©LaJune King

Show Up How You Want To Be Seen

After the dark days of the COVID-19 lockdown followed by the national shock and outrage at the killing of George Floyd, LaJune King found herself in a fearful new reality that overshadowed her normal effervescence. She was afraid for her husband to take his routine Saturday morning drive in his vintage car, of him being profiled, of him being in the right place but at the wrong time. Determined to rise above, King reshaped her fear into determination and an opportunity to shift her purpose and her photography. She wanted to be a bright light for herself, her family, and for other people of color.

“I literally changed how I took photos,” she says. “I wanted to change the way people look at Black families, at people of color, at Black women in business. I wanted to be the change that I wanted people to see.”

©LaJune King
©LaJune King
©LaJune King
©LaJune King

Earlier in her photography journey, King felt compelled to conform to certain ideas about being a family photographer, she says, thinking that if she came across as “too ethnic” people might not want to book her. She gradually learned that shying away from her true self was hurting her business. Showing her real personality shifted her gravitational force by pulling in like-minded clients. King began showing up on social media and in front of clients as her authentic joyful self. She wanted to be seen for her real self, not as a watered-down version who was attempting to fit into a set of societal expectations.

In 2020, she started posting more on TikTok, feeling that Instagram had become a place where perfection reigned. She found an enthusiastic audience. Posts began going viral and King found herself in a better financial position to open Blk Stry Studio, a 2,500-square-foot bright and airy space. She revamped her branding to reflect her personality and focused her messaging on celebrating joy and authenticity with every session.

“I want to be seen in a positive light as best as I can,” she says. “I want my clients to have proof that their joy was put into this world, that I see it, and that I can capture it with my camera. Being seen is huge.”

©LaJune King

Based in Frisco, Texas, King focuses on families, lifestyle portraits, and personal branding headshots that celebrate clients’ defining characteristics and uniqueness. Her message of changing the narrative and bringing joy forward is peppered throughout her website and branding, encouraging clients to let their guard down and be real in front of her camera.

“I bring people out of themselves, help them put some life behind their photos,” says King, who was awarded Frisco Enterprise magazine’s 2023 Best of Frisco Portrait Photographer Readers’ Choice Award. “When I look online at photos of people’s kids looking perfect, I’m like, Whose life is like that? I want candids as authentic as possible. If your kid is not looking at the camera and has his fingers in his nose, that is real life!”

King’s Pink Starburst Experience has made her a standout in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so much so that if she’s out in public it’s not uncommon for someone to call her out as the “pink Starburst lady.” The idea stemmed from her favorite candy and a desire to give clients a fun thank you gift. Knowing it was common for high-end wedding photographers to gift clients something lavish after their experience, King thought it would be fun to give clients something meaningful that was quintessentially her, something memorable with a handwritten note following their session. After finding out she could purchase bags of pink Starburst candies, King reached out to the candymaker in 2020 for permission to reference the brand in her marketing. Not expecting much, she went to Costa Rica for spring break, and ultimately returned to find a surprise package full of pink Starburst swag and T-shirts from the company.

“It was amazing,” she says. “Now people see me and think of pink Starburst!”

Letting clients and potential clients see who she is has been her best tool for attracting customers who understand her and her work. When she’s teaching and speaking, King pushes that point, noting that the key to attracting the right client for you is to create the right experience.

“If you work with someone who is not ideal for you, then you can’t create the best experience,” she says. “But that’s also an important way to learn. Sometimes people are put into our lives to disrupt us and see how we handle it. When I work with someone who’s a little more difficult, I try to find out how I can grow from that experience and make it right next time.”

©LaJune King
©LaJune King

King coaches photographers to uncover who they are and how they can create an ideal experience, by closing their eyes and thinking back to a perfect experience they’ve had in a retail or service situation. It doesn’t have to be a luxury experience like Neiman Marcus; it can be any setting where the service and surroundings were just right.

“What did that look like and feel like for you from start to finish?” she says. “That is what you have to give to your clients.”

Along similar lines, King advises photographers to put themselves in the place of their clients by running through their email workflows to understand what the process looks and feels like from their perspective. Is there enough information? Is enough of your personality coming through? Are you communicating what clients want to hear? 

To make sure she’s always on target, King regularly asks for client input. “Always be open to feedback,” she says. “If you’re consistent with your work and creating a good experience, you shouldn’t be afraid. But if you do have one bad review, make sure the next client doesn’t experience that, and thank your client for letting you know.”

King’s ability to take negative experiences and situations and reshape them into avenues for growth and positive change is essential to her success as well as her happiness. 

“A keyword for me is joy,” says King. “I love people thinking of me for the pink Starburst experience, me wearing pink, my pink nails. I’m showing up how I want to be seen.” 

Stephanie Boozer is a writer in Charleston, South Carolina.