Updated: Mar 15
In this new blog series we aim to highlight fantastic creative people who we either work with or admire every week! This week, we speak with London headshot photographer Sara Dalrymple
Hi! I’m Sara, and I set up Sara Dalrymple Photography 6 years ago to try and bring more personality and fun to photography. At the time, headshots and family photography was very staged and uncomfortable, and I wanted to make the experience much more relaxed and fun, and to reflect this in photos that were then anything BUT forced.
I’m a big believer that everybody can and should have a set of photos of themselves that they absolutely love, and that if you choose the right photographer for you, this will flow naturally.
1. What led you to start up your business?
Before I had children I worked in investment banking.
It was a fast paced, client-facing role and I really enjoyed it but I knew it wouldn’t work around children – all I had to do was look around me at the lack of females at the top or at the amount of bedtimes the men in my team missed on a weekly basis to tell me everything I needed to know.
While I wanted to be a present parent, it was really important to me to work too, and when I was pregnant with my first child I decided to take my lifelong love of (amateur) photography to a new level and signed up for a year long program to become a professional people photographer.
I’ve always LOVED taking photos of people all throughout my life, and have shoeboxes of hilarious photos from my youth and university days to prove it – I’d always be the one trying to get “the shot” at weddings or on nights out. I also have always hated having my own photo taken, and wanted to make people feel really comfortable in front of my camera.
I’ve always found it really hard to smile on demand for the camera, despite being a really smiley person in real life – I can only smile if something is funny! I couldn’t help thinking there must be a less forced way of getting photos that people would love, so that’s what I set out to do.
All my sessions focus on capturing relaxed and natural photos that show off your best self, without making you feel awkward.
2. What were the biggest obstacles to starting up?
I’m a real believer in never giving up, and I stand by the fact that with enough hard work you can make anything work, but for me personally the biggest obstacles have been having to learn all aspects of having my own business: the photography part is easy!
Talk to me about IT issues though and I start automatically reaching for the phone to call IT support, which obviously no longer exists for me.
3. What do you love about your business?
OMG where to even begin?! I’m a real people person so I love that I get to meet so many inspiring, brave women who are setting up businesses doing what they love, or chatting to Mums about the never ending rollercoaster of motherhood while taking relaxed and natural photos of them with their children which nobody else ever does.
On the headshots side of things, I love that I’m able to help fulfill a real need for all businesses owners: as consumers today we are making our purchasing decisions based on so much more than the product or service on offer – we want to get to know the person behind the business, the personal brand, the values you hold and all the things that make your business unique (hint: it’s YOU!).
And so like it or not, as a business owner, in order to properly tell your story you need to be visible in all that you do, and having a bank of fun and natural headshots taken by a professional is such a valuable asset to have when it comes to connecting with your clients.
I get so much positive feedback when my clients receive their photos and so many people say they genuinely enjoyed their photo session with me and didn’t feel at all awkward, cringed out or posed, and that means so much to me as I can’t think of anything worse than not making each and every session I do feel fun and relaxed!
My main aim is to deliver every single person I work with a collection of photos that they will absolutely love.
4. Who would be your dream client
Easy peasy! I love working with small business owners, female founders and Mums – especially anyone who thinks they don’t like having their photo taken so that I can show them how amazing it is to get a set of photos they can truly love and that give them the confidence to show off!
So many of us hide behind our brands because we are camera shy, but when we show our clients more of ourselves, that’s when so much more connection starts to happen, and that’s what I want for everyone I work with.
5. Where would you like to take your business ultimately?
I’m really happy creating fun, fresh and feel good headshots for anyone who is looking for some photos that concentrate on showing off their best selves and promoting confidence to be visible as the face of their brand, as well as capturing Mums at home with their children.
I’d love to start mentoring other photographers who are setting up their own businesses, to help them benefit from some of the knowledge I’ve acquired over the past 6 years, but apart from that, I’m pretty happy where I am!
6. Where have you received the most support along your journey?
Oh my goodness it’s amazing how much support is out there. I’m so thrilled that I found out about Mothers Meetings last year and started going to these, as I’ve met a whole group of brilliant women who are supportive, motivated and driven and we all support eachother in any way we can.
Friends and family are great too, but I do think it’s mega important to find a group of people who have or are setting up their own businesses, as it’s hard for my family who are all in “employment” rather than self-employment to understand some of what goes on!
