatever that may be. How have you found value in outsourcing that specific part of the job?
Brandi: It’s the time I’m saving that makes all the difference. When taking on a wedding, editing over 1,000 photos in such a short timeframe would be impossible for most people – even perfectionists! Yet with ShootDotEdit, it now takes me only a few hours to get an entire wedding done once it’s been delivered. That immense value is something you won’t find elsewhere!
We’ve always been huge admirers of Brandi and her work (Brandi Allyse Photo). Her artistic vision and distinctive brand never fail to impress us, and we take every opportunity to applaud her talent and accomplishments. Brandi’s story is a testament to the saying, “you’ll never know unless you try”. Despite initially feeling intimidated by the wedding industry, she persevered and has since become one of the most highly sought-after wedding photographers in the field. Also, even though she did say that she was never a natural businessperson, we continue to be impressed with how Brandi has managed to build a thriving wedding photography business that also supports other entrepreneurs, a concept that we are absolutely here for!
Brandi, we are so grateful for you sharing your inspiring story with us. We are honored to be able to take away some of the stress that comes with being a wedding photographer, and we take great pride in assisting exceptional professionals like you elevate their businesses. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your journey! You can check out Brandi’s work on her Instagram, Facebook, or website.
At ShootDotEdit, we share our clients’ stories with you to inspire and demonstrate the power of outsourcing. If photo editing has become a tedious process for you, then it’s time to let us lighten your workload! To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.