The short version of my story is that I picked up a camera in 2001 and couldn’t imagine not doing something with it for the rest of my life.
Weddings combine my love of every part of photography- perfectly polished posed photos, clean light, emotive moments, cherished memories. It took a few tries, but once I shot a few weddings, I fell so head-over-heels and so unexpectedly in love with everything the wedding world had to offer and I bring that love to every session and wedding I document.
I pride myself on using my own natural talent (or should I say "talent") for being funny and awkward to get you out of your shell. Combining that goofy side of myself with the type A perfectionist side allows me to create a comfortable banter with my couples, letting them relax while I make the magical, romantic, fresh images happen. I know when to turn the weird off and let the moment take over. I am someone who is going to laugh, cry and joke with you. THEN I'm going to turn around and charm your mom/grumpy grandpa/pushy aunt, sweet talk that church wedding coordinator, master your timeline from that badass planner you hired, and just generally be there for the two of you to make your wedding experience killer.
lots of dogs
cats. so many cats
The wedding that almost ended it all, I took this on with a professor of mine and a fellow student to see if I liked weddings. I did not. Little did I know, I just wasn't the right fit for this wedding.
Thankfully, when it came time to get an internship, wedding photography internships were one of the few that paid, so I gave weddings another shot. I realized with the right clients, it was my all time favorite thing. This was what sparked a lifelong obsession with weddings.
My first clients! These two put a lot of trust in me, I had been shooting weddings for a year for someone else and they were my first couple to hire me by myself! It would be another three years before I shot alone, shooting hundreds of weddings to get practice before starting my business.
I took the leap and started my own business after working for someone else since 2009. While I stayed at my main job, my business took the first baby steps, kicking off with an amazing couple who let me do all the things I dreamed of!
Six years after launching Dawn Derbyshire Photography, with over 400 weddings shot for the other company I worked for alongside my own clients weddings, I left my safe full time wedding photography and editing job and went full time with my own business. I had 29 weddings that year with BIG things on the horizon.
After surviving a rough 2020, shooting 53 weddings in 2021 (never again), opening a new studio, relaunching my boudoir and branding sessions, and hitting wedding #600, my goal for the future is to cultivate a client base I love, who are as excited to work with me as I am with them. I currently cap my bookings at 30-35 per year to ensure I can give my clients 100%. I love this job and can't wait for the next 10, 15, 20 years!
You read that right, 600-ish (maybe a handful more) as of 2023. I started my career way back in 2009, and in 2021 alone I shot 53 weddings. It feels surreal to have been a part of so many couples lives!
I grew up with parents who loved to travel, so I've always had a thing for hopping a plane and exploring somewhere new. This is a perfect compliment to being a wedding photographer, since I've gotten to shoot weddings and engagements all over the country!
I'm more of a vodka cranberry or whiskey sour kind of gal, but I love a fun champagne pop for photos and even have a special method to getting that perfect champagne pop shot!
This is the long version of my story and how I found wedding photography. I started out in 2001 with a film camera and some black and white film, taking snapshots of friends and family, processing and printing my own film by hand. From that first day in my class in high school until my last class during my two year stint at Edinboro University, I took tons of classes and built up my film portfolio, expanding into color film and portrait work, evolving with each roll of film. Despite my love of photography, I had always figured it was just a hobby and chose to major in Art History. But I never felt the same passion for any thing else. After two years, I moved back to my hometown to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.
In 2007, I picked up my life and moved from the suburbs of Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and got my hands on my first digital camera. At that moment a whole new world opened up. I started attending a local art school and shut myself in the studio for two years and set my mind on fashion photography with dreams of my photographs gracing magazine covers and billboards (little did I know I'd accomplish this dream by taking a totally different route!). During my final year of college I was required to do a three month internship. I plastered ads on Craigslist and sent out mass e-mails to local photographers. And then I stumbled into a career I never knew I would have.
I shot my first wedding in 2007 and it was a fiasco. I understood all the horror stories immediately, the stories of drunk brides and feuding families leaving wedding wreckage in their wake. I shot that wedding and never looked back. So two years later when I began interning as a wedding photographer, I prepared myself for the worst. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. It was amazing. It was fast paced, challenging, and filled with some of the most pleasant people I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. No bridezillas or drunken wedding parties. I spent those three months absorbing all the knowledge I could. And then something even more unexpected happened. I never left.
So here I am, years later, still in love with wedding photography, still learning and evolving. I took an internship with the idea that it was just a stepping stone and turned it into a career I am obsessed with. I’ve been featured in the Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, Green Wedding Shoes, Style Me Pretty, and many more, and traveled as far as Cancun, Punta Cana, Jamaica, Wyoming and Arizona for weddings. (but if you want me to photograph your backyard wedding or Pittsburgh shindig that sounds just as amazing to me)
While personality is a huge factor to me, in the end what really matters is my work. I want you to be in love with my work, I want you to look at my images and think "That is exactly what I envision!" I show my favorite images on my website, but love sharing full wedding galleries with clients. I want people to have an accurate idea of what kind of images I will be providing them with. I’m always willing to travel for my clients and I like to meet my couples (either face to face or over the phone, old school style) to make sure we click and have the same expectations before they put down a dime or sign anything. I want them to be comfortable with their choice and to walk out of our meeting feeling confident that I am the right photographer for their day.
