Oona Breyer: Founder of Dragonfly Photography and Expert in Editorial Wedding Photography

Success story summary Oona Breyer, founder of Dragonfly Photography, shares her journey from assisting her photographer grandmother to mastering digital and film photography herself. She emphasizes the importance of practice, curation, and a business-focused mindset, which have been pivotal in growing her wedding photography company.
A feature image of Oona Breyer

Can you please share a brief history about your photography business? What motivated you to start this venture?

I own Dragonfly Photography, a wedding photography and videography company specializing in editorial styled wedding photography. I found my love of wedding photography watching my grandmother as a photographer growing up. She was a fairly incredible woman who through tough circumstances needed to provide for her kids and decided being a photographer was the way to do it.

She was passionate about what she did and genuinely loved each person she photographed. She was completely delighted in who they were and being able to capture their unique personalities. The people she worked with knew it too. When you were with her, you knew she wanted to be with you. She was just that kind of person. She ignited my love of photography by allowing me to carry bags and set lights when I was younger, eventually graduating me to learn to use her medium format Hasselblad camera. I was obsessed and began working with film and spent every moment I could with a camera in hand although I never imagined photography as a career.

I struggled badly during the turn over from film to digital – like an angry bitter grampa (as a teen) I just knew the new digitals couldn’t produce what I could produce on film so I quit photographing for a long time. Only picking a camera back up (a digital) once my first child was born and I was forced to figure something out. Now I photograph digital, film, and video, but it was quite the ride to get there.

A wedding photo by Oona Breyer

What kind of challenges did you face when building up your portfolio or setting up your studio? How did you overcome these challenges?

I think like everyone else, finding the right things to photograph will always be a challenge. Making really terrible things look good was a constant lesson in curation and photography. The right lighting, cropping, and curation of the scene could produce a much more elevated version of what the wedding day actually looked like, which helped us booked just a little higher level wedding the next time and so on.

I cannot begin to overstate how important practice is – when you’re starting out and when you’ve been in this for a long time. Photographing anything and everything, to get that muscle memory is so deeply important. I think it’s one of the best things I ever did.

Could you describe the early days of your business? What were the initial reactions and feedback you received?

It was terrible! People were so kind and excited. They loved the images! But when I look back it’s wild to think people actually paid me anything for those photos. I started out photographing everything. Babies, families, birthday parties. But over the years figured out where my passions lay and how I could get more and more focused. Now we focus on weddings and select portraiture (mainly graduating students).

A wedding photo by Oona Breyer

How did you manage to grow and expand your business? What strategies did you use to attract more clients?

I’ve tried really hard to think like a business owner, not a photographer. I think as a creative entrepreneur it’s easy to want to just photograph, to want to be creative, or honestly to want to just be swept up in the creative side of what we do.

If you work for someone else you have the joy of that experience, if you own your company you do not. I read a significant amount of business books, we track a significant amount of data, we have annual meetings, and plan quarterly goals – for all intents and purposes we think and act like a much bigger company than we are.

It doesn’t really make sense to keep track of KPIs when you can do it in your head but at this point in my business, it absolutely makes sense because we’re tracking all sorts of things, year over year. But those habits started when it was me and a clipboard when it felt pretty dumb to be writing things down.

It’s everything from how I schedule my days (no editing on a laptop in bed for me) to how I introduce myself. I’ll never say “I’m a photographer” because ultimately that’s only one little part of my job, I own a photography company. I think all of that helped grow and expand our team.

A wedding photo by Oona Breyer

What are some key lessons you've learned along your entrepreneurial journey? Is there anything you would do differently if given a chance?

You might think that technical photography skills are the most important for a team like ours and certainly, they have their place. We all work incredibly hard at crafting our skills and continuing to get better and better. If you’re just starting the best thing I can say is to learn constantly, but the reality is it just takes time.

We push ourselves to constantly work to understand more and get better. That will never stop, at any level. My desk is currently filled with a pile of photography books from master photographers from the last 100 years that I’m studying lighting techniques from. That said, I think that technique is just a starting place. Past that, oddly enough, at the level we’re at I would say great skill is a little bit of a given.

Ultimately we’re in the hospitality industry. I wish I’d understood that I bit earlier. Especially as wedding professionals we have the privilege of being with families during their most important moments and times that can be exceptionally emotional. The number one skill we work on is connecting to people and supporting them in having the most wonderful experience they can. Ultimately that becomes the most important thing in the end.

Are there any tools or software that have been particularly useful in managing and growing your business? Give us a list of what you use in your kit.

Here are the tools we use to run the business:

Asana:  Especially with a team, this one is how we manage the world and keep things happening. Things don’t get dropped because of Asana.

Lightroom and Photoshop:  Of course – we do a shocking amount of photoshopping exit signs out and things that other people might never notice but we know will make a stronger image

Dubsado: Dubsado is our CRM and it’s been a wonderful choice for us

Canva: Graphics

A wedding image by Oona Breyer

Could you recommend any books, resources, or mentors that have significantly influenced your business journey?

These are some wonderful books:

Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who wish to start their own photography business?

Easy with social media. The comparison game is rough and honestly, it’s a lie a lot of the time. People are posting things that range from highlight reels to downright fake and it’s not worth basing your strategies or your life on a false narrative. Be kind to everyone and learn to listen to what people have to say. You never know who will be your next mentor or client so treat everyone in the room like what they have to tell you is more important than what you have to say because it probably is. 😉

A wedding photo by Oona Breyer
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Oona Breyer is the founder of Dragonfly Photography, a luxury wedding photography and videography company. Inspired by her grandmother’s passion for capturing authentic moments, Oona specializes in editorial-styled wedding photography.

Overcoming the challenges of transitioning from film to digital, she now expertly blends both mediums. Oona’s business acumen and dedication to continuous improvement have propelled Dragonfly Photography to new heights

About Oona

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We push ourselves to constantly work to understand more and get better. That will never stop, at any level.

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