When you see a photo that was taken by Johanna Dye, you can see the love that she captures and the joy between 2 people on their wedding day. Her love for what she does shines through in every photo she takes. Johanna has such a fun personality and an infectious laugh. She makes you feel welcome the moment she meets you and knows how to make you feel at ease on the busiest day of your life.
I found Johanna before I was ever engaged to my husband on social media but I knew I wanted her to photograph our wedding day. I loved her style and her laid-back attitude but she also knows how to get down to business when the time calls for it. Johanna and I became immediate friends when I met her for our engagement photos and it only grew during my bridal session when we realized we shared similar backgrounds and a big love for Harry Potter.
Johanna has a hunger for life and adventure, with a cross-country move to Hawaii and a growing business, she is showing no signs of slowing down in the future.
Tell me a little bit about how you started with Johanna Dye Photography, sort of an overview….
I was into photography my whole life, but never thought I could do it professionally. It was my passion, but I never thought I could get paid for something I love doing. That sounds so crazy, right? Well, I saw others doing exactly that. I got inspired by photographers I met at shootouts and through online groups. Wow, maybe I have a shot? I am a consistent pessimist so I didn’t even think that big. I thought well maybe I can make some extra cash, possibly? I started slow, a couple of family sessions here and there, it was really nice extra cash while I was in school. Than one girl hired me and really liked and believed in me. She referred me to all her friends. All of the sudden, I had shoots every weekend. My online presence grew, I made real money. I was shocked. My little side gig that was supposed to help me pay for school all of the sudden took up more time than my 9-5 and college.
By the end of my first year of “business”, I looked at my calendar, and portfolio. I need to do this for real I thought. So I made a business plan, hired an accountant, made a professional website, etc. Suddenly that idea of being a full time photographer didn’t seem so silly anymore. I hustled and worked my butt off, refined my work, business marketing…. I finally dropped out of college and quit my full time job, and concentrated fully on photography. 6 years later here I still am. It’s still unbelievable but I am so grateful every day.
What made you choose photography and weddings as opposed to landscape/nature?
I was never really a nature and landscape photographer if I am being honest. I found nature and forests boring, I loved photographing people, street photography of strangers, buildings, and architecture. Everything that was different from the small town life I was forced to grow up in. Now that I live in Hawaii, this has changed because the tropics are fascinating and so different. But I still love creating landscapes WITH people. Yes, this is a great landscape but how cool would it be to have myself or a client in the middle of this beauty? You can buy a landscape photo of a place anywhere, but wouldn’t it be so much cooler to be a part of it and make it yours?
I loved capturing people, fashion, and art. I love weddings because they incorporate so many different things of what I love. I get to style details, be a photojournalist during the ceremony and reception, and create great portraits as well. It’s a beautiful mix of being in control and just capturing what’s going on.
Was it hard moving here from Germany and leaving your family and your home?
It wasn’t, if I am honest. Like I said before, I was pretty bored with the small town life and small town mindset. I always felt kind of caged. I wanted to see the world, get to know different people. I always had an affinity for the states because of the American dream, the freedom and the feeling that everything is possible. It felt like the perfect place to make dreams come true and be who I truly am. Yes, there were times were I thought I should just be happy with what I have, because change is always a bit scary. But there was not one moment where I regret it.
What struggles have you faced in starting your business?
Getting people to notice you. In every industry, especially the creative one or where everyone seems to be a photographer nowadays, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Sometimes you want to scream, “Hey please give me a chance I promise I know things”. I am experiencing something similar right now because I just relocated my business to Hawaii. You know you can prove to people that you would treat them well and give them great work, but you just need to be noticed or have someone give you a chance to prove yourself. Being no one in a big pond, you need to get very creative and fail many times and not give up.
How did you get your name out there and really start establishing a following? What type of advertising did you do?
Social media is everything nowadays, and you can’t be afraid to get annoying. Put your name on everything, share your work, and engage with colleagues, venues, planners. Keep posting your work. Help out others. Look busy – even if you do not have a lot of work right now, shoot and do model calls. If you look in demand, people are going to want to work with you and you don’t get rusty. Invest in websites like The Knot to get in front of a bigger audience, Facebook ads.
The most important thing is to be genuine and keep your ego in check. I am not better than anyone is. You can learn something from everyone whether they are new or a veteran. Help others out and be kind. I am an introvert and it’s so hard for me to put myself out there, but if you aren’t your biggest cheerleader, no-one will care about you!
You have received some awards/recognitions and been in some magazines, congratulations! How did you do that? Did you approach them or did they reach out to you?
