Santa Cruz photographer artist

Santa Cruz photographer Portia Shao with PPA logoSanta Cruz photographer artist Portia Shao has owned and operated her portrait photography studio located in downtown Santa Cruz since 2007. As an artist and photographer, Portia uses camera as the tool to create her art in photography for you. Read the Studio FAQ  to find out what the studio portrait experience is like.

Q: What does the name of your studio mean?

A: I want to provide a positive view of what’s around us in my photography and art, thus the name of my studio and web site, Positive Vista.

Q: What about the “Art” part?

A: I painted in watercolor before taking up photography. I want my photographs to not just be real, but artistic and creative. For example, the Polaroid SX-70 photos are manipulated to give them a painterly look, combining my love for both painting and photography. See them on my Gallery page. They look more like paintings than photographs.

Q: Does that mean you make portraits into paintings too?
A: I do. My background in watercolor prepared me to turn photos into paintings, sometimes they look like oil paintings, sometimes they look like watercolor paintings. It can still retain a lot of realism. It all depends on the subject matter, and what the client is looking for.

mother and baby

Q: Didn’t you publish a book recently?

A: Yes, my first photography book “Time-Zero Santa Cruz” was published in Oct 2013, and is available on Amazon and in Bookshop Santa Cruz. It is a collection of 50 manipulated Polaroid photos of places around Santa Cruz.  It’s a great way to enjoy a lot of them in a small package.

Q: It looks like you like to travel, the panorama photos are from all over!

Panorama photo by Santa Cruz photographer Portia Shao - Mammoth Mountain panorama

Mammoth Mountain panorama

A: Travel is one of my favorite activities, of course I usually have several cameras with me to take photos. I enjoy the vista of mountains and lakes in the Sierras. My panorama photographs are taken to show the larger natural world which can not be seen by just standing still. It takes more than a casual glance in order to see something grand, just like seeing the beauty of something simple or small. Through my photographs, I wish to share my joy for the beauty and positive vista around us.

Q: What’s your goal in portrait photography?

A: In portrait photography, I want to bring out the best of people, be it physical beauty of a woman, character and personalty of a man, ageless wisdom of someone old, unspoiled innocence of children, loving relations between people or their pets. These are moments of your life to be cherished, I am honored and privileged when you choose me to create images for you.

Q: What can we expect from you when we come to the studio?

A: As a client you  can be confident that you will receive top quality professional goods and service based on my technical expertise and high standard of artistic excellence. Most clients are surprised at how much fun a portrait session can be. This video is a good example of what might happen in a glamour makeover session. Furthermore, check out my BE THRILLED OR BUST ™ guarantee on the Contact page.

A few things about Portia Shao

Professional credential:

Master of Photography (M.Photog.) from PPA in January 2017

Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) CPP logo

Member of Professional Photographers of America (PPA)

Member of American Society of Photographers (ASP)

What is CPP? There are fewer than 100 CPP’s in California. To get the CPP designation I passed a comprehensive written exam to demonstrate my technical knowledge of photography and submitted a portfolio of my work to be reviewed and approved by a panel of judges. I am dedicated to being a professional and that education, training and the latest industry knowledge and skills are important to me (CPP’s must be re-certified every 3 yeas). 


PPA International Photographic Competition 2011, merit images and loan collection.

PPA International Photographic Competition merit images 2012, 2014, 2015

PPA International Photographic Competition 2 merit images and loan collection, 2016

Previous lives:

MS and BS in computer science UCLA, worked in software industry until 2005

Faraway places travelled:

Mt Everest base camp, Antarctica

Santa Cruz photographer - Portia in Mountain pose at Mt Everest

Portia in Mountain pose at Mt Everest

Santa Cruz photographer - Portia at Aitcho island Antarctica looking at penguins

Portia at Aitcho island Antarctica looking at penguins

Favorite Subjects:

People (especially women!), pets, landscape, flowers

Favorite Vacation Spot:

Mammoth Lakes, CA