Photo Credit: Mike Bradley

Shay Walker is “nicety” (nice, yet feisty if necessary). This Philly girl is the baby of a blended family, almost like the Brady Bunch. She’s blessed to have come from a two-parent household which, she feels, made her the well-rounded, level-headed person she is. She’s  a fun-loving person who loves learning and doing new things. She grew up with lots of love (in fact “Love” is her legal middle name) from her parents and her siblings, all of whom are at least 15 years older than her. She’s always had a very vivid imagination and was a creative kid. In high school, she was like the class historian. She always took photos and video recorded everything her class did because high school was one of the most fun times for her. She had no idea that she’d be taking photos for a living one day! She attended Temple University at the encouragement of her mother, majored in Journalism at the encouragement of her father and graduated magna cum laude four years later. As a graduation gift, her father, a former photographer in the military, gave her a brand new DSLR Nikon camera. With that gift, Shay honed her photography and practiced her skill. She eventually parlayed a hobby into a business and its working very well for her! In the future, she hopes to make a name for herself as a great fashion photographer and she’s just getting started!

We interviewed Shay for this edition of women entrepreneurs on and here are her responses on life and her business Shay Walker Photographics!

Describe your business. List location, phone number, website. Are you or your business on Facebook? Twitter? Linked In? Please list.

Shay Walker Photographics is my full-service photography business. By full-service I mean I shoot portraits, weddings, events, products. You name it, I’ll shoot it. Fashion photography is actually my favorite because I enjoy photographing models and it allows me to be more creative and edgier. I’d like to eventually specialize in fashion and commercial photography. I’m relaunching the business this spring which I’m very excited about. I’m moving to Red Cedar Studios, a beautiful new studio in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia (2829 Cedar St. Philadelphia, PA 19134). I’ll also be activating my facebook fan page which people can find under “Shay Walker Photographics”. I tweet under my personal twitter account, @iamshanalove so follow me! Linked In page soon to come.

 If anyone would like to contact me for a shoot they can check out my website, or give me a call at 215-383-0110.

What motivated you to open your own business?

Hard times will cause a girl to get very creative. Photography was a hobby for me. It was lots of fun. I’d take shots at friends’ family gatherings, church events and I knew a few aspiring models who I’d photograph just to practice my skill. But I’d gotten laid off from a job and I needed to make a few extra dollars.  Out of that need, the business was born. Coincidentally, a photographer who was looking to sublet studio space he owned had randomly contacted me asking if I’d be interested in renting space and shooting from his studio. (Sidebar: I honestly don’t believe anything is random, God has already planned things far in advance.) So, I went for it and met photographers there who taught me a lot technically, advised me on what equipment to  purchase, and helped me establish my business.

Did you have any initial fears or concerns that you had to overcome when opening your business?

I was afraid of failing, like most people. I was really new to photography, I still had to make a name for myself and I had just taken on several new expenses: rent, purchasing equipment, and purchasing lots of other things to help my business function, so failure was a huge fear of mine! I didn’t want to be wasting my time and I certainly didn’t want to lose the money I’d put in. But God worked it all out! When I think back on it, I wonder how I managed to get to this place from where I started. That’s how I know it was God who blessed me.

How much capital did you need to get started? Did you use any creative funding sources?

When I started, all I had was a camera and a flash. I really didn’t have any idea of how much equipment I’d need for studio work. I soon found out that photography equipment is EXPENSIVE and I only had the minimum. I needed at least 2 lights, stands, remote triggers, photo editing software and even more, so I needed to make money fast. I did a few events which required just a camera and flash. I made some money there. Then I did a few studio shoots using some equipment I borrowed from another photographer and made more there. Then I was able to buy some used equipment that was in good condition and that got me started!

How do you market your business? Do you use any creative marketing strategies?

It may sound crazy but all of my marketing is basically word of mouth. I love it though because to me, it means my work speaks for itself. People see it and want it and then they refer me to someone else because they’re happy with the product. Even if I just pass my business card to a total stranger and they decide to check out my site and see what I’ve done, they’ve been impressed with what’s there and they’ll book me for a shoot. So I really haven’t tapped into any marketing as yet. I’ve just used my network and they’ve spread the word for me and business comes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not inundated and turning down work, but I’m really grateful that people believe in my product and my abilities enough to send friends and family to me for photography. One day I WILL be turning work away though…that’s a good thing.

 How do you manage employees if any?

I don’t have employees as of now. If I have a wedding or an event to shoot, I normally hire family members or even friends to assist me for a few hours. I still have much to learn about managing employees, so for now I’m pretty much a one-woman operation but in the future I look forward to hiring a small staff to help me run the business and keep me organized.

What are some of your day to day struggles as a business owner?

For me, since I’m not a true veteran of the game, its branding and getting my name out there. That helps me get the work I need to make money to reinvest in the business and support myself. So I’m constantly coming up with ways to find new jobs because as a business owner there is no steady income as it is when you work for a large company. If I don’t work, I don’t eat. So I’m responsible to put the work in. Some months it’s easy, others are a bit more of a struggle.

What brings you the most joy from your work?

My absolute favorite thing to hear from a customer is that they had an incredibly difficult time selecting their favorite shots because there were so many great shots to choose from. That makes me feel so good! When I hear that, then I know I’ve done my job well. I got the most rewarding feeling once when I did a photo party for a woman who was getting married. All of her bridesmaids and friends were at her home and the shots we were doing were more intimate, sensual shots. Many of the women wanted to give these photos as gifts to their husbands/significant others etc. This one woman who attended the party had a beautiful personality and was very comfortable talking to me but she let me know that she was pretty insecure about certain parts of her body. As a woman I totally understand that. As a photographer, I also know that posing and angling are very important when it comes to composing a flattering image of a person. Well, after we’d taken several shots and she looked through them, she actually burst into tears because she was so happy with how she looked in a completely unedited photo. She was so happy she cried! That meant everything to me.

How do you balance work life and family? Do your work demands affect your relationships?

For me it’s very hard to balance, I can’t lie. The good thing is that I’m single with no children right now so I have more time and attention to spend on work. But I have good friends and family members including little nieces and godchildren who I wish I could spend more time with. I’ve missed friends’ birthday celebrations easily because I got a job at the last minute and decided to take it. My friends and family are very understanding though and they know that work is a priority for me. Its my bread and butter. I absolutely want a husband and children in the near future because family is important to me, but I’ve spent more than a minute wondering how I’d balance it all. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. I’m sure it will all fall into place.

Any advice you’d like to offer to anyone interested in your line of work?

If you feel you have an eye for photography, I’d say shoot EVERYTHING. People, places, buildings and whatever else there is to shoot. Be the photographer at family functions, outings with friends and anywhere else so that you will become known for photography by people within your immediate network. Then branch off and begin to market yourself and your skill. Last of all, practice. There is always something more to learn and try with photography. The more you know, the better off you are!

Would you like to offer a promotion to the readers? If so, please list.

For all of Shalena D.I.V.A.’s blog readers, I can offer a 15% discount on any photography (family/personal portrait, wedding, event) booked for the months of March and April to celebrate the re-launch of my business and my new studio, Red Cedar Studios!


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© 2015, Shalena D.I.V.A. – Personal Branding| Content Marketing| Product Creation. All rights reserved.

1 Comment

  1. ShalenaD.I.V.A on February 15, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Shay, I love your story! It amazes me how the very things we love to do can provide for us. I’m so glad that you and your parents cultivated your passion for the camera and invested in it as well. I see you doing great things in the future! SHAY ROCKS!

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