GUEST POST: My eyes were dead in photos until I met Karina

*Written by Shaleah Dawnyel*

Shaleah Dawnyel Headshot | Karina Louise Photography

Meeting San Francisco photographer Karina Louise changed my life. It might sound crazy but it’s true.

Have you ever had a really good picture of yourself? A single shot, whether business portrait or even something candid where you looked at it and said, “Wow, yes, that’s really me.” Being born and raised in Los Angeles, I was no stranger to the camera. As an outgoing child, I was constantly recruited to be “part of this church brochure” or “in that casual catalog”. Then as I got a little older and did musical theater in High School, the photo shoots continued. For a few years I even worked in the entertainment industry and came to intimately understand the never-ending quest for the perfect headshot. So many photographers, so little time!

But in all of my photos, there was always a common theme. I could never see myself in these photos. The real me – the light in my eyes that my best friends had described to me- was never there. Instead, every shot always seemed to look like the last one. And every expression captured seemed to look like someone else.


I will never forget my first photoshoot with Karina. I had just changed my hairstyle drastically and needed some new photos for my business blog. It had been a long time since I had had my photo taken professionally, and despite my past experience, I was nervous. No matter how “pro” people had been in the past, I had always felt like my eyes were cold in the final pics. I didn’t feel comfortable, never invited somehow to be my most animated and true self.

And then I did a photoshoot with Karina.

I remember we decided to do the shoot in a beautiful park in San Francisco. As instructed, I brought several changes of clothes. I had also brought my nerves and my expectation that we probably wouldn’t get the shots we needed.



First things first, she put me at ease. This girl’s energy was remarkably calming. It’s actually hard to describe. When I met her I felt instantly accepted, like no matter what happened everything was going to work out fine. Her relaxed assured style of getting to know me made it feel like her suggestions were somehow my ideas. A masterful blend of ease and effortless direction, the hour flew by and I enjoyed our time outside in the fresh air. Talking to her, I forgot the camera was there and we just shared stories about our lives, our work and the things we love to do.

When the pictures came through via email the next week, I loved them. What is more, I loved me in them. And as I started posting them around, the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. But perhaps the most meaningful and consistent thing being said was, “Somehow she really got YOU.”

Headshot of Shaleah Dawnyel | Karina Louise Photography


Now we get together every year (at least) for a shoot. My hair changes as do my moods, depth, ideas and photography needs. But consistently she gets out of me what is in me. No tricks, no airbrushing. This helps me to see myself in an honest light. For this, I am very grateful.

All portrait photographers are NOT created equally. I feel so very lucky to have found my perfect photography match. If a picture paints a thousand words, I like saying things with Karina!

Candid Headshot of Shaleah Dawnyel | Karina Louise Photography