Put yourself out there. I researched tons of magazines and submitted my work. I have heard “no” so many times its not even funny, but when you hear yes, man that’s the best feeling in the world. To be honest, I get into my feelings easy. Yes, it’s a business, but I tend to take a lot of things personally. The trick is to keep going. Not everyone is going to love you, not everyone has the same test. But someone is bound to say yes at one point right? So just, keep showing up and be annoying if you must be. See “no’s” as a challenge.
I received some awards for customer service as well, and this was by showing up for my people. Provide them with great service, treat them like family, go above and beyond. Under promise and over deliver. Keep your ego in check 🙂
You recently moved from NC to HI. Has that affected your business at all?
Totally. I am starting over completely and it’s hard if I am honest. I was very established and my business was kind of running on autopilot because I was well set up and known. Now I am just a nobody again and I am having to build up everything again, which is hard but it has to be done!
How did you start the transition for your business so you did not have a big break in business or have to reestablish yourself?
I started advertising about 6 months in advance. I tried to curate my portfolio and shooting so, I could use it for Hawaii. I researched online, try to make myself knowledgeable, connect with locals. It’s still slower than I would like it to be, and I am putting a lot of pressure on myself but I am using the time to overhaul, make improvements and to keep working.
How do you handle your social media accounts? Do you have a schedule for when you post or do you post whenever?
I used to, but with the algorithms and constantly changing dos and don’ts it’s become hard. Right now, I try to post on Instagram in the morning and engage for about half an hour. I do it again in the evening. Social media is a black hole and takes up so much time. I have made it a point now to be intentional by only going it for certain amount of time every day, social media is important, but so is my family, life and metal health. It is a comparison game and it can truly make you unhappy. The comparison of who gets more likes and followers, oh everyone is doing better than me. It’s all a facade. Creating a healthy relationship with it is something I have been working on for a while now and it’s getting better! I used to have an assistant for a while, but that didn’t work. I am debating on trying it again with someone because honestly, Instagram is a job in itself.
How do you select your second shooters when you have a big wedding or event?
I have a number of friends in the industry who I work with. They are all photographers who have the same style and work ethic I do. I also trained my husband to work with me! It’s important to have someone you trust and that takes a big day as serious as you
How do you manage the work/life balance since you work out of your home?
When my husband comes home, I close my computer and phone so we get to spent time together. He goes to bed early, so if I have a lot to do I will pick work back up around 8 or 9. I take my deadlines seriously and have a strict calendar!
How are things going in your company in general? Are you hiring, downsizing, or staying where you are? Are you expanding?
Due to the fact that I just moved and have to restart completely, I am staying as I am for the moment. I am currently debating on how to restructure and what I want to put my focus on going forward with the new environment. I am somewhat in a state of change and reinventing myself!
Your husband is an ordained minister and will sometimes work weddings with you. What is it like working with your partner? How do you keep that divide?
I love it. We have so much fun working together and it gives a nice break between typical couple’s things. It’s very nice for building teamwork. We know we can 100% trust each other; we can look at each other and know what the other means. Plus we get to spend more time together, which is great because honestly we have a bit of separation anxiety. He’s my best friend and I love that we get to spent so many different aspects of life together!
What is your favorite part about your job? What is your least favorite?I love being able to get creative. I get so excited when I get to shoot love, when I get to shoot a new venue and create amazing portraits. I get so excited still every time I put my SD card in the computer, get to editing, and share the awaited pictures with my clients and knowing it’ll make them happy!
Working weekends must be my least favorite. Of course it’s a given to have to work weekends in the wedding industry, but missing birthdays, weddings of family and friends or just being able to spent time with my husband who works during the week!
Could you describe a typical day?
I get up and get some food and something to drink, watch a YouTube video or an episode of friends to wake up. I used to go straight to my phone, and I have made a conscious change to get up and breath before I dive straight in. Then I check my e- mail, and reply to messages, check social media and reply to comments and messages. After that, I check my calendar to see what I have to do for the day, checkup when things are due, etc. Then I usually get straight to editing, for about 3-4 hours. I take a break to check e-mails and social media. Possibly get lunch. Then I prepare galleries or blog posts, pin to Pinterest. I check up on The Knot and see if I can update photos or on other advertising avenues to see how they are going. I often prepare additional things for marketing or set up new ads. Then it gets back to editing until Matt gets home!
What advice would you give to a fellow entrepreneur who is trying to get their start like you?
It’s not going to be easy but it will be worth it. And to make a plan. Running a business might look like fun and games, but it’s not always. Make a plan of what you want to make, what you want to be, your branding, your ideal client. Have a clear vision of what you want your business to be like. If you just start, working you won’t have a direction and setting it up beforehand will help you so much. It will help you see what the next steps are, bring you back on the path when you get lost and most of all will remind you why the heck you are doing this!