Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawna Parks.
Shawna, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I got started the same way as a lot of women do. I was a mom with a camera. My husband became a freelance broadcast photographer in 2001 when our youngest was about 6 months old. Up until then, he was the one behind our cool new digital Canon Rebel. No film? Sweet! But since he was now a freelance guy, he traveled A LOT. So it was left up to me to be the family photographer. It wasn’t long before he said to me, “If you’re going to be the one taking the pictures, you’re going to need to do a better job. These look like shit.” Really?!! I don’t back down from a challenge and certainly not a challenge from him. I learned some basics and life went on.
Fast forward about 5 years. I was having an identity crisis. I wasn’t Shawna anymore. I was Todd’s wife. Or Miller & Allie Shae’s mom. I needed something for me. I took some online photography classes. My husband bought me a new, fancier camera and a couple of lenses. I taught myself Photoshop and later Lightroom. I was hooked. I took pictures of anyone that would let me. Then, a friend asked me if I could take pictures of her daughter. She was a high school senior and they didn’t like the pictures from the photographer that the school used. I went out into a field with a borrowed orange velvet love seat, my senior and her dog. I was in love. THIS was seriously cool.
A few months later, I went to WPPI in Las Vegas. I signed up for a free class called Seniorology. The speaker was talking about senior portraits. This was the majority of her client base. Seniors. I remember thinking, “Wow. That’s really a thing.” THAT is what I want to do.
Has it been a smooth road?
No path is ever smooth or straight. Photography is only about 20% of the job. I am a business owner. I wear all the hats. I’m the accountant, the sales force, the marketing team and the event planner. Learning to market and run a business has had its hiccups. It is certainly been learning from my mistakes.
Not that it’s a struggle, but it is definitely a challenge, is that I have to market to 2 different demographics. I have to appeal to the teen AND to the parent. I have to be on very active IG because that’s where the teens are. I have to market on FB because that’s where the parents are. I need to give mom that up-close smiling photo of her beautiful baby girl, and I need to include some images with a little more sass for the senior.
A surprising challenge I’ve had is finding locally owned clothing boutiques to work with. I’d love to partner with one or some to give my senior model team an extra little boost, to get to model clothes for a local shop, and to give the girls the added excitement of being styled by them. Of course, the boutique would get the images for their own marketing as well. It’s a win-win. I also have an idea in the back of my mind to put on a fashion show to benefit the kids over at Monarch.
Looking forward, my goal is to have my own office/natural light studio by the end of the year. Currently I see clients in my home “studio” and I do my day to day work from Hera Hub in Mission Valley, which is a co-working space for women.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I’m a boutique portrait photographer. I specialize in teens, high school seniors and their families. I also enjoy headshot photography. My style has been described as light an airy. I like to include movement in my images. I have the ability to connect with my clients and bring out their personalities. Forget what your high school has told you about senior portraits. I bring something entirely different to the table. I bet you can think of 5 people you know right now that have a nice camera, including your cousin, Ari. Anybody can take your picture. I will give you an experience, from the time you click the “give me more info” button on my website, until your custom designed graduation announcements leave your mailbox and beyond. My clients become my friends, long after graduation.
Not long after my Aha moment in Vegas, I got hooked up with a group called Seniors Ignite. With the support and mentorship of this group, I have grown personally, as a business owner, and as a photographer. I have been featured nationally through Seniors Ignite. I have a sought after senior and teen model program. I have had 3 finalists in the Seniors Ignite National Model Competition, which features high school seniors in a print magazine as well as online and in fashion photo shoots. This year I’m hoping for a winner. I have also been I have also been featured multiple times on Teen Style Photo Magazine’s Instagram and on Senior Style Guide’s Instagram.
The thing I am most proud of is that with the talent that I have been given, I’m able to give back. Each spring I spend a few afternoons with the senior class of the Monarch school, San Diego’s school for the homeless. I am able to make those amazing kids feel special by giving them senior portraits. There is no school photographer that comes to take a senior photo. There is no yearbook. I give each senior a mini photo session, a cap & gown photo and I attend their graduation to get the diploma shot. I am constantly inspired by their stories and the struggles that they overcome. I always have to double check my focus at graduation. It’s hard to tell if your shot is in focus through your tears. 🙂
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I love San Diego for my business. I shoot exclusively on location. The weather here allows me to do that year-round. The various neighborhoods and micro climates here, give me a huge range of backdrops for my photo sessions. Southern California is still very much an emerging market for senior portraits. Teens want to stand out. To be different. I give them that opportunity.
- Photo Sessions start at $200
- Address: 8885 Rio San Diego, Ste 237,
San Diego, 92108
- Website: shawnaparks.com
- Phone: 619-517-1252
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @shawnaparksphoto
- Facebook: shawnaparksphoto
- Twitter: @shawnaparkphoto
- Yelp: Shawna Parks Photography