Our team has certainly gone through many transformations over the years. All necessary in the journey to find that perfect mix. The thing is, after all of our time together; I’ve found that there is no such thing as the perfect mix.
Nothing is perfect, but we humans do like to push against the tide don’t we?
Like most companies, change is scary. It’s the opposite of stable. Stability, consistency, and a general trend-forward are all a small business can hope for in the ever-changing landscape of social media, worker turn-over and the like.
What does the modern small service-based business look like? In our case, it’s just like the family-run operations of old. Here’s a run-down of the team here at KLV Photography.
Kevin started this company in college during the 2008 market crash. It was trying times, and it instilled a work ethic that used the fear of the times to give wedding photography everything he had. His subjects back then were bugs, toys, and whoever would stand in front of his lens. Graduating with a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Cal State Fullerton, along with then-girlfriend Megan, they started to slowly work together and shoot weddings. He was mentored by fellow wedding photographers in the industry, but not for long. By 2010 Kevin was creating the foundations of his now-signature style which brings the landscape as an active subject prominently along with the couples he was capturing. This direction is what still drives the company’s style today.
By 2012, KLV Photography had grown into a full-fledged business incorporating and was recognized among clients and wedding professionals alike. At the time, the company was just Kevin and Megan going to every meeting, blogging every week, shooting every engagement and wedding together. There was no structure, there was no real plan except shoot more, shoot better, execute full collections and provide the best service. It ran their whole life. Nothing else mattered except the job. Of course, this was not at all how they thought of it. It was simply their lifestyle. A way of life.
Now, Kevin has grown to be more inclusive and is learning how to pass down his bottomless knowledge of his craft to those that would be worthy. While the pandemic has pushed him to photograph more with this catch-up year in 2021, he is mentoring and coaching his team to the finish line successfully. When he is not consumed with creating his best work, you’ll find him mountain biking, off-roading and scouting the next off-grid camping spot.
I began in this company during college when I met Kevin in Asian American Women’s Study. We were friends first and he helped me make the big move to Orange County, being from Palmdale. At the time, I had lived most of my life as a wallflower. I had no voice. I was timid about everything. I didn’t speak very well. And I knew that. And I knew I had to change. To practice and get better. Kevin was a friend I never had before. I think I could really start to be who I was and his love for who I was inspired me to open up more. I remember that I was no longer trying to keep myself in, slowly I was feeling comfortable with my own voice. For whatever reason, I always felt awkward. But slowly it was safe to be me. Looking back, I think I was so desperate to be led. I’m a follower by nature, but when Kevin taught me how to use a camera, it was the kind of leadership that spawned a leader. I began to see his drive and wanted that for myself. I learned how to push myself further, teach myself further, take the baton that I had no idea existed and start running. I took web design, marketing research, content creation, vlog-style production, copywriting, and managerial skills. It was tricky not to become a Kevin-clone. We spend every minute together. While the business was successful, I was not happy with who I was. I felt entitled but for all the wrong reasons.
I spent a couple of years semi-away from KLV Photography when I tried to figure out who I was without him. I ventured into small-scale media production, video podcasting, more photography. I did okay, but it wasn’t where I felt the most joy. It only felt like a competition. I felt fake most of the time, despite learning exactly what we needed to learn to come back. When Kevin formally asked me to come back as a manager in KLV Photography, I knew I had earned his respect and that I was no longer the entitled person I used to be. I respected what Kevin started from nothing and knew I needed to always consider that when I brought my piece of the pie to the table. I was here to help, not compete. Finally, in 2018 with a plan actually in place, we began to make room for each other. It still wasn’t easy, but we knew where we had to go, but we were still quite a ways from the destination.
Now, I’m happy managing and going where I’m needed. Despite any changes we make, I’ll always be mindfully behind the scenes making sure the team has what they need to be successful and find joy in their roles. It not enough to just survive, it’s my hope that we find joy in the hardness and gleeful moments of life. And believe me, the hard comes much easier.
In 2015 Jenna was always around us. She was finding her way in her young adult life when we offered her an opportunity to learn second shooting. Bringing Jenna in was a really tough process and because we were always on a timetable she had to learn our ways under pressure. But as pressure sometimes does, she began to rise to the level. We saw that while it was tough for her, she began to find her stride and soon developed a new level with her help. While Kevin and Megan were beveled and hard, Jenna was softer, joyful even. She brings light with her wherever she goes and brings the energy up a notch. Her levity and willingness to grind with us has been a welcome addition to our band. She became the third wheel that really helped us through the growth that needed to happen in the company. If Kevin and Megan were the front-wheel drive, Jenna was always waiting in-gear following our lead, giving us more stability and cheering all of us forward towards our goals.
Her experience is growing and her ability to help drive this wagon into the future is present. While her potential is still untapped, it gives way to the possibility for her to find her place in this company.
Now, Jenna is steadily building her tool-house. She has stepped up in ways that create growth and assurance for anyone who comes into KLV Photography. When she’s not directing, editing and leading, you’ll find her camping, hiking and turning off her phone to enjoy the sounds of nature and cooking over an open fire.
The fourth wheel of our wagon, is really a diamond in the rough. Photo editing makes this work one of the hardest and rarest jobs to do well. Editing is subjective. It’s almost impossible to teach a subjective art. And yet, here they are, building steam with young Sean powering through. With little to no experience in weddings, it was actually just what was needed. Like a jar-head in boot camp. Much of what the industry has to offer by way of editors is really marred by bad habits or old habits in general. In a way, Sean is uncorrupted. Thankfully, while his wedding experience was void, his strength of character and work ethic has really impressed. At his station, he is efficient and executes his duties exactly. From the moment he comes to work (always five minutes early) to the moment he leaves; his head is down editing like a machine.
To their delight, Kevin and Megan love this type of worker, he does not waste time. In the field, Sean runs the photo booth and smartly adjusts to all the issues that responsibility can bring. He assists our lead photographers and is always hungry to learn and do well. Sean is the latest addition to the family-run business. The wagon has four steadily rolling wheels that are driving this company into the future.
With plenty of mileage on the front end, it’s great to see Kevin and Meg supported by unique and hard-working individuals. They give the company hope and create a future that will actually balance hard work with joy.
Written by Meg Le Vu