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Meet Robin Dayley of Dayley Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robin Dayley.

Robin, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My love for photography started in high school where I won a “best photo” challenge to become the photographer for our high school yearbook. I became interested in light and composition and found that I had a natural eye for it.

In college, I studied Film and Photography at Penn State and had dreams of becoming a Cinematographer. Upon graduation, I used my college portfolio to land myself a job in my home town PA portrait studio – first as an editor and then as a photographer. I worked there for 2 years before I heard California calling me.

Since I was sixteen, my plan was always to live and work in LA. I moved to San Diego with some friends from college figuring I would scope out LA jobs while living just a few hours away. Turns out, I hated LA. San Diego was a much better fit for me, but was lacking in film production jobs. Needing steady money, I took office jobs for a while and set up Dayley Photography as a side business.

To say I was intimidated by the photography industry in Southern California was an understatement. I spent a lot of time researching other professionals in the area and was blown away by the quantity and quality of the competition. I’ve never really been a competitive person so breaking out and having success as a photographer here seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Many times, I considered moving back to my small town in PA to set up shop where it seemed less overwhelming. But I was really happy in San Diego and I had met a lot of great friends and a wonderful boyfriend who was incredibly supportive. So I spent the better part of a decade learning more about my craft as well as how to run a business. I continued to work a day job and side hustle my photography on the weekends and evenings. Eventually my work got better and my clients started returning and referring me to others. Then in 2014 I finally took the leap and left the full-time office job behind to do photography full time. Though there have been challenges, it’s the best thing I could have done for myself. I’m so much happier and less stressed and I’m now confident of my abilities and what I have to offer in this industry.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road has not been easy. One of the biggest challenges is managing money. Photography income fluctuates and unless you are working for another larger company, it’s really just a guessing game of how much income you will generate in any given year. Wedding and portrait photography in particular tends to be seasonal. Luckily in San Diego, we have nice weather most of the year, but we still see a drop off in wedding bookings December through March. Photography is also a very expensive industry in which to get started. The very basics of professional quality gear can cost as much as $10,000. I bought one piece at time as I could afford it and I rented anything else I needed.

Another big challenge for me was finding my voice in a sea of other photography professionals. It was criticism I had heard many times from others trying to give advice. How will you stand out? What is your style? Who will you be? I had no idea. I just wanted to take pretty pictures and I didn’t want to paint myself into a box when I could do so many different things. But eventually I realized that you have to speak to someone or no one will hear you. So I had to really look at my work and my ideal clients and figure out which path to take. Once I did that, it really did make things easier.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Dayley Photography specializes in wedding and portrait photography in Southern California. While portrait photography will always be a staple of what I do, weddings are really where my heart is. From the very first time I photographed a wedding, I was obsessed with the adrenaline and excitement of it all. I love the emotion, the pretty details and all the unique traditions. My clients are fun, diverse and kind couples who really care about photography on their wedding day. My classic, colorful style lends itself well to brewery, winery, ranch and farm weddings but I love couples who find unique and crazy venues as well.

The more I work with and meet other wedding photographers in the area, the more I realize that personal attention is a dying art. I’m surprised by how many clients never meet with or speak to their photographer before their big day. I can’t imagine not meeting a client before photographing their wedding. I know wedding planning is almost a full-time job and I don’t need to take up a bunch of time, but a meeting with the couple allows me to get to know them a little and ask important questions. I really CARE about providing a wonderful experience and gallery for my clients from booking to delivery and I don’t think I could do that without those in-person experiences.

When it comes to my portrait clients, the biggest compliment I get over and over again is how easy I made their experience. Many times, with family sessions, small children can be uncooperative and rambunctious. It can be a frustrating experience for parents who have put a lot of time and effort into picking out clothing and getting everyone together. I try to bring a calm presence to my sessions and reassure them that despite the craziness, we are indeed getting some great shots! Parents are always surprised when they see how well their session actually turned out. It makes me smile every time!

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
San Diego is such a beautiful city. There is so much to offer in terms of wedding venues and portrait locations. We also have gorgeous weather. For these reasons, the photography market here is extremely saturated. For those starting out, I would caution that you need a strong will to succeed.

The best advice I can offer is to first learn the ins and outs of running a business. I often tell people I wish I had double majored in business in college. It would have been so helpful now. Then immerse yourself in the community. Networking is going to be an essential tool in your belt. You want to network with other photographers, others in the event industry, as well as a variety of other social groups. Get your name out there! And finally, never stop learning. Keep pushing your skills and abilities and keep up with the latest trends in technology and marketing. You have to evolve with the industry to survive.


  • Full Day Wedding Packages Starting at $2600
  • Portrait Session Prices Starting at $275

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Dayley Photography

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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