Katheryn Jeanne Photography

Katy Clatterbaugh is the owner of Katheryn Jeanne Photography – an international, award winning photography business based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has been featured in multiple national publications such as The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, Town and Country, and ABC World News. In addition to photographing weddings, Katy is an industry educator, keynote speaker and brand strategist. When she is not behind the camera, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son traveling, cooking and renovating homes.

How did you get started?

I actually had NO desire to ever run a photography business believe it or not! I was a sales representative for a large pharmaceutical company and it was my “dream job.” I loved the travel, the science industry, making my own schedule, the art of selling, and of course, the money. Life was good, until at 8 months pregnant – I was laid off! At the time, I was devastated, but I always kept faith that it happened for a reason. A month later we were blessed with our son and my life changed forever. While I knew I had to work – I also knew I couldn’t juggle being a full time mom and a full time sales rep – but when there is a will to make something happen, there is always a way. My husband had purchased a photography class for me the year before and it was something I had a natural talent for. I was talented at taking the photo, but had no idea how to turn my talent into a successful business. I gave myself a deadline of January 1, 2015 to make my business successful. I had 6 months to create a brand, business and make money. I knew the ultimate goal was to photograph weddings since that was where the money was but also needed to get a portfolio and experience under my belt. Insert the power of social media here! I posted in Facebook that I was looking for 10 families to model for me, free of charge, and in exchange – all they had to do was share the photos if they liked them. A week later I had an email saying they saw a photo I took and wanted to know if I would photograph a wedding for a small budget and I jumped at the opportunity. I left that wedding full of conviction that I had found my passion in life. 5 years later and 1000s upon 1000s of photographs later, I am living my dream life. I have built a hugely successful, international business that celebrates life’s greatest moments and documents stories for the generations to come. I built a business that fits into my life, allows me to travel, supports my family, and still be a full time stay at home mom.

What would you suggest is a first step to getting into the industry?

JUMP RIGHT IN! There is no secret sauce to getting your foot in the door, nor do you need to have a photography degree or special training to excel in the creative world. I am a big believer in doing something well and giving it 100% so I do recommend investing in education early and often! There is always something new to learn and staying abreast will work to your advantage in the long run. Introduce yourself to leaders in the industry and put your name out there as often as possible. You cannot be afraid to put yourself out there and TALK ABOUT your business!! You must remind people as often as possible what you do and what you are wanting to do, because if you aren’t, I assure your competitors will.

How did you start ramping up work to go full time?

I took on every wedding I could, no matter what the theme or budget was for the first year. I was never too prideful to say no. Alongside photographing these weddings, I would plan styled shoots (aka FREE SHOOTS) with industry leaders I wanted in my portfolio. I started showcasing my work of these styled shoots on my social media accounts and created a brand around them. As soon as I was able to identify my ideal client, I focused every post at selling to her in particular. I spoke directly to those clients and painted a picture of what it would be like for me to shoot their wedding day. After a solid year of doing this, those “dream clients” started reaching out. I was also very aware of my pricing structure. I started my pricing at $500 because I was willing to put in the work to build a portfolio and LEARN my craft. I raised my prices every third wedding I booked until I was at a price point that was sustainable. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and its ok for things to start slow. Keep going, and keep hustling. It will come!

What were some milestones that helped remind you that you were on the right path?

I have been so blessed in my business in so many ways. I absolutely love hearing the feedback I receive from my clients after their galleries are delivered. Whether it is a branding client saying I executed their brand and dream to perfection, a couple calling me with tears of joy in their eyes after seeing their wedding photographs, or a client saying she’s never felt more beautiful in a photo, it always reminds me I’m doing what God meant for me to do. The first time I saw my work featured in The Knot Magazine was a dream come true. I cried in the aisles of the grocery store! I was so proud to have achieved that goal!

I will never forget the phone call I received from ABC World News asking if they could interview me for a photo I had taken. The first year I made a profit, I took my family to Hawaii on vacation. The list goes on and on. There have been so many milestones and they are a reminder that hard work pays off, loving and serving your clients pays off, all the tears and growth pains pay off!

What advice would you give to other photographers or entrepreneurs in the creative industry?

The best advice I can give you is to never give up on your dream. If you can dream it and you put in the work – I promise you can make it happen! It may not happen right away but give yourself time and grace, and keep going. Remember to create for you, for connection with others – but not for validation. Too often we compare ourselves to others in the industry and spiral into dark places because we may not be exactly where we want to be yet, but all that will do is rob you of joy. Celebrate EVERY win, small or large and lastly – surround yourself with people who cheer you on and push you outside of your comfort zone. It takes a village to build and achieve your dreams – those who surround you will be there to pick you up with you fail and they will tell you to keep at it when you want to quit.

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