April 28, 2011 | Savvy Notes
What do you think of when you hear the word “sweet?” I think of cupcakes, chocolate and a few people actually make the list. Katelyn James is one of those people. She is sweet, kind and talented.
I first discovered her when Jasmine Star photographed Katelyn’s wedding. I followed the link and fell in love instantly. Her blog was very informative, beautiful to look at and written in a way that made me immediately think we were friends. I read her posts about her wedding, posts about weddings she photographed and posts about her life. I took a shot and emailed her with some questions. And just like her blog persona, she was very open and kind in her responses.
Even though I have never met her in person, I know she is the kind of person anyone would be friends with, including me! Her workshop this spring was aptly named The Sugar Shoot, and I can’t think of anyone else sweet enough to teach it!
Below is my interview with Katelyn. Be sure to check out her website, blog and follow her on twitter! You will be glad you did!
How long have you been a photographer?
Professionally, almost 3 years…I started playing around and learning about 5 years ago!
How did you get into this business?
I second shot a wedding for a friend and then booked 6 weddings that fall! Crazy! So I just kept going and investing in nicer equipment. I MADE myself learn how to shoot totally manually and really understand my camera. I gradually started to improve and I launched a website!
How would you describe your “style”?
Clean, crisp, bright! I love capturing genuine images but in an editorial style. So I want my couples to look happy and so in love…. but also like they just walked straight out of a magazine! I love that style and my brides LOVE that style too! I mean, what bride wouldn’t want to be in a magazine?!
What is your favorite thing about being a photographer?
Getting to love people and be a part of such an important part of their life. I recently shot a wedding for the younger brother of one of my past brides and his mom came up to me at the reception and said “Well, I don’t have anymore children to marry off….I guess I’ll just have to book a family session so we can see you again”. It melted my heart. My relationships with my clients mean so much to me, and I LOVE creating images for them that leave them speechless. I’m documenting and saving bits and pieces of their life for them to remember later! How awesome is that?!
What inspires you as a photographer?
When I see a bride walk up to view her “same-day” slideshow at her reception and then cover her mouth because she can’t believe how amazing she looks….. that inspires me. I also love layout design, interior design, magazines, anything old, LOVE, Pinterest, etc:)
What books or workshops have been the most helpful to you along the way?
I started following Jasmine Star before I ever knew I was going to have a photography business. She has taught me so much about my business and how to brand myself. I have also learned so much from Justin and Mary Marantz. I attended their workshop this year and it was actually my first workshop, EVER! I definitely recommend attending their Spread the Love tour! As far as books, I’m currently reading the E Myth Revisited and it’s awesome!
What has been your best marketing idea for your business?
My best marketing idea was to market ME. Instead of making my business all about pretty pictures, like most photographers… the focus is on who I am as a photographer and people can relate to that. By focusing my brand on me, not only did I get rid of competition, but I also created a client base of brides that wanted “Katelyn James” to shoot their wedding because they LOVE my brand.
You always have such great blog posts…how do you determine what you want to write about?
I wish I could say I have a super awesome way to be inspired when I write blog posts but I don’t. I just start writing and I try to write as if I was talking to someone. Therefore I use A LOT of exclamation marks and bolded words because in real life, I’m loud and obnoxious. So I write as if I’m telling someone this story in person. I include the squeals of excitement and everything! I want readers to relate to me and so I write about life…without sugar coating it. I admit failures, I show off my clients, I talk about my handsome husband and I explain that I’m a horrible cook! Readers can definitely relate to that and so I am continuing to find new ways to share some of my life as I market my business through my blog!
How many posts do you do a week?
I blog Monday through Friday. I normally have 5-6 posts per week.
Do you twitter? Facebook?
I have both and I think these are the two most essential tools to launching and growing a business these days!
What do you think makes your business so successful?
My blog. It’s my main form of marketing and I invest so much into it. I blog everyday and I attribute 80% of my business growth to that. The other 20% has come from word of mouth from past clients. I like to WOW my clients so that they can’t help but talk about my business. I’m a believer that things that deserve to get talked about…. will be talked about!
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
I received a hand written thank you note from a bride and it read “Katelyn, I was so nervous and unsure of myself on my wedding day…. but you made me look and feel like a queen and I can’t thank you enough for that. Being in front of your camera was the best decision I ever made. Thank you.” I bawled. This is my ultimate goal. I want my clients to see how amazing they are through my lens. I want my brides to see a certain shot of themselves on the back of my camera and think “Oh my gosh…. I look so good!”. So when this happens, I become an incredibly prideful photographer… in a good way.:)
Do you blog stalk? Who are your favorites?
