I’ve been an admirer of Katelyn James’ for a while now. She’s a wedding photographer based out of Richmond, Virginia. Her style is fresh, classic, and colorful, and I am constantly pushed to improve just by seeing how beautiful wedding photography can be. I admire not only Katelyn’s work, but how open and honest she is on her blog, so much so that I kind of feel like we’re friends… even though we’ve never met. Is that weird? I think I realized just how deep this one-sided friendship went when I was out shopping one day and thought to myself, “Katelyn would really like those earrings.” Seriously Beth? Anyway, Katelyn hosts workshops for wedding photography twice a year and she is GIVING AWAY one seat to this Spring’s workshop to a photographer who shares their “story.” So here’s mine. I’ll warn you, it’s a bit of a long one!
I’m sometimes told that I was destined to be artistic. My dad went to school for architecture and runs a remodeling business and my mom is an artist. I grew up doing craft projects and art was my favorite class in elementary (and middle, and high) school. Somewhere around middle school, I started taking pictures of sunsets in my grandparents’ backyard on the Nansemond River. I became kind of obsessed with sunsets for a while, but eventually started taking pictures of other random things… flowers, animals, whatever. In high school I really became interested in the ART of photography. With my mom’s constant encouragement, I entered art shows and a few of my photographs were even hung on the wall at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk for a student art show (I think my mom is still a little jealous). I remember taking one photography class during the summer, and I was the “head photographer” for the yearbook staff my senior year. I thought about going to college for photography, but for whatever reason, I didn’t, and art/photography got thrown onto the back burner for a few years. UVA had some photography courses, but they were so popular that I was never able to enroll. My mom went so far as to suggest I contact the professor, just to see if I could squeeze in (there’s that contstant encouragement again).
Fast forward to 2008. My brother and his wife bought a DSLR and I think I mentioned to my boyfriend (now husband) that I thought I’d like to have one of those. He splurged and bought me a Nikon D40 that Christmas. I definitely shot everything on auto at first, and eventually thought I was super fancy when I started shooting in P mode. I think my first “portrait session” was of my husband’s two sisters, just for fun. There was really only one or two portrait-type images out of the bunch that I really liked at all (my favorite is below). Mostly, they were awful. BUT I had fun.
I did take some more artistic shots while we were at it, because that’s what felt more familiar to me at the time.
While most of the images looked horrible and I wasn’t sure why (I didn’t understand lighting at all!), I realized that I enjoyed it and kept going. I took some pictures of my roommate and her brother and sister. Of my newborn nephew. Of friends. Of my cat. Whoever was willing, I took pictures of, and I found that each time, I was happy with a few more images than last time. I’m not quite sure when it happened, but eventually people started ASKING me to take pictures of them. One turning point was when a friend asked me to do their engagement pictures. I was THRILLED and they loved the pictures. I can look back now and see that I’ve learned a lot since then, but there was something about taking pictures of a couple that I loved. It’s not just about capturing individual personalities, but also about capturing a RELATIONSHIP.
In 2009 I attended a wedding where my husband was in the wedding party. At the reception, I snapped pictures of the centerpieces, the cake, decorations, etc. etc. etc. and had so much fun being creative with the shots. Thankfully I didn’t do that “take every picture over the hired photographer’s shoulder” thing, but mostly stayed out of the way. I posted some pictures on Facebook and was surprised when the bride asked if she could have the images and even said “Some of them are better than what my photographer got.” My (now) husband, who had joined the “Beth Photography Fan Club” by then, definitely gave me an “I told you so.” I think this is about when I started to realize that maybe my mom was right all along.
A family I know asked me to photography their daughters’ wedding in December 2010, even after I told them I had NEVER done that before. I’m so relieved that they were happy with the pictures! I was asked by another family I know to photograph a wedding in September 2011, and again, they had faith in me even after I told them I’d only photographed ONE wedding before! I’d gotten more comfortable with my camera since the 2010 wedding, and really enjoyed this one rather than just being a giant ball of nerves. It was on the beach at 12:30 in the afternoon on a SUPER sunny day, so the lighting wasn’t ideal, but I just embraced the bright sun and did what I could, and was actually pretty happy with the results. Apparently so were others, because I started getting more inquiries about weddings. This past fall was VERY busy with portrait sessions and I feel like I grew a LOT and learned so much (even though I have a LONG way to go!). I’m happy to say that I have 7 weddings booked for 2012! I know I need to PRACTICE, and I plan to do as much second shooting this year as I can. I read a lot that you shouldn’t even THINK about shooting a wedding solo until you had second shot a LOT. I think that’s great advice, but this is just how it happened for me. I’m certainly no expert and I’m not saying this is how others should do it. Right or wrong, there’s no way I’d be where I am today without God’s provision or the support of those who believed in me when I wouldn’t dare hope that something like this was possible.
Katelyn is a huge believer that wedding photography is not just about showing up on the wedding day and taking amazing pictures. It’s about the EXPERIENCE. I couldn’t agree more. I want my clients to feel special and loved throughout the whole process. I wouldn’t say that I’m a people pleaser necessarily, but I LIKE doing a good job. It gives me satisfaction and joy. I love Katelyn’s philosophy and feel like it fits me as a person. It’s definitely the direction I want to take my business!
I also admire how Katelyn uses her business as a platform for the gospel. Anyone who reads her blog regularly knows that she loves Jesus and isn’t afraid to show it! She has really been an inspiration to me by leading by example and letting Jesus shine through her in the industry. I want God to be glorified in all parts of my life, so why not my photography??
Katelyn’s workshop is exactly what I need right now. I’m at the very beginning stages of building my business. I started a blog last month, which has been a goal for quite a while. I designed a logo (woo hoo!). But I have a long way to go! This would be such an amazing way to get me off on the right foot. I’ve also come to realize that it is kind of difficult to break into the world of wedding PHOTOGRAPHERS. I recognize the need for building relationships with other photographers, but its kind of scary! It’s so intimidating to be a beginner! There are one or two photographers that have been so generous with answering my questions and giving advice, not to mention agreeing to let me second shoot for them. However, I am in desperate need of some face to face photographer time! I can look back and see how my style is starting to develop, how I’m learning about lighting, etc., but some hands on learning and advice would do me so much good! I can’t think of a better person to learn from than Katelyn. She challenges and encourages me in my photography, in my business, and in my walk with Jesus… even though we’ve never met. :)