I started this business while teaching elementary school as a newlywed foster parent when Willie got me a camera as a birthday gift. That gift quickly turned into a crazy dream that turned into an amazing opportunity for me to do what I love and spend more time with my family.
I went to school to be a teacher and was perfectly happy teaching elementary school for several years. I always thought that I would teach until we were ready to have kids, and then hopefully I would be able to stay home with them. We never planned to become parents so soon, but God had different plans for our family when he brought us Sonya.
Sonya had been living with us for about six months when I got my first camera. We had another foster daughter at the time, and I said I wanted to learn more about photography in order to take better pictures of our kids. Willie did some research and bought me my first camera as a birthday gift. I quickly become obsessed with learning as much as I could. I loved practicing on friends and family.
The passion for photography came at such a perfect time because I used it as a creative outlet that I really needed when my life was consumed with pouring into our kids and also pouring into the kids I was teaching and not really making time for myself.
Then I decided this might be fun way to add to our income. I posted an advertisement for $50 mini sessions and remember telling Willie there was no way anyone would pay me to take their pictures. But, they did… and I absolutely loved it. I loved making them feel comfortable and laughing with them, and editing the images after.
During my planning period one afternoon, my friend Sara walked in and said, I know you might not feel ready, but I want you to be my wedding photographer. I remember my first thought was that she was crazy, but I don’t like to tell people no. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about how much I would love that. I LOVE weddings. But I don’t like to do things unless I am going to be good at them. So I spent any free time searching for free educational content, quickly upgraded my camera, and practiced every single day. The girls loved being my models. Sonya still does! Then suddenly that one wedding I had booked for a friend of mine turned into enough bookings to almost match my teacher’s salary within a year of getting that first camera.
I was editing into all hours of the night, because from the beginning I wanted to turn around weddings very quickly. I had to wait three months to see my wedding photos, and it has been one of my goals to make sure our couples get their photos as quickly as possible, even if that means some long nights. Since the beginning, our couples have gotten to view highlights from their wedding day within a week of their wedding to re-live their day while they are on their honeymoon. They get their images within a few weeks while they are still so excited and want to share that joy!
I quickly realized after a year of this that something needed to change. At that point, we knew we were planning to adopt Sonya, and I was just exhausted trying to balance everything. Then I realized that this business that started with a birthday gift and a $50 ad on a yard sale page was thriving enough to replace my teaching job. While my family questioned the idea of branching out on my own after getting a college degree to teach and having good insurance and benefits, Will was supportive and encouraged me to chase my dreams.
Not only that, but he agreed to be my second shooter and very quickly learned how to do that. I can’t imagine running KWP without him. On wedding days he makes the groom feel comfortable, laughs with the groomsmen, carries my bags, pins on boutonnieres, carries bouquets, makes kids smile in family pictures with his amazing impressions, all while getting great photos for our couples.
The most important part of being a wedding photographer to me is the relationships with our couples. Of course professional photography is important… but you can find 100 other people with cameras who can show up and shoot that camera at your wedding. We want our couples to invest in us for so much more than that. The relationships we have built with our couples, the places we have gotten to travel, and the opportunities this job has created for me to home school and to stay home with Sawyer has been such an unexpected blessing.
Sometime big dreams start with small ideas; I am so thankful for the crop sensor camera with kit lenses as a birthday gift that led to a job I didn’t even know I wanted and now can’t imagine life without!
Here’s some throwback headshots with Sonya being a “tographer” with the camera that started it all!