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Ten Years Later

Happy 10th Anniversary to KJP!

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Can you believe it? Ten years…. it has been a DECADE since I bought a little Canon Rebel xti and started taking pictures of my college friends around campus. It’s been ten years since I had a dream of actually charging someone for portraits and learning how to shoot completely manually. It’s been a decade of learning, growing, and working REALLY…. REALLY… REALLY hard. Sometimes when people find me online for the first time, I’ll receive questions like….

“How did you get so popular so fast??” ….. That’s such a funny question because it seems like they think that this happened overnight! I will admit, I grew quickly from the very beginning… but nothing was overnight. Our success in business came at a cost. I spent several years in pure, 100% HUSTLE mode. I was shooting almost EVERY weekend…. I had sessions on week nights…. Michael never saw me our first year of marriage… I had my laptop open during Thanksgivings with my family….. I sacrificed memories with college roommates in order to get blog posts up fast. I can’t say that I’m proud of that hustle. I think I could have achieved my same success that I have today at a slightly slower pace if I had turned down the hustle a little bit!!!

I had years of over-doing it and years of having a healthy routine. I had years of incredible success and a few years where I questioned if I was really happy. I have had moments of confidence and moments of doubt. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve also had brilliant business ideas. I found my style and I’ve stayed true to it. I’ve compared myself to others and I also almost stripped all of the GREENS out of my edits before realizing that my color makes me stand out. I have cried over the stress that this business created, and I’ve also cried tears of thankfulness for the financial blessing that it provided while I had to stop working during our season of losing James. I have learned what it means to be burnt out, and I have learned what it feels like to thrive in a season of balance. I have seen God use my creative gifts to draw people closer to Himself. I have witnessed the power of images when clients message me about the loss of a loved one who I captured just weeks before they passed. I have captured hundreds of tears, kisses, and dances. I have helped bustle dozens and dozens of dresses. I  have traveled to far off lands to capture destination weddings of my dreams. I have photographed weddings for free for couples who hit a soft place in my heart. I have witnessed dozens of changes in social media and marketing approaches in the last ten years. I have photographed both my brother’s AND my sister’s weddings. I have photographed two wedding seasons pregnant with my babies growing inside of me. I have grown an educational program that blows my mind. I have allowed worry and the scarcity mindset to sometimes steal my joy. I have experienced both the gift and the strain of working with your spouse full time. I have hired my mom, sister, husband, sister-in-law, and multiple contracted workers. I have reached goals I never ever thought that I could reach. I have been blessed with friends and teachers who shared their knowledge with me along the way and have helped me grow and believe in my abilities. I have taught over 6,000 photographers through our online courses and KJ ALL ACCESS. Over the last ten years, by the grace and power of God, I have built a business that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams.

I am so thankful.

When I think back on this past decade, I can’t help but think about those of you who have been a part of the journey since the VERY beginning. Some of you have been following my story since before I was even engaged to Michael. You have literally walked through some of the greatest seasons of my life with me and you have also watched me experience the most devastating seasons as well. I may not know you and I may never meet you, but I want you to know this…… you have been a blessing to me and my family. Thank you for following our story. Thank you for believing in me and for getting excited about what I was creating. Thank you for being invested and interested. Michael and I are so thankful for you and your love for our little family.

I was thinking about this post and what I wanted it to be. I have no idea how to fit TEN YEARS of highlights into one post. It seems kind of impossible to do that!!! However, I can show you a few DRASTIC Before and Afters that will make it very obvious how much I have improved over the last decade!!! At the time that I shot these, they were my BEST work!! I have come a long way!

My work has gradually changed throughout the last ten years. It’s brighter, sharper, more well thought out in terms of composition, and I have tried to maintain a consistent style of bold color and medium contrast. I love it when my images have POP but don’t have so much contrast that they look too “heavy” in the shadows!

Over the past decade, I’ve realized more and more what goes into creating a specific style of your own. It’s not as simple as just deciding what you like. You have to see EVERYTHING through a collection of filters! I have dozens of “KJ FILTERS” that I see the world through and that has been the main contributing factor to my consistent growth in style and image quality!!!

The best part about this technical side of business growth is that as I’ve grown, I’ve documented the process of how I have taught myself these techniques and now I get to share them with other photographers!! One of the greatest joys of my business right now is logging into Facebook and seeing thread after thread of KJ Students sharing their victories!!! Whether our students are in the KJ Consistency Course, KJ Posing Course, KJ Lighting and Locations Course or KJ ALL ACCESS,  they are being exposed to the secrets of how I transformed my work from the images above to the images below!!!!

These images are just a small fraction of my portfolio from recent years. I had to stop myself from posting 150 favorites!! Even after a DECADE, I still get excited about my best images and what I’ve captured!!! I think that is proof that I still have a lot of photography-life left in me!! A lot of our peers in the industry stopped shooting around this time in their business and moved on to other things. For us, we love our online education but we will still be shooting weddings for a long time. We may not be shooting 40+ weddings a year, but we are actively booking and shooting the perfect number of weddings that our family schedule can allow for!

As I look back on the past ten years, I’m thankful for the growth in my technical skills, but I’m also grateful that my business has grown and changed as my family has grown and changed. It has been the greatest blessing to have a team and systems that could run when our world was falling apart this past spring. Losing a child meant that we stopped everything. We had several months where I couldn’t do more than just survive being pregnant, and the business just kept going.

I have seen God’s hand in this business more times than I can count. If I tried to list out all of the ways He’s allowed my love for photography to be used for His Glory it would take all day to read. He has brought so many clients, other photographers, and new friends into our lives through KJP.  I’m humbled at the thought that this little idea I had in college could be affecting people in a much greater way than just delivering pretty pictures and teaching a few tips and tricks.

I really don’t know how to end this. How do you put a pretty little bow on a TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY blog post?! I think I’m at a loss for how to end this post because the journey isn’t over yet. I think God still has big ideas for this little business of ours. I don’t think we’re even close to being done, and while we don’t always know what we’re going to walk through, we will continually hand this business over to the Lord for as long as he allows us to have it.

To those who have been our greatest supporters for years and years, THANK YOU. For those who have just recently found us through the story of our precious son’s life, welcome and I hope our story gives you encouragement. For those who have prayed for us and have walked through many seasons with us, we are so grateful for you. The internet gets a bad wrap sometimes, but in our experience it’s full of a lot of incredibly sweet and supportive people, and we are thankful for you!!!

HAPPY TEN YEARS KATELYN JAMES PHOTOGRAPHY!!!!!!!

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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