Ten Years Later

  • Happy 10th Anniversary to KJP!

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!!!


xoxo, Katelyn
23 Comments Business, Personal
  1. Samantha Crawford reply

    Congratulations on 10 Years Katelyn! You are such an inspiration to others! Thinking of you and your family!

  2. Jill Gum reply

    Happy 10 years!!!! <3<3<3

  3. Elizabeth Gelineau reply

    Congratulations on 10 years!!! This post is so inspiring! Thank you for allowing us to share in your journey! <3

  4. Erin Schrad reply

    Happy Anniversary! Thanks for all you’ve given to the photography community in that time and the knowledge you have shared. When I found you online after the Sugar Shoot (thanks to being Facebook friends with Jared!), you became my doorway to a world where photographers networked and shared and befriended and taught one another. I hadn’t found that in the 8 years since I had attended photography school after college. I was pretty much resigned to being a hobbyist photographer at that point, having no idea how to break in to being a working photographer. And now… almost another 8 years later… I may not be running my own business full-time because of other career choices, but I am definitely on a path with photography that I am not sure I ever would have found without your influence. At the very least, I feel confident that being a full-time photographer is very much an option for me now should I choose to pursue it. I definitely didn’t feel that way 10 years ago. So, I’m so happy to know you and Michael – if even just a little bit! And I thank you, again, for the change you helped bring to my life!

  5. Mandy reply

    I’m so happy to hear that you don’t have any plans to stop shooting. I LOVE your education, and have bought ALL of your courses, but I still enjoy seeing the actual photography side of your business. I’ve followed a lot of other photographers because I enjoyed seeing their work and eventually the photography aspect of their business all but disappeared. I’m seven years into my photography journey and am feeling like I’ll never catch my big break, but I’ll always enjoy following along with yours!

  6. Deborah Zoe reply

    Congratulations on 10 years — what a great reflection on all that has happened and changed and grown!!

  7. Callie Lindsey reply

    You are the real deal!!! Congrats on an incredible decade! I adore you!

  8. Laura reply

    I discovered your website/education/blog sometime last summer, and I am sooooo thankful I did!!! Thank you for all that you do through your business Katelyn! I feel like such a fan girl for saying this (I am laughing at myself…), BUT if I ever get the opportunity to get back into my photography business, I want to model it after yours – giving God the glory, and focusing on building relationships so that we can share Christ with everyone we meet!!

    • Laura reply

      P.S. I SO wish I could have been a KJ bride…do you do anniversary shoots for non KJ brides? (Or maybe for honorary KJ brides who wish they could have been ;) ?

  9. Laura Katie reply

    Crazy to see how your work has changed from the beginning! Love watching you grow and learning from you! Happy 10th anniversary as a wedding photographer!

  10. Sharon reply

    Happy 10th anniversary! I’m confident in saying that YOU changed my photography journey from one that was once a hobby invaded by self-doubt and confusion to a healthy business where I’m learning and thriving in ways I never expected!
    I can’t wait to travel to the USA for your workshop to learn so much more. Thankyou for being so open and honest and offering amazing educational options for people like me who once never believed in herself …. until Katelyn James came into her life!!
    I can’t wait to meet you personally!! Bring on 2019!

  11. Tialyn reply

    I just love how you share your challenges and your wins. Your transparency is what drives me to pursue my dream. And I must say hearing you speak at United last year, (sharing your story on over prioritizing your hustle at the sacrifice of some family moments), made a difference in how I now pursue my dreams. You have been a blessing to me and my family in so many ways- starting with us having family dinners every night around our table because of your inspirational speech you gave at United, and the inspiration you continue to breathe through your blog and social media. Thanks KJ for choosing to use your business platform to make a difference! Happy 10 years!

  12. Amruta Bakre reply

    Everything about you is inspiring, I am not a photographer but I think abt what would Katelyn do in many of my life situations, thanks to instagram thru which I found u and thank you for inspiring! PS, if u ever plan to sell “The Katelyn James is my spirit animal” tee I wud buy it!!!

  13. Ten Years Later – Paula Le reply

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  14. Melanie reply

    Hi Katelyn,

    I absolutely LOVED reading this blog. I am not a photographer, but instead, an aspiring blogger. I truly admire your photography, but also want you to know that you’re an amazing writer, and a true inspiration to me all around! Hearing you reflect on 10 Years has made me picture where I might be in my tenth year of blogging! And man, I can’t wait to see where my path will lead me. Thank you for always sharing your experiences so openly and beautifully!


  15. Sarah Hayes reply

    Oh, Katelyn! I love this so, so much! It’s so crazy to me that 10 years ago I walked onto CNU’s campus and had the incredible pleasure of meeting you and the rest of the CNU IV crowd within just a few weeks. It was such a cool thing to watch your business grow and to have the pleasure of following you around for a whole semester and writing about your story!! Even though we’ve only been able to see each other in person once or twice since we both left CNU’s campus, I have absolutely loved continuing to follow along with you and Michael and now Evy and the short time you had with sweet baby James. And I’m so glad to hear you’re not going to stop shooting weddings any time soon, because it’s still a total dream to be a KJ Bride! ;) Happy 10 years!!

  16. NCVF reply

    A most sincere and heartfelt ‘Congratulations!!!’ to you and your team! I’ve enjoyed your work from across the ocean for about 7 years now, and it is a JOY to see what our God can do in and through the lives of those who love Him. Through it all, through all that has been, the good, the bad, the very difficult… you have chosen over and over again to allow Him to be your strength and to shine through you and your work. You are an example! May He continue to carry you, your family and KJP! To MANY more 10’s! =)

  17. Arturo Hughes reply

    Nothing really great happens overnight. All of the best photographers that I follow have all been perfecting their craft and their work as professionals for years and years. Congrats!

  18. Abigail Easley reply

    What an incredible story. I am a footographer and I have been taking pictures since I was 18 and now I just started my footography business last year!
    Hopefully, I can continue my business through the next adventure and see what the Lord has for me. :) Thanks for sharing your story!

  19. Tommy & Laurene reply

    Happy 10 year anniversary, Congratulations.

  20. vex 3 reply

    The bride and groom are beautiful, they are very nice couple, I like it very much

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