Shana Watkins photography

The Truth About My Start as a Photographer

Let’s Start At The Begining


I’ve always felt I was destined to be in a creative field. As a young girl, I remember crafting collages, making jewelry, sewing clothes and dreaming of being a fashion designer. As I grew older, I set my sights on working for a New York fashion magazine and pursued dual degrees in fashion (textile and apparel management) and magazines (journalism school) while at Mizzou.⁠

After a fabulous summer with a dream internship at Harper’s Bazaar magazine, I realized the New York fashion scene just wasn’t it for me. I felt a bit empty about it all (very much The Devil Wears Prada), and I wanted to find a way to contribute or make a difference in some small way. ⁠

So I returned home to figure out what was next. Soon afterward, I got a job teaching high school journalism, photography and advising the yearbook (something I had stumbled into wonderfully and unexpectedly). 

Time For Change

 Although I loved helping my students find their creativity, overtime it became clear to me how much I had been missing mine. For the longest time,  ⁠I had loved the idea that a story could be told from the other side of the camera. Somewhere around 2000, I started photographing friends and family and family of friends when I wasn’t busy teaching. 

⁠The more I photographed portraits of newborns to four-generation families, the more I realized how much helping others to feel great is really what did it for me. Whether it meant helping someone who’s never loved a photograph of herself feel beautiful for the very first time or helping parents feel great about leaving a legacy of memories for their children, it solidified the fact that family photography was where I was meant to be. ⁠

So I soaked up all the photographic education I could, traveling and learning from legends in the business at workshops, conferences and setting up one-on-one coaching with photographers  I admired across the country.. ⁠

As my skills expanded, my confidence grew, and when I left teaching and started to put forth my effort 100 percent into the business, there wasn’t an option. I had to make it happen. ⁠

Transitioning To A Full-Time Photographer

Honestly, I should have been more scared. I credit my parents and grandparents (all entrepreneurs) for paving the way and making it seem feasible (and maybe just a little too easy). ⁠

Eventually, I made photography my full-time career. And what grew from it is something I couldn’t be more proud of. Being an entrepreneur comes with its work/life imbalances for sure, but I can’t imagine any other career that would give me the same opportunity to work with the most awesome of families.

Twenty years after first starting this journey, my mission remains the same: creating connection and designing heirloom-quality portrait art. The background, the clothing…it’s all secondary to the fantastic people I’m photographing. ⁠⁠In all this time, it has been important to me never to lose the Art of Storytelling. I always want to go beyond just taking the photo—what does the image make the viewer feel? ⁠⁠

When people see my work, I hope they can see not only a beautiful portrait but also the “something more” that comes from the subject being able to be authentic because they trusted me to see the very best in them through my lens.

Starting Our Family Yearbook Membership

family yearbook

Just a few years ago, I started another business—Our Family Yearbook Membership—to help my clients who were drowning in digital photos to start enjoying the memories they were making with their families.⁠ 

I am currently working tirelessly on this project in hopes of really making a difference for busy families. With this membership, parents text me 10 favorite photos each month to create a beautiful, high-end album that I design and print, and it only takes parents 5 minutes each month. It relieves people of all the stress of finding, organizing, editing, designing and then printing an album for their families. ⁠ ⁠

If I can leave a legacy, I want it to be about making life easier for busy parents so their kiddos can enjoy their childhood memories now and always.

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