When asked to describe her business, photographer Shala W. Graham often says, “I am a headshot and personal branding photographer for women who hustle.” She then explains, “I love working with women who are building their businesses and their careers. I focus on capturing authentic images that convey a woman’s personality and communicate who she is.”
Although she was a photographer in high school and college, Shala notes that before she developed her photography business, she ran a branding and design firm for 13 years. Explaining the concept of brand, Shala says, “A brand helps to describe how people perceive and experience you. You can control a brand by what you say and do, what you wear, and the images you take.” Personal branding photography is about taking photos that help you communicate what you want people to know about who you are, what you do, and why you do it. There should be a bit of yourself that comes out.” This understanding gives Shala an edge over other photographers who just take pictures.
Shala’s clients, mostly women entrepreneurs, need images for their websites, for marketing materials, or for bio page/speaking engagement headshots. Some organizations need staff headshots and Shala is happy to provide these as well. “My goal is to always capture the authentic moments that will ultimately help your business grow, while infusing you with an extra dose of joy and confidence,” says Shala, who feels strongly about “making sure that women have a bit of fun during our sessions.”
Says Shala, “I see photography sessions as photo therapy sessions. Women bring their insecurities, fears, etc., but Shala finds that during the session, women gain confidence. “We carry ourselves differently when we are confident,” she says. “We have the power to do super amazing things!” A WBO member for about two years, Shala appreciates the connections she has made through our organization. “Once you connect and contribute, you give your value to an organization and the organization gives its value back to you,” she says.
A graduate of Howard University, Shala studied multi-media design and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Electronic Studio Art. She later earned a Master’s degree in Graphic Design at Savannah College of Art and Design. She is also certified by the Brand Academy as a branding expert. “My work experience covers a wide range of services from designing campaigns to front-end web development,” she says. “As a certified branding expert who has helped brand hundreds of organizations, I combine my brand strategy with my passion for telling stories through photography. It took me a while to find this connection, but I couldn’t be more excited about elevating women in their careers and their businesses through my photography sessions,” she says. Calling herself a self-professed hustler, Shala loves supporting her fellow female hustlers!
After college, when she needed to fundraise in order to go on a mission trip to the Philippines, she began offering portraits to raise money. She enjoyed the creativity of her efforts, realized that she had missed photography, and also remembered that she was good at it! Now, years later, Shala has been behind the camera in some fashion for a long time. Her photography business, Shala W. Graham Photography, is now about two years old, but she has been an entrepreneur for years before that. In fact, she describes herself as a serial entrepreneur. She definitely “wears many hats.” In 2014, she launched Creative Colony, a coworking space in downtown Silver Spring where creative professionals work. Today there are 50-55 members who come into the office and use the space for work, the mailing address for their business, and the conference room for workshops and meetings.
Shala is also Youth Director of The Bridge, a non-denominational church in Silver Spring. She leads their youth ministry, plans events, and “trains and mentors the youth leaders so they can do the work of impacting the next generation.”
Shala grew up in Kentucky, came to DC in 2000 to attend Howard University, married a DC native in 2005 and now lives in Silver Spring. When she is not working, she enjoys “binge watching Netflix programs” but is usually busy and productive in many ways. She also participates in mission trips and has enjoyed her travels to the Philippines in 2013 and in 2016, where she sponsors children through faith-based nonprofits. “I like to spend time with the kids I help,” she says. “I fund their health, studies, and make sure they have money for uniforms and school-related events. I don’t have kids of my own, so these are my babies,” she says.
If your business can benefit from a brand strategy or photography session, call Shala W. Graham at (240) 468-4885. She can also be reached by email at email@example.com.
Ellen R. Cohen is a free-lance writer and editor whose “editorial advertising” helps her clients advertise their goods and services in a variety of ways. She can be reached at (301) 984-7444.