After five years together, in March 2016 I married my awesome husband in an intimate ceremony in my old studio space. We live in Pittsburgh with our funny farm of animals (five cats and two dogs) and I love every minute of it. Being on the other side of weddings gave me a whole new perspective and changed how I run my business. I bordered on bridezilla due to stress and ended up pretty much eloping. Due to the craziness I realized what was important about weddings and what was silly. I fell in love with pretty wedding albums and the sweet emotions of a wedding day, along with all of the elements that require a lot of vision and hard work. I carry those lessons with me to every wedding. And you'll often catch me crying at the cute parts of the day since being married has made me a total sap.
Because I'm amazing! But for real, the best compliment I've ever received from a client is the purest example of why I'm worth every penny: "[Dawn] gave us the feeling that our wedding pictures were as important to her as they were to us."
And it's true. I'm passionate about what I do and try to get my best photos ever at every wedding I attend. Your photos are the most important photos I will ever take, and the trust you give me as the person documenting these moments in your life together is such an honor.
In spring of 2021, Sunlight Studio opened in West View, PA. I share it with another amazing photographer, and it is open to all clients (and their pets!) for sessions. It's perfect for boudoir, maternity, branding, and couples sessions, with flower walls, streamer walls, funky furniture and a homey feel. I have all in-person meetings here and am always happy to sit down, grab you some wine, and chat in this space. It's my home away from home and I love having clients here to enjoy the space with me (and to get cute, colorful photos of couples on the giant purple couch)!
- Sam & Dan
"Not sure how to give this review because I can not really put into words how amazing Dawn is as a person and a professional photographer. If you are looking for a talented photographer who will make your experience with pictures fun and stress free, Dawn is your photographer. From the moment I found her Instagram page and fell IN LOVE with her skills I have NEVER regretted my decision to book with Dawn. Also, listen to all of her suggestions, DO the engagement shoot, DO the sunset pictures, DO EVERYTHING. She goes above and beyond to make your day as magical as you dreamed it would be. She pays attention to what really matters to her clients! I like to call her my photography unicorn because she seriously one of a kind and is VERY good at what she does. If you don't book her, you will regret it! Side note: I just got married last weekend, have only seen my preview pictures (which I got that night and the NEXT morning) and waiting for the rest. I'm writing this review now because that is just how OBSESSED with her I am."
"I like to call her my photography unicorn"
- Christine & Andrei
"Dawn is incredible!!! She is truly one of a kind – I’ve never seen a vendor go above and beyond for clients like she does! Not only is she insanely talented, but she is incredibly meticulous, extremely responsive and cares about every detail just as much as you do! Weddings can be complicated, especially when it comes to family, but her detailed questionnaire about anything and everything she needs to know put me completely at ease. And if that wasn’t enough, she has an incredible guide that helps you shape your day, answer every question you could ever think of (and ones that you didn’t even know you had or should have!) – all just to make sure your day turns out beautifully. She captured the most incredible shots, worked so fast, and was so fun to hang out with throughout the day! I could never have imagined working with someone so wonderful for our big day – she truly is the best & if you have the chance to work with her, don’t even think twice. Book her immediately!!"
"I’ve never seen a vendor go above and beyond for clients like she does! "
- Samantha & Ryan
"There are not enough positive adjectives to describe our exceptional experience with Dawn Derbyshire. From the initial consultation, engagement photos, wedding pictures, a COVID postponement in between – she made the process enjoyable and easy. She made taking pictures fun and not awkward, often cracking jokes between each shot. She took the time to know us as a couple and what was important for us on our special day. We had periodic check-ins to discuss the process for our wedding day and what to expect, one less stress we had to worry about on our wedding day. Let me just tell you the photos were all AMAZING! We cannot thank her enough for her talented work, we look forward to using her in future endeavors. We highly recommend Dawn; this is one decision you will not regret!"
"She took the time to know us as a couple"
- Paige and John
"Dawn was truly the all star of our entire wedding day. From the time we booked her (over 2 years ago) to the wedding, she was SO communicative, beyond organized, and helpful. She brings such a positive energy while still getting. it. done. She made us feel so comfortable during our engagement session, that by the time we took wedding photos, they felt seamless. Let me also mention her work is PERFECTION. I could not love our engagement and wedding photos more if I tried. I would recommend Dawn 1000x over and if you have already booked her, consider yourself the luckiest!!!"
"Dawn was truly the all star of our entire wedding day."