7. Would you consider going back to employment for someone else now?
I can’t imagine it, and that’s mainly because I feel so lucky to be able to support myself financially without having to compromise on doing the school drop offs and pick ups, and I’ve found a way of working that is so much more fulfilling and rewarding than any other job I’ve had.
I’d be mad to give this up and go back to a conventional 9-5, as those rigid working hours are just so nonsensical in this day and age! Plus I’m so productive now – no more pointless conference calls, endless meetings for meetings sakes and hours and hours filling out online appraisals. The work I do now is the work I want to be doing, not what somebody else is telling me I have to be doing!
8. What do you consider the key skills a small business person must have?
I would definitely say it helps to have a healthy dose of grit and determination and a certain amount of patience. It’s so easy to want it all on day 1 but in reality, it’s the incremental steps in the right direction and consistent work you put in that gets you where you want to be – nobody can do it all, especially at the start!
On top of that you have to be prepared to always be learning something new, as there are always new things to figure out, whether that’s mailing lists, social media platforms, writing blog posts or rebranding, SEO, accounting, the list goes on. Being a one-man band means there’s always something going on, but at least there’s never a dull moment!
9. Have you been influenced by any business books or blogs recently?
I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to learning and books so I have a few of Seth Godin’s marketing books and definitely learnt a lot from his one called “This is Marketing” (he has many other ones too though!) and also a book called “Building a Story Brand” by Donald Miller.
I loved Fiona Humbertstone’s Brand Brilliance book too! Podcasts are definitely my thing though, I’m obsessed! I listen to Sam Burgess’ Small and Mighty Business podcast, I love Holly Tucker’s Small and Mighty Conversations, plus there’s a photography one that a couple of friends of mine run called Shoot Edit Chat Repeat which is a total treat for us photographers! I also love the She Can She Did podcast and the Goal Digger one…I could go on all day about podcasts but I’ll stop there for now! Ha.
10. What would your top tips be to anyone considering starting their own business?
Definitely to make a plan for the first year or two, and then stick to that plan. Remember every day to do something that gets you closer to your goals.
It’s really easy when you’re starting out to look at what everyone else is doing and get distracted by that, but nobody else is YOU and if you concentrate on getting your own offering out there with clear branding and marketing messages, you don’t need to worry about what anyone else is doing or how they are doing it.
Comparison is the thief of joy, so opt out from the get go and concentrate on being as helpful and positive as you can be, as these things come back round!
Keeping clear, realistic goals, being determined and getting out there as much as possible has made all the difference for me.
I would also say it’s really important to have a crystal clear understanding of who your dream client is and what they need from you, so that you can make sure you’re being clear about how you can help them in all your marketing efforts, from your website copy to blog posts and on social media.
11. Do you think networking is important for your business?
I’d say it’s crucial, especially for me with my business because if I didn’t go to networking events it would be harder for me to be seen and get my name out there. Let alone the fact that I’d go mad if I was sat at home on my own all day every day, I LOVE meeting new people and have met so many amazing women at events.
We are so lucky in London especially that there are so many great ones now (more so than 6 years ago when I started!) and it really doesn’t have to mean a cringey business card swap kind of situation! From brunches to lunches to cocktail evenings, there really is a networking event for everyone!
The thing I do miss about working for a big company is definitely working in a team, but through networking I’ve been able to find a load of lovely like-minded women who now feel like my virtual team – there is always someone at these things who you meet and have loads in common with and before you know it you’re going out for lunch, collaborating on projects and having exciting new ideas that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to make happen. It’s fine working alone, but my ethos is that it’s all much more fun if we help and support each other and work together!
Thanks so much for your time Sara!
To contact Sara
Don't miss reading more in the 'Have you Met?' series
Interview 18- Maddy Carrick
Interview 17 Anja David
Interview 16 -Bridget Daley
Interview 15 -Karen Arthur
Interview 14 -Rebecca Trowbridge
Interview 13 -Angélina Jandolo
Interview 12 -Kelly Harris
Interview 11 -Sara Dalrymple
Interview 10 -Ciarán O'Fathaigh
Interview 9 -Elizabeth Knights Trench
Interview 8 -Aba Edwards-Idun
Interview 7 -Roxsanne Slatford
Interview 6 -Lara Pearce
Interview 5 -Ashanti Jason
Interview 4- Shannon Reed
Interview 3 -Claire Connor
Interview 2 -Becca Teers
Interview 1 -Cat Bateman
Singing for my Supper
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