I’ve walked down the long…. VERY long halls of WPPI as a newbie… as a fan girl… and as a speaker. Every year is different in its’ own way. This year was my second year speaking and walking down the halls felt familiar. I wasn’t quite as nervous, I wasn’t a newbie and I think I’ve graduated from my fangirl phase. Michael, Buddy, Jill and I have had a saying the past 5 years during WPPI where we would yell out “YAHTZEE” whenever we saw a “big name” photog in the hall. I mean obviously we wouldn’t scream it… but we would say it under our breath to each other whenever we passed someone we followed. Such nerds. We STILL do that to this year but this year I didn’t have anyone to say it back to me and that was honestly the only disappointing part of our trip.

Besides missing our best travel pals, we had an amazing week. I entered WPPI this year with no expectations. I just wanted to speak and impact people through my platform talk and that was all I was focused on.

Year after year I have walked the halls of this massive conference and I have felt SO small….. so inferior…. almost out of place. Even last year as a speaker I felt like this just wasn’t my scene. Maybe it’s Vegas…. maybe it’s the THOUSANDS of photographers passing me in the halls….maybe it’s the smokey casinos that make me lose my voice…. or maybe it was just the nerves. WPPI is a fun conference but I think everyone… except the big time speakers… feel a little weird at times. It’s almost like I needed to be validated… maybe I just needed to be told “hey! You’re good! You’re a LEGIT photographer and you belong here.” I’m not sure what was missing. I think I have convinced myself over the years that there is this ultimate “level” to break through in this industry. I see the Jasmine’s, the Jerry Ghionis’s, the Susan Striplings and I think “Now THEY are at that level” and I just know that I’ll never get there. But this year I had a BREAK THROUGH!!!

a Serious break through!!!

This year Michael and I checked into our hotel and then walked over to the conference center with Matt and Carissa to look at our rooms for our Platform talks and that’s when I saw it. The registration booth….. WPPI’s MAIN REGISTRATION BOOTH! The booth that almost every photographer has to stop by…. the booth that I have viewed as my ULTIMATE BILLBOARD GOAL….. this booth had not ONE… but TWO of my images….. printed LIFE SIZE!!!!!!

My initial reaction was covering my mouth and muffling “Oh my gosh.”. My second reaction was “I need a selfie with these things!!!!!” and my third reaction is what will really shock you……

My Third reaction was “Oh my gosh… I photoshopped Sarah’s hand in this image. OH NO…. oh my!” I LITERALLY remember thinking “I mean, no one can tell, it’s not like this will be blown up LIFE SIZE!!!”. Well sure enough, it’s the one image that WPPI, the largest photography conference in the country, decided to blown up life size.  What the heck?! Just my luck right?!!! You can visibly see where the cuff links on her cardigan don’t match up exactly. Oh my gosh… how embarrassing!

As hilarious and embarrassing as this was…. this initiated my break through. My “ah-ha” moment consisted of 5 different parts:

  1. Never say never. The one image you say “this will never get blown up” may just be on display for an entire conference one day.
  2. If you’re going to save a shot and photoshop one piece of the image because the rest of the image is too good to toss, take your TIME. gah.
  3. Having an image LIFE SIZE on the registration booth at WPPI is fun!
  4. Having an image LIFE SIZE on the registration booth at WPPI with a photoshop issue is also humbling.
  5. There IS NO ULTIMATE, UNREACHABLE LEVEL. That is something that I have perceived to be true but it’s false. If a 27 year old with ZERO formal training, who started her business in her DORM ROOM and who is STILL figuring stuff out can have a LIFE SIZE, messed up portrait on display at WPPI, there is hope for ANYONE!

Ya know what the crazy thing is. I think some people think I’m at “that level”. I think some photographers think that we’ve “made it”. This is my BREAKTHROUGH from WPPI 2015…. “Making it” looks different for everyone. I have decided that my “making it” has nothing to do with a poster at the registration table that is now in the dumpster behind a hotel in Vegas. I’ve decided that “Making it” for me looks like impacting people’s lives. Whether they are photographers we have coached or couples we have captured… I want them to see that we love them, that we care about them and that our purpose is rooted in something much deeper than digital photos…. it’s rooted in Jesus. Take it or leave it … it’s the truth for me. Ultimately, the way I serve and love people is what drives the success of my business. Large, life sized posters are fun and exciting but they are temporary. LITERALLY. My posters are in the TRASH right now. People over pictures… always. :)

So how was my WPPI experience this year? AWESOME and eye opening!! I hope everyone struggling with worth, value and reaching their “next level” will re-evaluate after reading this. And if you know of someone who is struggling in this area, share it!!! Enjoy some of our WPPI highlights in images! Huge thanks to Justin, Matt and Anna for my speaking pics!

 There it is! One of my favorite couples of all time and one of my favorite engagement shots of all time! …. with two cufflinks! :) I love it!

 Not only did they use two shots at Registration, Buddy and Jill were ALL OVER the place!! This was THEIR YEAR and they weren’t even there to see it! ha! Also, it was so fun to see our new site by Jen Olmstead all over the Showit Booth!! 

The amazing Mary Marantz introduced me at my talk and I was honored…. and turning red the whole time because of the sweet things she said. So thankful for her! 

