Shanna Paxton Photography: Empowering the Community Through Photos



By Margo Greenman

shanna paxton photography
Shanna Paxton met her husband, Jeff, at a sci-fi speed dating event. The couple now run a photography business together. Photo courtesy: Shanna Paxton

Growing up in South Africa, Shanna Paxton found herself in a state of culture shock when she arrived in the Pacific Northwest as an au pair several years ago. Here, Shanna wasn’t expected to act or dress a certain way; she was free to be herself, and, over time, she learned to shrug off some of the rigid traditions she was accustomed to. However, as Shanna became more comfortable and relaxed, she noticed that even in a country where individuality and self-expression are celebrated, many people — especially women — still struggle with the concept. This was a notion Shanna understood all too well.

Years ago, when Shanna started college in South Africa, she knew she was going to study photography. She had always been fascinated by television and photos and, after receiving a digital camera for her sweet sixteen birthday, she was hooked. Shanna’s first photography subjects were her friends from school. “I would take photos of them and they would feel great about themselves,” she says. She enjoyed the feeling she got knowing her photos had made someone feel more confident or beautiful. Shanna wanted everyone to feel this way.

After studying general art for one year and photography for four years in college, Shanna’s five years of study culminated with a two-year photo project that was — and still is — near to her heart. Shanna used photography to explore body image and how women are portrayed in the media. Female empowerment has been a prominent theme in Shanna’s photography ever since.

When Shanna came to the Pacific Northwest four years ago as an au pair, she was placed with a family in Seattle. Living with this family, Shanna gained experience photographing their children. Shanna’s portfolio was growing and she was falling in love — not only with the Pacific Northwest but with her soon-to-be husband and business partner, Jeff.

Shanna and Jeff met at a sci-fi speed dating event at Emerald City Comicon and hit it off instantly. Fortunately, the timing couldn’t have been better. On the day they met, Shanna received notice that she was nearing the end of her year as an au pair. Missing her family and friends at home and struggling with the sudden pull on her heartstrings to stay, Shanna was faced with a difficult question: should she stay or should she go? Shanna ended up requesting an extension. In August 2013, Shanna and Jeff got married and Shanna moved in with Jeff at his home in Olympia. Several months after their wedding, Shanna received her green card and started her business, Shanna Paxton Photography, which she operates alongside her marketing guru husband, Jeff.

shanna paxton photography
After five years of study, Shanna’s university years culminated in a two-year photo project. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton Photography.

Since launching Shanna Paxton Photography just over one year ago, Shanna hasn’t hesitated to introduce the community to her unique and powerful approach to photography. “We’re known for embracing families and empowering women,” she says. This includes everything from capturing precious, organic moments shared between a family to creating powerful, natural photographs of prominent community members and business women. But, every now and then Shanna gets the opportunity to take a special project — she looks forward to these the most. One project that especially stands out for both Shanna and Jeff is last year’s Miss Thurston County pageant, which they were hired not only to shoot but to develop a campaign for the event as well.

Shanna and Jeff wanted to take the emphasis off the pageant dresses and perfect hair and bring the focus to what made each contestant unique. Together they branded the pageant as “More Than A Princess” and highlighted each contestant’s unique talents and qualities through photos. Shanna says the experience was empowering not only for the contestants but for Shanna and Jeff as well.

This authentic, intentional approach to photography is evident in all of Shanna’s projects. Shanna says, other than minimal touch-up, she won’t use Photoshop to alter a person’s appearance. “I used to do a lot of digital manipulation to make women happy with themselves,” she explains, but then things got out of hand. “People would ask me to make them look 30 when they were 50.”

shanna paxton photography
Shanna Paxton is available for a wide range of photography assignments. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton Photography.

Shanna says the empowering women project changed this, and she decided she would no longer digitally manipulate bodies in photos. She does make artistic improvements to the images. Shanna says a lot of prominent community members and business women will come to her for headshots, and she makes it clear that she won’t manipulate the photos to make someone look thinner or younger. Shanna calls these types of photos “natural business headshots,” and they’re designed to make women feel good about themselves, naturally.

Capturing authentic, natural moments is at the heart of Shanna Paxton Photography. Shanna works closely with all her clients and asks thoughtful questions to create a setting in which they will be comfortable and happy. Whether bringing bubbles to a photoshoot to keep kids giggling and happy to helping teens brainstorm creative ways to capture their last year of high school, Shanna brings creativity and compassion to all of her shoots.

When she’s not working on special projects in the community, hosting body image workshops or playing with her new puppy, Shanna is available to shoot family portraits, senior photos, weddings, gratitude videos, natural business headshots and more. To learn more about Shanna Paxton Photography, visit Shanna Paxton Photography online or contact Shanna and Jeff via email.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email