Do I blog stalk?! What kind of a question is that?! Of COURSE!! Here are my favorites:
You shoot lots of beautiful weddings…what is your favorite part about photographing a wedding?
I love portrait time! It’s my favorite! I also love my time with all the girls in the morning! It’s so relaxing and that’s when I really get to know the bridal party!
How do you make the couple feel at ease on their big day?
I talk to them…. constantly. I am in control but praise them over and over again for being such an easy couple to photograph. I am never negative and always reassure them that they look incredible!
What is your best advice to other photographers who are just starting out in the wedding industry?
Be PASSIONATE enough to master your craft and be extremely PROFESSIONAL in every single area of your business. So many photographers are just starting out and they aren’t acting like professionals and it’s hurting the industry. Even if you’re a beginner, you can still be very professional with your web presence, your booking techniques and your branding. Being professional is a MUST to make it in this field! Also, be sure to consider what owning a small business consists of. I only shoot 15% of the time!! The rest of my work is editing and business management. So if just love taking pictures, that’s awesome! But that doesn’t mean you’re going to make it as a small business owner. I wish someone had warned me about that part when I first started! Lastly, have confidence in your business and have a blast! Even in the hard times, remember how lucky you are that you have a passion that is earning you money! How awesome!!
The Sugar Shoot looked like such a fun workshop…Tell us about your workshops…What inspired The Sugar Shoot?
I was sitting with a dear friend (college roommate, Britney) over lunch one day and I mentioned that I need inspiration for my Spring workshop. I wanted it to be unique and fun and BRIGHT. The candy store was Britney’s first idea and I ran with it!! I wanted my workshop to be styled to the max so that it felt like a stylized shootout, only with instruction. It was a blast and I thoroughly enjoy getting to connect with other awesome photographers!
When did you begin teaching other photographers?
I actually held a very basic workshop during college, about a year and a half around I officially launched the business. It was SO BASIC. I really had no reason to think that I could teach anything but the attendees said it was really helpful for them! It was definitely a big step for me! (The Sugar Shoot was 100x better!!!
How many workshops do you do per year?
My goal is 2 per year. One in early spring and one in late fall.
What can photographers expect to learn from one of your workshops?
Whew! This is a loaded question. We talk about everything from business basics to lighting to the 3 P’s of Posing! It’s a jam-packed day of shooting and teaching. You’ll just have to come see for yourself!!
What is your favorite part about teaching?
I love connecting with new photographers and letting them see that not all photographers are stingy with their information. Giving of my time and talent blesses me more than it ever blesses them. I enjoy getting to know so many new faces and share my knowledge with them!
When is your next workshop and where will it be?
It will most likely be in late fall and it will more than likely be in Richmond, Va again!
You are a newlywed…tell us about your wedding and your husband.
I loved every minute of my wedding. It was a dream! I was married on 10.10.10 in a country church that my husband and I grew up going to together. The reception was in a field behind my house, under a 6,000 sq ft tent! It was a vintage peacock themed wedding that probably had way too many details but I couldn’t help it! I loved designing my wedding. It was absolutely perfect and I wish I could relive it again and again!
How did you meet?
I met Michael when I was 2 yrs old, in the church nursery. We became best friends in middle school and then started dating in high school! We dated 8 years before we got married!! 10.10.10 was actually our exact dating anniversary so we kept the same anniversary forever!
How long have you been married?
7 months almost!
What was your favorite part of planning your wedding?
I loved my details! My parents called our basement the “Wedding Warehouse” and that was a very accurate name for it. It was filled with vintage birdcages, moss, candles, old jars, twigs, etc. I loved making details and designing displays that looked exactly like what I was envisioning!
Does your husband shoot with you?
He does on certain occasions!
Tell us a little about you…where are you from? Where do you live?
I’m originally from Caroline County, Va and now I’m a resident in Richmond, VA. We absolutely love where we are! Richmond is awesome!!
Tell us a little about your office space…
It’s my dream office. I have an office upstairs in our home and it’s painted a light teal with shabby chic furniture and a white Pottery Barn desk! What more could a girl want?! It’s decorated with old cameras, vintage frames (that look like my homepage on my website) and cottage styled accessories.
Where did you find inspiration for the decor?
I love color! Once I find my color, the rest normally falls into place. Sometimes I get inspiration from Arhaus, Pottery Barn and IKEA!
Is this where you meet your clients/brides?
Yes! Ideally I would meet all of my clients here. We have had a few meetings in my office in the past few months and I loved it!