 Scary big room for me! 

xoxo, Katelyn
31 Comments Business, Speaking
  1. Rici reply

    Way to go Katelyn! Hope to hear you speak one day ;)

  2. Tina Worley reply

    I have loved watching your journey ever since Brittnie chose you (& Amanda Verone) for her wedding in August 2012.

    You are such an inspiration! I’m sure Brittnie is on your email list, but sometimes I feel you are talking directly to her (and sometimes me!) so I will forward your posts to her.

    You are genuine — and that’s awesome!
    Smiles — Tina Worley

  3. Kari Tench reply

    I love this. I LOVE how down to earth and humble you aways are. This post made me laugh! Because, that’s just how life truly is. It’s perfectly imperfect. XO!

  4. Sydni Jackson reply

    Wow, that is so awesome that your images are everywhere – you have definitely “made it” in many people’s eyes, including mine!! Congrats girl!! You deserve it :)

  5. Rachael Oerther reply

    Your heart is just the best. Grateful to call you a leader in our industry Katelyn!

  6. Nicole Salter reply

    Haha I probably would have hijacked the life size posters if they were my images! SO wish I could have been there to listen to you speak. One day, girl! Bet you did FAB!

  7. Lauren Young reply

    You’re the best, Katelyn! Thank you for YEARS of candid, real blog posts that fuel and energize those of us that are struggling through the early and lonely days of starting a business. This might be my favorite of all time. You’re a blessing to so many!

  8. Amanda reply

    Just a small note to this incredible post. I have a few photographers that i “follow”, read regularly and am inspired by. I want you to know, i ranked you amongst Jasmine all along. Essentially, in my eyes – you are successful – not just in the business, but in the happiness and fullfillment of photography itself.

  9. Kristina W. reply

    Congratulations Katelyn! That’s so awesome and I’m so excited for you! :D Those are bigger than life size! :D Glad you had a great time at WPPI!

  10. Shaina Koren reply

    I absolutely love this post. I feel like “making it” is not something we should ever feel about ourselves. There will always be another goal – something else to accomplish or a feeling that we need. I think this is such a representation of how its SO important to appreciate the journey that it takes to get to those milestones! These life-size photos are fantastic and I can only imagine how it felt seeing them in person :) Keep spreading your love and talent. Love you guys!

  11. Tash reply

    So so so proud of you Katelyn. Love your heart and sweet spirit!

  12. Cinnamon reply

    Two funny observations that I think you might appreciate. I am a WPPI newbie and I checked in at those very booths and I don’t even remember seeing photos there! HA! I was so excited to just be there and to see YOU speak that I didn’t even notice that your pictures were plastered everywhere. HA! And 2nd, I see the side of my face in a photo above. I’ve made it big time!! I’m on the KJ blog!! Yippee!! Love you girl and your transparency. People over pictures and team Jesus!! Love you!!

  13. jamie delaine reply

    love this katelyn. thanks for sharing.

  14. hannah elise reply

    Thanks for being so honest and vulnerable — “people over pictures”..YES. needed this reminder!!

  15. Jacinthe reply

    Aww, loved this Katelyn! And love your heart and passion for Jesus and others! Will be sharing this post – as you recommended. ;)

  16. Jenna DiPrima reply

    I really enjoyed this post, thank you for writing and sharing it! It’s so easy for me to want to “make it” to a certain level and while that’s not bad, this post was a great reminder to me that the most important thing to me is to love others well and to point them to Christ! I have been following your blog since 2011 and it’s been a joy to watch your journey and your success.

    Thank you and I hope to meet you some day! :)

  17. Christin reply

    Such a great reminder!

  18. Abby Grace reply

    I’m so proud of you Katelyn! You’ve come so far in the years I’ve been following you, I’ve loved watching you blow up in the photo world :).

  19. jaime reply

    You defintely have “made it” in my book Katelyn because I know you have impacted my life and inspired me and I know you have for many other photographers! XOXO

  20. Alison reply

    That is hilarious! AND I love everything you said! Couldn’t agree more! AND love your haircut! :) Miss you guys!

  21. Carissa Kennedy reply

    Our favorite year so far! It was SO FUN seeing your photos EVERYWHERE!!! Love watching how you have taken advantage of these opportunities that God has given you to be a shining light in our industry!

  22. Tate reply

    I’m emotional, I just cried! “People over pictures.” Thank you for always sharing your heart and being humble.

  23. ashley link reply

    Get it, girl! :)

  24. Joee reply

    You are just so awesome… You have such a big heart and I’m so grateful I was able to learn from you!!! Also, I’ve been studying those pics and still don’t see the photoshop error hahaha but anywho.. I wanna be you when I grow up.. ;) Thanks for being such an inspiration, Katelyn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love ya!

  25. KT reply

    Just a note – your headline is misspelled! Sometimes your website has grammatical blunders, but your pictures usually distract me from them. ;) Good work!

  26. Natalie reply

    My boss, my co-worker and I are very big fans of yours! I don’t know if you remember us but we were the 3 ladies that spoke to you after your class and said hi in accidental harmony. We totally had a fan girl moment when we saw you, Michael, Matt and his wife walking together. We walked passed Y’all in the hall way and we got so excited we quickly looked at the ground because we didn’t want you too see our huge, excited, creepy smiles. Once Y’all walked passed us, we looked at each other and said Oh My God did you see them, their all together!!! We will definitely have to come up with a secret word next year! We love seeing you speak every year and every year you inspire us!

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