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Student Spotlight

December 2020

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Welcome to December’s Student Spotlight!! It’s a new month and we have new photographers to celebrate!! I’m so thankful for them and for their willingness to give of their time and share their stories!!!

MEET COURTNEY:

Courtney is one of our most active students in our KJ Education Group on Facebook. We have absolutely loved getting to know her and we’re so proud of all that she’s been accomplishing in her business. Like many business owners, she’s experienced up’s and down’s of business. What I love about Courtney is that when she’s stuck, she’s not afraid to share about where she is and she’s willing to fight to figure out what needs to happen to make something change. Recently, in a Business Collection Zoom call that I host monthly for our students in that course, Courtney shared about what she was experiencing in regards to booking and I was so proud of her for being willing to share and speak up because it’s so helpful to other photographers!!! That is the beauty of sharing in a community!! Thank you Courtney for being a part of KJ Education!!!!! Read more about her booking experience and how she discovered what needed to change!!!! So excited for her!

What has recently happened in your business that has made you step back and go “Oh my gosh! That just happened?!”

Oh goodness, it is incredibly difficult for me to “brag” about this but I do want to share my story to encourage other photographers out there! Recently, for the first time, I felt an overwhelming sense of attainment and arrival. Like all the hard work had finally paid off! I was overcome with shock that I sat back in my chair for a moment like “No way. Is this a dream?”
On a Zoom call with Katelyn in October, we discussed my business’ situation: I was getting inquiries from couples where I felt we just weren’t a good fit and the ones that I really wanted to book were ghosting me! KJ helped me determine that I was most likely in “The Pricing Dead Zone” and suggested that I shift my prices. I told her how nervous and scared I was but promised I would leave them for at least six months.
Not even a month later, a dream bride inquired and booked within HOURS at my dream venue! Not only that, they want to have a destination engagement at the vacation spot they love to visit! PLUS, the couple wants me to come back the day after their wedding for a “Morning-After” session in their PJs at the venue! I mean, is this a dream?? I mean, this couple is going all out and those are the clients I have dreamed of booking!
So as of now, I have booked three weddings at my new price point and have the same number of weddings for 2021 as I did this year and it’s not even engagement season yet!! I pray this momentum continues to build and my business grows to a point where I can confidently make the jump to full-time!

What part of your KJ Education experience has impacted you the most?

It is quite difficult for me to pin-point one aspect of my KJ Education journey that has impacted me the most because every ounce I have received from KJ has been the greatest gift to my business. The KJ Business Collection has allowed me to have intimate Zoom calls to discuss individual questions and this is what ultimately made the moment above a reality!  But the KJ Posing Course was my first course two years ago and is still one that I cherish the most because, to be honest, it makes me awesome to be around haha!  I can shake any nerves my couples have before their e-shoot, I can confidently tell any groom “I promise, you will actually enjoy portrait time” and can make up time on a wedding day creating so much variety in 10 minutes with the Posing Evolution. It is so much more than just posing and took my experience to a whole new level!

If you could sit down with a photographer that feels incredibly defeated and discouraged, what would you say to help them? Is there a story of overcoming and victory in your own story that you could share?

Courtney’s Personal Enemy #1:  Comparison.  Over the past three years, I have watched others grow faster than me in terms of numbers — followers, likes, weddings booked, etc. My slow growth was certainly discouraging and I, too, felt the Imposter Syndrome. But I continually remind myself that I am on my own journey and to be patient. Concentrate on YOUR intentions, not theirs. And it ultimately saved me! 

From the very start, I chose to set my intentions and focus on QUALITY, not quantity. I never wanted to overbook myself so I could focus on each wedding and prepare for them individually and never get burnt out. I wanted to create my own systems and processes for my business so I wasn’t a hot mess! Plus, fewer weddings allowed me to go above and beyond for my couples and create raving fans. I focused more on education than equipment so that I had the knowledge to create an experience like no one else in my area. (‘cause your clients can’t tell the difference between a photo with an 85mm 1.8 vs the 1.4 anyway!)

And as I reflect on my journey up to this point, my business’ growth has been slower than those around me but now I see it as more of an “exponential growth” with a slow start, building on its momentum and I get the feeling it’s about to take off! 

To the discouraged and defeated photographer, here is my non-tech-related advice:  Do You. Be on your own journey. Be patient as you build your business and your confidence. Set your intentions, enjoy the process. And for pete’s sake, quit watching what other people are doing!

My mindset shift has done wonders for my business and mentality, and it will do the same for you! So stay hungry, stay focused and be patient. Hard work DOES pay off, I promise!

FOLLOW COURTNEY: Website, Instagram

 

MEET SAMANTHA:

I’m so excited for you guys to meet Samantha! She’s such a gem and she’s also brilliant!!!! Samantha is one of our students but she is also passionate about helping photographers understand and grow through using Facebook Ads in their business! She hasn’t been a wedding photographer for very long but you would never know it by looking at her beautiful work! I love her bright and bold colors and vibrant tones in her work! Samantha has a heart for people and it shows in how she runs both sides of her business! I’m thrilled that she’s being featured today and can’t wait for you to get to know her a bit more!!!

 

What has recently happened in your business that has made you step back and go “Oh my gosh! That just happened?!”

So many things! My husband and I recently photographed a proposal of another photographer who has been following us on social media for months, as well as learning from me in my Facebook Ads education group. She had been hinting at her now-fiance to have us photograph it when he decided to propose, and he really made it happen! But what was truly amazing was the moment that she saw me come out from the bushes and started crying all over again because I was really there. It was so sweet and I was blown away at how excited she was to have us, specifically, there to capture that moment!!

