MEET STEPHANIE :: {Women In Business} Series

Hey everyone! It’s time again for another entry in my “Women In Business Series”  where I interview inspirational women who are running successful businesses! Today, I am so happy to introduce to you a new friend of mine, (thanks to good ole’ facebook) Stephanie! She has such a sweet attitude & I absolutely I love seeing her work pop up in my Facebook newsfeed. Hope you all get inspired from what she has to say today! Remember to check out all of the past Women In Business interviews, and leave some love at the end of the post! Let us know what you think of the series!
Be motivated this Monday! ~H

Hi Stephanie! Thank you for taking the time to share with everyone a little insight into how you run your successful photography business & letting us just get to know more about you! First off tell us a little about YOU! What are a few things you love, that maybe have nothing to do with photography or your business! 
Thank you so much for having me, Heidi! Truly such an honor to be selected to be a part of this. So many talented photographers have been featured thus far! A few little tidbits about me that some may not know would be that my actual last name is “Panagopoulos”. A hefty Greek last name! “Pana” came as a nickname when I was about 10 years old and I then turned it into my business alias! I also used to dance for the majority of my life, close to 15 years! It was a huge part of my life and I constantly try to utilize it into my photo shoots as much as I can!

Where are you located, and how long have you been in business?
I am located in a suburb of Orland Park, IL which is about 45-50 minutes South of Chicago. Though, I always say Chicago! It’s the perfect place to be. I have a little bit of everything around me. Cityscape, country/rural surroundings and an abundance of forests all within driving distance! An ideal situation for a photographer. I opened up for business in 2010 and legally “claimed” myself in 2011! It’s been such a whirlwind experience. Still can’t believe it!
How did you first get started in photography?
My journey has been fairly simple. I started about 6 years ago when I was 16 in high school. It started with your basic point and shoot camera, taking photos of my “Chuck Taylors” & blades of grass. Everything seemed to inspire me! I took both a film & digital class. Once graduation creeped up on me, I decided to attend Columbia College Chicago in their Photography program. I only ended up attending college for one year. From this point, I actually worked at a local portrait studio in the mall for the next two years. Fast forward to 2010 and I decided it was time for me to try this photography thing out on my own – not under anyone else’s radar!

What camera body do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens to use?
Currently, I’m fairly simple! I’m set up with a Canon 5D Mark II which I’ve had for two years. I began with a 50mm 1.4 and just recently added on the 85mm 1.8. I love both lenses for different reasons, but the 85mm has given me a bit more strength in the focusing department.  It’s a lot quicker & seems to be more on top of tack sharpening.

…I love that you keep it simple…. just shows it’s not all about having the latest and greatest equipment!!
How would you describe your photography “style”? How did you go about developing and perfecting your look?
I constantly find myself evolving in my work. Sometimes it’s subtle change I won’t even notice, other times I really take things up a notch. I feel like I’ve definitely expanded a bit this new year. Trying out new techniques & ideas. Getting a bit more conceptual with my work as well. If I had to describe it though, my style is all about giving a stylized lifestyle portraiture.

This sort of plays on the last question here, but “How important do you think it is for a photographer to be consistent to a style?” “Do you think it’s okay to switch post processing styles up to fit the mood of certain images, or do you think it’s better to keep things unified when displaying your work or say your website, or blog, facebook etc?”
I think as a photographer, some become known for a certain style to their images. I can maybe even say people have grown accustomed to a certain style I’ve evolved into with my photographs. Sometimes, this makes you wonder if you’re locked into “that” style. I don’t think you have to be! Art in general is about allowing yourself to have room to grow and change. Allowing yourself to breathe in new ideas & always finding new inspiration. 

I do believe in consistency though. I had such a long period of feeling unsure of every image I posted, because it didn’t look like someone else’s. Each session I would edit completely differently than the other. It made for inconsistencies and I felt like my work was all over the place. Once I broke through that wall and finally showcased ME in my photos, that’s when everything came through. I’m still not settling though. I’m always up for a new change!
What is your favorite subject(s) to photograph?
Seniors/Teens/Fashion. While I can’t jump in and call myself a fashion photographer, I love & appreciate it. I love to throw in bits and pieces of that fashion edge into my sessions. I feel right at home whenever I have a H.S. Senior or a fun fashion/conceptual shoot in front of me. I won’t ever get bored with that!

What editing programs do you use ~ Would you share a little insight into your workflow?
I’m keeping it simple by just using Photoshop CS4 and utilizing Bridge to do my uploading/organizing. In general, I get home from a session run directly to my computer, upload and begin the process! I may have a bit of OCD, but I try my hardest to get at LEAST 5-10+ images done the first night. I feel like my workflow has sped up tremendously over the past year. I understand my style & there are no mysteries when I edit. I know what works for me and what doesn’t. Allowing myself 5-7 minutes per photo on average, I’m able to accomplish this. Sometimes I may use “batch” editing, but for the most part tend to work on each image separately. Finding little shortcuts here & there to help speed up the process when necessary!

What has been your best form of advertising? 
I’m going to sound so repetitive, but Facebook/Social Media is where it’s at friends! I won’t lie, because it scares me what I would do without it. We’ve been really lucky with how we can utilize these free tools which make a world of difference on how your work gets out there.

If you could go back in time and change one thing about your business, with what you know now, what would it be?
I would have sat down and re-worked my pricing. I started myself super low and have been working hard on getting myself up since then. I did little to almost no research on what really went into pricing. I just had no idea of what really went into this business. I was just blown away people were even willing to pay for me to take their photos. I was young & naive. Can’t take it back, only can learn from our mistakes, right?! 

What are you most proud of as a business woman?
The fact that I am only 22 years old, have no college degree, yet I still feel I am successful for the circumstances I’ve put myself under. I have overcome a lot and I love that photography will always be a profound part of my life no matter what. I love that this career has helped opened me up in so many ways. I was an extremely dependent and shy person for so long. I’ve allowed myself to blossom into a true business woman, always ready and willing to learn more!
And finally what are five pieces of advice or helpful hints that you would give anyone who is looking to better their businesses?
  • ALWAYS stay true to yourself. I know it’s extremely hard to not compare, but understand that being YOU is going to get you further than you could ever imagine.
  • Keep your eyes open. Inspiration is all around you in many shapes & forms.
  • Be VERY organized. Over organize if anything. Keep tabs on anything that has to do with your business.
  • Don’t shut yourself off to growth. Allow yourself to constantly learn new things whether it be about photography in general or even the business side of things.
  • Understand your brand and what you are portraying. I know we all love to take photos, but know that your brand makes a huge staple in what will make you stand out amongst the rest.
Thank you so much Stephanie! It has been a pleasure featuring you this week! 
The pleasure has been mine! Thank you for having me be a part of this!!
  • Amanda Miller - So happy that she was featured! She is fantastic and has been so sweet the few times we’ve chatted on Facebook. 🙂

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