The Splendid Five with a Southern US-based Wedding Photographer

The Splendid Five asks the same five questions of a different wedding or creative professional each Friday.

This week we're meeting Donna Von Bruening, a luxury wedding photographer who produces sincere, compelling images focused on emotion and relationships.

Name: Donna Von Bruening
Company Name: Donna Von Bruening Photographers
Wedding Industry Segment: Photography
Years in Industry: 19 years
Location: Based in Savannah, GA, United States, but travel the South
Instagram: @DonnaVonBruening
Twitter: @DonnaVB

1. How did you get started in the wedding industry?

I have a journalism degree from The Ohio State University and learned the art of photography working for the daily 52-page paper. After a 5-year career in medical public relations, I started working for a luxury studio in Cleveland, Ohio. When I married and moved South, I opened by own studio. Looking back, I am little shocked at how easy it was to begin and quickly gain success. 

2. How has the industry changed since you started?

How has it changed? Every single facet has changed. From where I started, the industry is unrecognizable. For my first ten years, I photographed everything in medium format film because, well, digital did not exist. No digital DSLRs. No internet. No websites. No social media. Not many wedding planners. You made a few sample books and walked them around to clubs and hotels to get referrals. Wedding planners were few and far between. Weddings were cleaner, more simple and more about the people. Because the industry was small, the sense of community was more prevalent. Change has brought so many good things but also leaves me a little nostalgic at times. 

3. What was the biggest lesson you learned early on in your business?

Money. Learn it. Every cent of it. You cannot be truly successful if the balance in your checkbook is the only number you use to make business decisions.

4. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in the past few years?

I wouldn’t say I learned this in the past few years but it is the lesson I keep coming back to again and again: Stay in your own lane. Focus on your style, your strengths, and ignore the rest, including your competition. You define your own success but you cannot do that if you are looking at your neighbor all the time.

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5. What one piece of advice would you give to another entrepreneur on sticking it out in a competitive industry?

See #4 and #3.