I love it when photographers have little documentaries about themselves. I’ve found that it gives me an insight to their personality which helps explain their style of photography. Why am I mentioning this? Well when Stephanie emailed me I was delighted to be greeted by such a video on her website. There is a tip in there for someone starting out. Anyway onto the interview.
Tell us a little about yourself?
Hello readers! My name is Stephanie Panagopoulos, a.k.a Stephanie Pana. I actually got the nickname ‘Pana’ back when I was about 10 years old from one of my dance teachers and the name kinda just stuck from that point on. When it was time to start up my own business, I knew that the shortened version of my name would be MUCH easier on the eyes & mind. I mean, what Greek last name isn’t impossible to pronounce/spell?! 😉
I’m 22 years old and I currently reside in Orland Park, IL – a Chicago Suburb! My heart is meant to be here! I love the fact I am only an hour away from the hustle and bustle of the big city life, but can still find corn fields & barns just 10 minutes away from home. Kinda perfect, if you ask me! Before photography ever entered my life, Dancing was a huge part of it. I’ve always had some kind of creative outlet in my life and I’m just so blessed that I found something that brings joy to myself and to others.
What made you get into photography?
Back in high school, I was an avid graphic designer and loved everything about it. I then began to respect the images that went into making these designs, which launched me into wanting to broaden myself and try out photography first hand. At the cornerstone of the “Myspace” era, I got myself a point and shoot Sony Cybershot and called it a day. I mainly took the usual photos of random objects and nothing worthy of ever taking a long look at. Then Junior year rolled around and I took some photography classes and even got to mess around with film. My appreciation began to grow but I’d say my real love for photography came near the end of my Senior year when I decided to take it up a notch and purchase a Canon Rebel XTi! NOW, i thought I was legit 😉 Obviously not, I stayed on “Auto” for the next three years!
During those three years, I attended Columbia College Chicago for 2 full semesters, majoring in photography. At that point, I still didn’t have the heart for photography and decided to not complete college and move to Lexington, KY with my boyfriend. During the next two years, I got a basic mall job at The Picture People because it “sounded like a fun job”. I know what you’re thinking, because I’m think the same thing too now about myself. Though, in all honesty, I am so blessed to have worked there. My style now is NO where close to what they offer, but my time there taught me all the foundations of how to work with different age groups, lighting, customer service, etc! I learned so much!
How did you get started?
Continuing on from my last answer, it was April of 2010 when I decided to quit my job and move back to Chicago. It was at this time, I also decided to try and do my own freelance work and “see what happens”. The months prior to moving back to Chicago, I made a Facebook Page for my work and began announcing myself + booking sessions before hand, so that once I arrived, everything fell into place. I had no major plans or visions that this would actually take off the way it did. Initially, I had my heart set on becoming a newborn/baby photographer! I quickly realized my heart was meant for something completely different – High School Seniors! 🙂
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
I absolutely adore and love to photograph High School Seniors, Teens and the occasional “Fashion” shoot. Though I don’t consider myself a Fashion photographer, I respect it in so many ways and love to bring it to life in my work as much as possible!
I feel really close to this age group because I am still only a few years older. I think that gives me an upper hand in the situation. I understand the fashion statements, the vibe of being a teenager and what it feels like to want to feel confidence in yourself. My biggest goal is to make sure these girls feel absolutely amazing about themselves just they way they are. I don’t need them to feel or look like something out of the magazine because I know everyone has the potential and is absolutely beautiful both inside and out. My job is to find that in them and bring it out for the world to see. I strive for that to come across in every one of my photos.
What gear are you using?
Keeping it simple! Canon 5d Mark II and a 50mm 1.4. I’ve rented a few lenses in the past and would love to invest in the 85 1.2 some day!
Whats your favourite lens and why?
My 50 1.4! Obviously, the only lens I own, but I have had experiences with other lenses and I just love the focal length of this particular lens. I love the atmosphere it gives my images too! I think this lens is an avid part in what makes my “style” what it is.
How are you marketing yourself?
Totally not going to sound original here, but Social Media and Word-Of-Mouth are the best tools any business person could ever use these days. 95% of my clientele finds me through Facebook because they saw my work on their friends’ Facebook. I always make sure to really utilize these areas of focus and make sure everyone feels involved with what I do. I love to also offer casting calls for shoots, which I’ve noticed brings in a lot of new or familiar faces.
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
Of course I just couldn’t narrow it down to one, so here are three images that best describe where I am at right now with my work as a whole!
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
Don’t rely on others to get you there. Be yourself!
If there is one thing I’ve learned over this past year, it is that depending on others will only get you so far. When do YOU start to shine through in your work? I went on for so long feeling bad about my work because it didn’t look like someone else’s who I admired…but why should it? That’s when things started changing and getting much better for me. I discovered myself in my work and let everything fall into place. People will take notice to individuality in a such a heavy saturated field, where they have PLENTY of choices to sift through. What is going to make you stand out amongst the rest?