What part of your KJ Education experience has impacted you the most?

KJ All Access for sure! When I first started wanting to venture into weddings, no one that I reached out to in my local area was super willing to let me tag along with them as an assistant or shadow them to get to know what weddings were like. It got to the point where I decided enough was enough, if no one would let me assist (for free!), then I would just dive right in on my own. I watched months of KJ All Access leading up to my first wedding, and I went in feeling so prepared and confident. And it worked! That wedding went so amazingly, and I still get bookings off those images today, even at 5x the price I was charging then!

If you could sit down with a photographer that feels incredibly defeated and discouraged, what would you say to help them? Is there a story of overcoming and victory in your own story that you could share?

This year has been an incredibly hard year for everyone. Everyone. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. Just know that your time is coming. The number of times I have questioned my worth, wondered if people even like what my photos or care about what I have to say in the education space, and the number of times I have almost quit and shut down everything because I felt so discouraged is more than I’d like to admit. But if I didn’t keep pushing or invest in myself and my education, I wouldn’t be where I am today – charging $5k+ in my wedding photography business only 3 years in and with a Facebook community of 20,000+ photographers. Your couples need you to push through this tough time and thrive, because you make a difference in their lives – more than you know! So keep pushing. Don’t give up.

FOLLOW SAMANTHA: Website

MEET ANNIE:
One thing that I absolutely love about this Student Spotlight series is showcasing photographers with all different styles and all different editing preferences! Annie’s work looks nothing like the work you just saw from Courtney and Samantha but it’s still incredibly beautiful!! I love her soft, romantic, fine art look and I’m so thankful that she was willing to be featured!! One of the most important things I think that photographers should pay attention to is Annie’s response to the first question and the last question! I’m so proud of her mindset and how she’s been able to pivot and grow even in the midst of a challenging year professionally and a tragic year personally. I’m heartbroken for her and the loss of her father. I can’t imagine that kind of pain. I’m thankful she’s sharing about her journey because in the midst of a year like 2020, there are so many people hurting and grieving who need encouragement. Thank you Annie for sharing not only your business journey but your life with us.

What has recently happened in your business that has made you step back and go “Oh my gosh! That just happened?!”

This year, I was sure that due to the pandemic and the wedding industry struggling, I would have a horrible year of little to no work and drown financially. To my great surprise, mini portrait sessions became increasingly popular as they were safe and quick and easy… and God blessed me with over 40 smaller sessions since the summer. These sessions kept my business going during Covid and provided me with a creative outlet during an otherwise emotionally draining year. It was incredible to see the joy on client’s faces when they had a great time and loved the results! I could tell that everyone needed a spot of normalcy and happiness because of 2020. This, to me, was the biggest success of the year.

What part of your KJ Education experience has impacted you the most?

I could talk all day about the technical skills I’ve gathered and learned from KJ Courses, All Access, and more, but I genuinely believe that the KJ community experience has impacted me the most. Through this network, I’ve met countless beautiful souls that inspire me and push me and encourage me. I’d like to talk specifically about Rene Powell. Rene is a wedding photographer based in Nashville that I met earlier this year when searching for a second shooter at a few local 2020 weddings. To my utmost joy and surprise, she was a complete God send and I ended up hiring her for the rest of my Nashville weddings this year. Having both taken Katelyn James courses, we seamlessly worked together on lighting, composure, people skills, and more. Her images were an absolute pleasure to edit, because the things we have learned are so cohesive. Without KJ and that community, I would never have met Rene!

If you could sit down with a photographer that feels incredibly defeated and discouraged, what would you say to help them? Is there a story of overcoming and victory in your own story that you could share?

If you are feeling discouraged, I’d like to share something with you.

I’m not actually on the other side of my story yet.

Earlier this year, during the pandemic, my father passed away from cancer and kidney failure. I am 23 years old, and we were incredibly close. My heart has been shattered into a million pieces and the grief has been almost too much to bear.

On top of the insane year, my family has been walking through this loss and the daily sting of missing him. 

I’ve been waiting for a brilliant moment, for a day when I wake up and say, Oh, I’m done now! I can move on and feel better! 

But it’s not here yet. 

The truth is, I’m not sure it ever will get here.

Grief, like so many other things in life, takes time. It is not a linear process… but instead, an ever changing roller coaster. One day you may feel very grounded and whole, and the next you can be thrown into a whirlwind of pain and confusion. 

I believe that everyone’s story is unique and their pain is specific to their life. As Katelyn and Michael said once at Showit United… mountains are mountains and valleys are valleys. Your personal story is not greater or worse than someone else’s. What matters, is how we choose to respond. AND, how we choose to then encourage others around us.

The most meaningful interactions this year for me were times that friends just sat and listened. Opened their heart to me and let me cry, laugh, and mourn over my Dad’s passing.

If you are feeling downtrodden in your business, discouraged, or maybe like me, extremely affected by personal circumstance… I encourage you to do the following. 

Seek out the people that will lift your heart by listening. Not telling you what to do, but coming alongside you to whisper truth and love you. Find community that is truly about trust and having each other’s back- like my friend Rene. She only met me this year through KJ, but she ministered to me each time she second shot for me at a wedding by her faithful work. 

Like I said earlier, I’m not on the other side of my story yet. But the truth is, maybe there is no other side… our lives are just one beautiful and messy journey. Yours is unique, precious, and worthy of telling. Find someone today to share your heart with.. and maybe in turn, they’ll feel ministered to by you as well. 

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FOLLOW ANNIE: Website, Instagram

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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