Kenny Kim Shares the Pivotal Moments That Helped Build His Wedding Photography

February 26, 2020

By Kenny Kim

Photo © Kenny Kim

When Rf senior editor Libby Peterson asked me to contribute an article detailing some insights on “surviving and thriving” in the wedding photography industry, two thoughts came to my mind:

1. What an incredible honor for them to include me in this.
2. Does this mean they consider me an old fart now?

Jokes aside, by the time everyone reads this, I will be starting my 15th year as a full-time wedding photographer. Of course, I had no idea where this accidental career would take me when I first started.

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I had majored in graphic design in college and got a job straight after graduating as a designer at a local company. I stayed on campus. My only goal when I picked up photography was to get better seats at college sporting events—they had the best seats in the house. I accidentally discovered the world of wedding photography when I brought my camera to friends’ weddings as a guest. I snapped some photos throughout the day and gave those images as part of my gift to the couples. To my surprise, my friends fell in love with them and some even told me that they were better than their hired photographer’s images (I think they were just being nice). Eventually, word got around that I take decent wedding photos.

But I did not know any wedding photographers. I had no one to answer my questions about this profession. I began my intense research by going to a local Barnes & Noble bookstore and picking up one wedding magazine that stood out to me most: Grace Ormonde Wedding Style. I perused the pages and noticed that it was filled with images taken by this photographer named Mike Colón. I was blown away by his work and I decided that moment that he will be my mentor (he didn’t even know it). I began following his work and reached out to him out of the blue to see if he would consider mentoring me. He initially declined (though looking back, I can see how my approach was borderline stalking).

One day, I got an email blast from a company called Pictage that it was going to host Mike for a seminar in Cleveland. I knew this was going to be the opportunity for me to meet him, so I drove over eight hours, through a major rainstorm and construction, to get to this event. I was so excited that when it was time to take a group photo with everyone, I made sure to position myself right next to him. 

There were two other speakers that I did not recognize. One was Jeff Jochum, who consults creative entrepreneurs and worked with Pictage at the time, and the other was Skip Cohen, the president of Rangefinder and WPPI at the time. I soaked everything in like a sponge, and at the end of the night, I made sure to meet and thank them. Jeff encouraged me to sign up for Pictage; it became my online lab that night. Skip talked to me about WPPI, which I hadn’t heard of. I am not sure why but he offered me complimentary registration to attend, so I decided to go. Little did I know that my adventure of attempting to meet my photography hero would lead me to other serendipitous encounters that forever changed my photography career. Pictage and WPPI were instrumental in helping and guiding my photography career; they provided a community for me to grow as a photographer. 

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For the next several years, my life would be filled with serendipitous meetings and numerous opportunities like these. Many other mentors entered in my life, and I just smile gratefully as I look back at the things that I got to do: writing books, getting sponsorship opportunities, speaking at various conferences, teaching workshops and leading photography tours internationally. I got to meet some incredible photographers along the way, but most importantly, I’m just grateful for all of the wonderful clients I got to photograph.

My two cents to anyone starting out in wedding photography would be this: If you are passionate about it, do not give up. Do not worry about the future and where you will be down the road. No one knows. When you discover something that you were meant to do, so many doors and opportunities will open themselves to help you achieve it. 

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I am grateful that I accidentally discovered that in wedding photography, but in hindsight, it doesn’t seem so accidental. My path was unique, full of successes and failures, but yours will also be unique and it will be different from those around you. Help others as you go on this journey; we are all in it together.   

Kenny Kim’s WPPI Master Class on starting and maintaining a successful destination wedding photography business takes place at Mandalay Bay Feb. 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.