After experimenting with photographing herself through a hard time in her life, Shannon Wagner (pictured below) discovered a new passion which lead to the creation of her business, Soul Print Photography. Drawing from her ten years of experience in the mental health field, Wagner offers healing portraiture, which she defines “portraying the beauty and illumination of the soul using a healing depiction of an individual with the use of photographic artistry.”
How did you decide on your business name?
Over the past few years, I was doing a lot of personal healing and soul searching. I used photography as part of my therapeutic process. Photography has always been a big part of my life, but I honestly didn’t see it as healing — just a hobby that felt right and brought me sanity. I began documenting myself in various stages of my healing; reflecting both the lighter and the darker periods. I found that the more I allowed myself to truly tune in to what my heart was telling me—to feel what needed to be felt—I was able to visually capture and create something tangible, my soul print. Like our fingerprints help to identify us all individually, I believe we all also have a unique soul print that can be captured with the use of photography.
What makes your business stand out?
Specializing in healing portraiture allows my business to stand out from others because the goals and sessions are designed completely different than a typical photo shoot. The relationship between my clients and I begins weeks, if not months, prior to the actual shoot itself. This allows us to establish a level of trust and familiarity that is necessary when doing this kind of work. From the beginning, we are planning and creating together how to capture the true essence of what the client wants to portray, making it truly their own unique portrait.
What is a typical day like?
A typical day depends on whether I have a session or not. Non-session days are dedicated to a lot of the administrative, accounting and marketing work that needs to be done. Since Soul Print Photography is still in its early stages, sales and referrals are a big part of my business, so meeting and collaborating with people is very important. Session days are the fun days for me. I like to meet up with my client earlier in the day over coffee and just check in and see where they are emotionally and mentally for the shoot. It’s a great opportunity to answer any last minute questions and to start the day as reassured and excited as possible. The client then has the option to work with a terrific local hair salon in Frederick who helps provide hair and makeup prior to the shoot. I love the idea of pampering people before a session so they feel more relaxed and confident. Then comes the shoot! Shoots can be done indoors or outdoors, usually in a location that is most healing to my client. Once the shoot (which can last up to 3 hours) is complete, it’s time to celebrate! It takes a tremendous amount of courage to expose oneself for a healing portrait and it’s important to me that I honor and recognize them for what they have chosen to do for themselves.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I have always been drawn to helping and understanding people so I pursued a degree in Psychology. Following college, I worked in the mental health field for more than a decade. With my passion for photography and the desire to have my own business, I decided to create Soul Print Photography. Pairing photography with my psychology background I found I could still help people but in my own way. I began establishing relationships with some amazing photographers who helped me hone some of my skills and taught me about the business side to photography. I also attended classes and workshops, and I read… a lot!
How do the social/economic/technological environment in Frederick impact your business?
Frederick is a mecca for artists —new and established— and people who want to be inspired by their surroundings. It’s a very progressive area offering dense history and cultural diversity which I love to incorporate into some of my work. Frederick is also very small-business friendly making it a great place for me to get the supports and resources I need.
What is the best part about what you do?
Healing portraiture can be both powerful and fun. There is nothing better than having a client walk away from a session feeling excited and empowered about who they are (regardless of what they have been through) and having an image that captures and portrays their truest self.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
It can be very vulnerable and emotional when sitting for a healing portrait. I understand and respect the importance of boundaries for both myself and my client; it is a delicate balance in helping them feel safe while also helping them feel empowered.
Where do you see your business in the future?
As a fairly new business with an exciting niche in the photography market, my hope is that more people will recognize the importance of this experience for themselves and others and want to connect with me. I also anticipate a lot of exciting collaborations with people in the Frederick community who have expressed support around the need for healing portraiture. My wish is that in the next five years I can offer this experience on a more global scale. I have a bit of wanderlust and love learning and exploring other parts of the world. The possibility of helping shift someone’s personal perspective in various cultures and to hear and capture their stories would be absolutely incredible and humbling. Ideally, I hope to contribute to the fight to change the stigma of mental health and how it is perceived and treated.
Can you describe your customers?
There are no restrictions or qualifications for someone who wants a healing portrait. We are all worthy of having a picture of ourselves that makes us feel like WE ARE ENOUGH! We are in this crazy world together with our own stories and experiences and we don’t have to feel ashamed or face things alone.
What is the single most critical talent you possess in your role as a business owner?
My interpersonal skills give me the confidence to work with people coming to me in various stages of healing. I am not a therapist and do not pretend to be, but I can offer a unique alternative for someone seeking a positive and artistic form of expression in their healing journey.
When you’re not running your business, what are you doing?
When I’m not working, I am usually seeking out ways to replenish and ground myself by indulging in nature, reading, writing, listening to music and spending time with my family and friends. It is critical to always come back to what gives you strength and peace so that it’s possible to do the same for others.
What matters most to you in your business?
As an entrepreneur it is always important to me to do business that is respected and has integrity. As an artist and an advocate for mental health, there is nothing better than having people walk away fulfilled and happy with who they truly are because I was able to help them see their worth.