We had the good fortune of connecting with Meg Le Vu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Meg, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I believe we are relentless with our own standards. Our work is what we like to call timeless. In the moment, we focus on taking great photographs and capturing the right moments. In post, our focus is not to fix or filter anything. We simply enhance and stay true to the atmosphere of the moment and tell our clients’ stories without imposing what we think their wedding should be. Our clients guide our craft. Through the years, we’ve never strayed from our work ethic and standard of our final product. It’s not always easy and in the beginning, we definitely had more stressful moments. Nowadays, running your own business and maintaining your brand’s voice will always have its challenges, but in our maturity, we take them in stride and roll with the punches. Being more than 10 years in, we’ve set up a great foundation to ride out some of the more difficult times. The pandemic, for instance, is something we could have never directly planned for, but we’re okay despite absorbing some losses. All the bricks we laid the years before, gave KLV Photography a sense of reliability when we could no longer meet clients in person, or present our physical albums. With everything online, our daily marketing, website copy, team management, zoom meetings, etc. were all done as business as usual, but now had much more weight to it. Being that I’m writing about this towards the later part of 2020, we are grateful to still be here. The whole KLV Team responsibly shut themselves away if not for work, to stay healthy and available whenever micro weddings, elopements, engagements and family sessions were booked. Looking onward to 2021, we know the adjusting is just a part of the game of business, but the drivers of this train are well studied, and will always create work we’re proud to present to more new couples and families.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career has been a little journey; but I know I’m not done yet. My role in photography started as a second shooter, which means you photograph alongside a lead photographer to create a full wedding collection. Over ten years ago, Kevin taught me the 3 wheels of photography ISO, shutter-speed and aperture. At that time we were still attending Cal State Fullerton together. It wasn’t until I was a full-time Hazardous Materials Specialist working in Indio, CA did we really start to take off. I would work full-time, then commute back to Orange County and we’d photograph weddings. I would haul my 27″ iMac back and forth so I could edit my work and get better. At that time, I thought I would create a career in photography. One morning, a powerful sneeze ran through me, and was the straw that broke the camel’s back. From all the commuting and shooting, I wasn’t taking care of my body and the discs in my low back had bulged out which was extremely painful. If that wasn’t a good enough sign, I was later in an accident on the freeway which made matters much worse. From there, all bodily movement seemed like a struggle. Eventually, with the pain of shooting, I realized it was never my choice to be a photographer. I simply went along with what was asked of me. I attempted to retire at some point and thus began the conversations of “how do we build KLV Photography into a team?” Because building a team is so difficult for such a specialized task, I ended up retiring from shooting more than 3 or 5 times. I forget now. Never in vain, I took all that experience and applied to what I really wanted to do, direct marketing campaigns and be the missing link in our business. It takes 3 heads to run a successful business: a visionary, a manager and a worker. You can have more than head, and you can have one person act as multiple heads. Most self-made entrepreneurs start out being the worker and the visionary. The missing link is usually the manager. They bridge the worker to the visionary and they put in action what the visionary imagines. Without managing your business, you’re left with two gears that get overworked and never create much progress or progressive change. Through the years, I’ve taught myself how I could become a good manager. Now I’m tasked with becoming a great mangager which always feels like I’m swimming in the dark. And while I’m not a very good swimmer, I know I have access to tools that can make me better. My mind will always be the strongest tool in the shed. With that said, I know we’re still quite young on our journey, but it’s not invalid. And my experience brings me to recognize that our team cannot move without the other. We rely on each other and learning to trust someone; however close they are to you with your business baby is something I respect dearly. If I can impart one thing here, it’s that this life we have is something we have suffered for because the love for what we do and for each other is unconditional. In one way or another, I had to kill my ego over and over again to make room for someone else and for me to accept who I am in this role. Working for someone else’s dream is not easy and have to make your heart bigger to make sure you have room left for your own dreams. There is no balance, it’s simply making a choice at who goes first this time? Say thank you and move forward.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, I’m not a super city-gal, but I first hit up my cousin in the Arts District at the Benjamin salon and get a fresh cut to start off the trip. Then we head to Salt and Straw for an icecream treat. We’d definitely have to visit a bar or two, maybe Forman’s Whisky Tavern. Then we’d check out some of the museums like The Broad, The Huntington Library, or Griffith Observatory. All great photo-locations too. We’d eat at The Brazzar for fun, then go to Jollibee to get full. We’d head to the Pantages Theater and watch Disney’s Lion King or Moulin Rouge. Then to end in nature, we’d head over to Gould Mesa Trail Camp, unplug and explore.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to give a shout out to our core photography team of Jenna Pangan and Bryan Muro for their incredible patience with our mentorship, always up for the VP’s new ideas and training modules. During a time where nothing was secure for them, they never wavered in their loyalty to what we’ve created for them. It took us such a long time to get here, and we’re not perfect. I believe they understood that, and still gave their best efforts. They gave us committed trust and still trust us to lead them through this time. That is rare and I thank them for allowing us to always improve our skills as mentors and leaders. Of course, a shout out to my husband and our vision-head of KLV Photography and master photographer Kevin Le Vu; whom without we would not have the standing we have today. I rest easy, because of the work he drove us to produce in the beginning. I’m a great manager, but he’s a great visionary.
Instagram: @kevinlevu @thelevus
Other: I roast coffee for clients when they receive their photos in the mail: @blkcitycoffee
Kevin Le Vu, Jenna Pangan from KLV Photography