Alumni Story: Valerie Shimonis

Back in 2012 when Valerie Shimonis graduated from Marywood University with her BFA Design degree in Photography, little did she know that in a few short years she’d be starting her own business as a professional Personal Brand Photographer. What is a personal brand photographer? Read more below to discover what a brand photographer does as you learn about Valerie’s successful career in photography.

Valerie ShimonisValerie Shimonis

Graduation Year/Major: Class of 2012, BFA Design, Photograph with a minor in Art History

Marywood Clubs/Activities: Delta Epsilon Sigma

Current Occupation: Owner/Photographer at Photography by Valerie Shimonis LLC, where I’ve worked for the past 8 months.

What was your favorite part about studying art at Marywood? I loved the variety of arts and courses that I was able to discover and learn Marywood, as a liberal arts college, kind of requires a great deal from it’s students, and that is definitely a good thing. In having to study other fields and getting immersed in other topics, it made me appreciative of so much and so many people. I still reflect on all those “random” classes today and how they actually became relevant to things in my life as a whole. I think everyone should be pushed to learn new skills they would have never even considered themselves.

How did your art education at Marywood help your career? Learning from the basics and fundamentals in art helped me to easier grasp more complex ideas and techniques. If I had not had the foundation I learned from Marywood, it definitely would have been harder to comprehend the whys and hows of many new ideas I was introduced to after graduating and in my field. In the BFA Photography program, students are taught from books and analogue first. Learning from these areas initially made going digital and understanding digital SO much easier. Beyond that, it made me more receptive to other people’s ideas, and not just other artists. Looking at things from various perspectives is invaluable.

Did your career path match your vision of a career path? What’s different? Yes and No. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to own my own business back in the day. I wanted to be a documentary photographer in the way that photojournalists work for and with popular publications (i.e National Geographic, Time, etc.). So that is the No. How is it a Yes? I am still doing documentary work, just in my own way and on my own terms. With Personal Branding Photography, the niche I specialize in, I am still documenting the lives of people and their true emotions and being, but in a commercial manner. I am still able to capture essence, (and I don’t have to leave my family behind to do so!). It’s been super fulfilling so far, and I can’t wait to keep going!

What is your favorite thing about your job? With my specialty, I get to photograph all “genres” of photography, if you will. I am not JUST a portrait, family, commercial, or product photographer. Under Personal Branding I tell stories through images. And all those stories mentioned above come into play. Oh you’re a Mommy Blogger who want to connect with your audience? Great, let’s do a family session with the kiddos. A Cake decorator? Perfect, I will get you in your element creating your masterpieces and extend the story with some product photos! You’re a musician who needs promo images for a tour? Let’s rock out a portrait session and get some event photography of a concert in too! I get to do it all without compromising and, again, on my own terms. Who wouldn’t love that??

What is your favorite software program for design and why? I use Adobe Bridge for management and to correct in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw). I make all my other fine edits in Photoshop. (Typical photographer, haha) These are the only 2 programs I need to get my final products. As a side note, I absolutely love Illustrator, but for what I need to do currently, it doesn’t play a part in my workflow.

Anything else you’d like to share? My business is new, but I have been doing portrait and wedding work for ten years now, since right before I became a Marywood undergrad. It has taken me that long to find my true path. So my message for people is: “Don’t give up. Don’t stop chasing your dream and looking for what you are meant to be doing.” I feel so much pride in what I am doing now and how I am now able to help other entrepreneurs and business owners on their own journeys.

Any advice for current art students at Marywood? Appreciate your instructors. Be open-minded, but also be practical. Take business classes—accounting, bookkeeping, marketing, public speaking, all of the above. Finally, do not underestimate the power of relationship building (aka the anxiety-inducing word…Networking!).

Here are some examples of Valerie’s Professional Branding photography. Thank you so much for sharing your success with our blog, Valerie!

Follow Valerie online:

Featured images: All images courtesy of Valerie Shimonis


Are you interested in studying photography?

Undergraduate Program: Marywood’s photography program for undergraduates combines fine art training with commercial applications to prepare you for a career in photography. Our program emphasizes technical skills, from traditional gelatin silver and chromogenic processes to digital imaging and alternative processes. LEARN MORE

Graduate Program: We also offer Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in Photography. LEARN MORE

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