This post is a long one… a personal one… and one that I’ve been excited to share. I’m just gonna be real honest with ya for a minute (okay, I lied… it’s longer than a minute). I have started this post one hundred and one times… I’m having trouble finding the right words for the experience that I had at The Workshop Experience with Katelyn James. For anyone that knows me, I’m a pretty openly emotional person. I tend to be pretty vulnerable because how else can you really connect with someone other than feeling their emotions? Anyways… The Workshop Experience was so many things: eye opening, warm, friendly, close-knit, comfy, helpful, mind blowing, creative, surprising… I could go on… but overall, the two days I spent in the home of Katelyn, her husband, Michael, their cute dog, Bokeh, and the eleven other women who traveled near and far to be there was… LIFE CHANGING.
A little back story…
I’ve been into photography since I was a little kid. I got my first camera at 15 and became obsessed with viewing the world differently. I’ve been told I have a “good eye” but I could never really comprehend what that meant. I thought everything I did was “normal”. I’ve been told my photography makes people happy and feel emotion. All of those things make ME happy and excited to be a photographer. But when I first started taking photography more seriously, I started researching everything I could about topics and ideas I wanted to know more about, asking questions, but ultimately feeling somewhat alone with tons of questions that I felt like would never get answered. I didn’t know who to ask or who would be willing to help me. It seemed like it was “everyone out for themselves” in the industry and it was hard to push past the negativity of certain people telling me that “it just depends” or “it’s just personal preference” for any question I had. I was getting nowhere. I was frustrated. I didn’t know where to start or if I could make anything happen. Coincidently, in my time of need, my sister, Erica messaged me one day and said “check this girl out… I think you’ll like her stuff!”
It’s been a few years since my introduction to KJ and I’ve been a loyal follower ever since. I’ve long admired her photography style, blog posts, and how she shares tips and ideas with the community. She keeps it real! I saw her speak twice last year and each time I came home with my brain exploding with ideas. I was even more intrigued about her and her in-home workshops and I KNEW she was the one I wanted to learn from. I had read enough blog posts and comments to see that she was the real deal. She wasn’t a fluffer… meaning she doesn’t sit you down for two days and tell you: “blah blah blah, follow your dreams. Blah blah blah. I’m never telling you my secrets. Figure it out yourself. the end.” She actually shares things that have worked for her or not worked: ways she maintains organization, consistency, posing, lighting, blogging, the list goes on. I had watched several photographer friends go in and emerge with nothing but positivity and excitement for all they had learned and again I KNEW it… I knew the Workshop Experience was the place for me. I’d been working so hard learning new things, reading articles/blog posts/websites, attending photographer meet-ups, meeting new photographer friends that I was ready to invest and take it to the next step in myself AND my business.
The night before “the big day”, I met with three other photographers for dinner. We talked each other’s ears off about where we were from, why we were here, and what we hoped to learn. I immediately felt a connection to them, whether they knew it or not. I felt a kind of comfort like… we can relate because we’re all passionate about the same thing: photography.
DAY 1 (“the big day”): From the moment I stepped inside Katelyn’s home, greeted with a huge “YAY! YOU MADE IT!” hug to when we had a heart to heart about how much we love our siblings and family, you KNOW she’s a woman who genuinely cares. Anyone who has taken her workshops or coaching sessions knows she’s as genuine as they come. She’s gracious, bubbly, and excited to teach, which is truly an amazing gift to be all of those things. I could write paragraphs on her character — but let’s get to the Workshop!
My mind raced 100 miles a minute over those two days… in a good way. The other girls can attest to that!!! We covered SEVEN YEARS OF MATERIAL in just two days. Both days we went OVER our scheduled time, talking, sharing stories, and asking questions. It was really special to be in Katelyn and Michael’s home alongside other photographers from all over the country, Florida, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, AND the furthest of them all, California! We bonded over those two days. We laughed together, cried together, and even got super real with each other. We supported each other when someone spoke or shared personal stories and offered ideas and suggestions when people asked for advice. It was really just a really cool space to be in. I took pages and pages and pages of notes. I had “ah ha! that totally makes sense” moments, lightbulbs going off in my head, and fireworks exploding with ideas.
We had an AMAZING styled shoot put together by a team of talented vendors that I can’t WAITTTTT to share! When you’re shooting a styled shoot atmosphere with 11 other people and you all want the same shot… it’s difficult. BUT, this time was different. Everyone did a great job of rotating, being polite, and offering “spots” to get the shot. After the shoot, we discussed workflow and editing. The workflow thing is what I know I need to get better at and I feel like I’ve learned some things that actually make sense!
DAY 2: We started off the second day with headshots. Can you believe I’ve NEVER had headshots taken? I felt like it was only fitting that my favorite photographer be the first to take mine! I love how they turned out! My favorite part was when she said: “Gimme that laugh that you do with your sisters… you know the one… I may have stalked all your family photos on Facebook!” It was weird to be on the other side of the lens but also let me see what it feels like to be one of my clients!
Day 2 topics were nitty gritty. The legalities, the business side, how to blog successfully, how to use social media beneficially, how to market, how to create systems to stay sane, etc. There were so many times that I finally was able to understand things that I NEEDED to do for my business. When the second day came to a close and it was time to leave, I gave Katelyn a goodbye hug and I held my breath to hold back the tears. I wasn’t sad. I just felt an overwhelming feeling of love, support, and encouragement from everyone in that room. I didn’t want to leave! As soon as I walked outside… cue the waterworks. I sat in my car for a minute… closed my eyes and started thinking of how AMAZING and POSITIVE that experience was… the experience that I had been looking forward to for months. I took a moment to think about my family and all of their years of support and how much I love them with my whole heart. The entire 3 hour drive back to Northern Virginia, I drove in silence. My thoughts were louder than any song on the radio.
I could write ten blogs posts about all the things I learned and took away. Overall, I took away excitement to implement changes into my business, a better understanding of how to blog, pose, and manage time, and an overpowering emotion indescribable but mostly related to the: “I can do this” mentality.
I will forever owe my introduction to Katelyn James to my sister, Erica, and my workshop experience to my Grandma Dot who gave me The Workshop Experience as a gift after many, many, many conversations of me mentioning “Katelyn James this… Katelyn James that…” Grandma Dot is one of my biggest cheerleaders and her generosity never ceases to amaze me. As cliché as it sounds, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my incredibly supportive family. (Cue waterworks… again)
Whether Katelyn knows it or not, she’s changed my life. Not only has she changed my life, she’s changed my family’s life! They see how happy I am about all the things I have learned and all the new things I’m starting to do which in turn makes them happy for me. My mom couldn’t have said it more perfectly. We were talking the other night and she said, “When Katelyn supports YOU, she supports our whole family because it is a trickle-down effect; the happier you are, the happier we are. It creates such positivity in all our interactions… as a direct result of you feeling stronger and more confident. The people who surround us can either encourage or discourage us… see that word “courage” in there? BOOM!” Exactly… BOOM — she encourages and its worked. I feel like I have more courage in moving forward with my dreams!