- Lauren & Chris
"You deserve to have a photographer as amazing as Dawn. We can't stress enough how much we love her and would recommend her a million times over. Not only is she an amazing photographer that gave us thousands of unparalleled photos between our 2 shoots, she's an incredible person and every second you spend with her will be a delight. She made us feel so at ease, made us laugh, we made each other cry for sure—and honestly, she helped make our wedding the success it was. She's professional and dedicated, took charge when we needed it, wrangled our friends and took gorgeous, quality photos of everything we asked for and everything we forgot. Seriously, if you're looking for a wedding photographer, you could not pick a better one than Dawn."
"You deserve to have a photographer as amazing as Dawn.
- Julia & Matt
"We highly recommend Dawn Derbyshire for your wedding photography. She was definitely one of our best vendor decisions for our wedding day. We cannot speak highly enough of Dawn as both a photographer and as a person. We're so grateful that we found and hired Dawn to photograph one of the most important days of our lives. She truly exudes creativity, passion, and professionalism. From our first meeting to our engagement session and our wedding day--Dawn completely understood our vision and made us feel at ease. She was able to capture the genuine, candid moments of the day, the spirit of our relationship, and all of the little moments that elicit big emotions. We will truly cherish every detail shot, every portrait, and ever candid she took of our day. Dawn's expert planning, organization, and attention to detail ensured that we never felt rushed but kept things moving so that we were able to fully enjoy our wedding. We took her advice and enjoyed a moment away from everyone for sunset photos--I'm so glad that we did. She went above and beyond to make sure we had every possible shot we wanted and more."
"We will truly cherish every detail shot, every portrait, and every candid she took of our day"
- Kaitlin & Reggie
"I'm so happy we chose Dawn for our wedding photos! She is so easy work with, organized and incredibly talented. We decided to have an intimate wedding due to COVID. Even though it was such a small wedding, Dawn made us feel so special throughout the whole process. She took the time to meet with us virtually before our wedding to get to know us as a couple and listened to what our dream vision was for our wedding photos. I don’t usually like to have my picture taken, but I never felt so comfortable in front of a camera before. Dawn’s energy and outgoing personality helped calm my nerves. Our photos turned out beautifully and we couldn’t be happier! Dawn is incredibly talented and her work speaks for itself. I definitely recommend choosing Dawn as your photographer. She is so easy to work with and your photos will turn out beautiful. Thank you for making our wedding day so special Dawn!"
"Dawn made us feel so special throughout the whole process"
- Laura & Zach
"I can't begin to come up with enough amazing words to say about Dawn.. but I will say that I knew shortly after getting engaged there was something about her photography that really stands out. From the perfect details, to the genuine feeling you get from the couple she shoots. When we had our first meeting with her she emphasized wanting to be the right fit for us. Between her details, organization, "thinks of everything" questions, her incredible work, and her positivity; we knew she was the right choice! We did our engagement session and wedding with her and can't tell you how happy we are with the pictures that we will treasure forever. Dawn might be the hardest working woman I've ever met and my guests were shocked when she delivered a preview of our magical photos in 24 hours. If you are searching for a photographer who will shine a true light on your day, Dawn is IT!"
"Dawn might be the hardest working woman I've ever met"
- Kathryn & Tony
"As other reviews have said - Dawn is the absolute BEST !!! We had an absolute dream team of vendors and Dawn was the leader of the pack. Her photos are absolutely gorgeous but take a look at her website or Instagram and you already know that. What set her apart for us was her awesome personality. I will openly admit I am very "type A" and planning a wedding made me a little crazy. I sent her about a hundred messages asking for input on suit colors, day of timing, my makeup, etc. I'm sure other vendors would not have been nearly as patient as Dawn. We received our wedding photos last week and all I can say is wow. There have been endless compliments and multiple people have told me that they look straight from a bridal magazine. I am over the moon and will treasure these for many years to come"
"We had an absolute dream team of vendors and Dawn was the leader of the pack"
- Mallory & Andy
"Dawn is so absolutely amazing! She was recommended to us by a friend, and we are SO glad we booked her! Dawn is very accommodating and understanding. We told her that my fiancé didn’t like getting his picture taken. She posed us and snapped the pics efficiently and quickly. The photographs from both our engagement session and wedding are absolutely stunning. Dawn is very quick to respond and willing to help you with anything she can. She gave me recommendations for other vendors, provided feedback, gave advice and was a listening ear when we needed to vent. We got married in September 2020. Many of our plans changed due to COVID-19. Dawn was so empathetic and helpful throughout. I got ready with just my mom and Dawn in the room. Dawn was a stand in friend and bridesmaid to me. I will never forget those special moments. We have received nothing but compliments on how beautiful our pictures are and how fantastic Dawn is. She has a super fun personality, kind heart, and exquisite photography skills. We cannot say enough about the wonderful Dawn Derbyshire!"
"Dawn was a stand in friend and bridesmaid to me"