As part of our efforts to support women in production and photography or WIPP, we are spotlighting different women and how they have made their impact within the industry. Our very first spotlight is Stephanie Dunn, a Professional Photographer.
Who is Stephanie?
Currently, Stephanie is the Lead Photographer at BW Productions. This is a local Salt Lake company that focuses on telling stories through the lens that have an impact. Our main clients are corporate and non-profit companies who need event, marketing, headshots and special project coverage.
Stephanie found her love for photography at a young age and found inspiration and encouragement from her parents through the years. Growing up, National Geographic seemed to be the dream job – storytelling through the lens plus travel. Through the years this dream has been channeled in many directions and she loves working with clients on projects that evoke emotion, have depth and tell a story.
The exposure to creative mediums at an early age led her to receive higher education in a similar field. Stephanie received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Studies with an emphasis in photography, furniture design, and advertising.
During college she had the opportunity to be an international exchange student at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand for a year. While there, she studied New Zealand/Pacific Island art and Maori culture and language.
New Zealand is also where she discovered her love for landscape photography and the path towards a career in photography began to flourish there. She spent six years living and working in Dunedin following graduation from college. Her job at a small advertising firm gave her hands-on experience in all aspects of their projects and her skills grew immensely.
Throughout her professional career, she has worked for a variety of companies in roles that encompass photography, marketing, graphic design, project management, and copywriting.
In 2010, she became a Freelance Photographer in Minneapolis and created Stephanie Dunn Photography & Design LLC. Her client list grew into a wide range of projects including events, corporate, family, travel, marketing, fine art, stock, and lifestyle.
In 2016, she and her family moved to Salt Lake City and she was instantly inspired by the color palette of the west and created Basin and Range Images – a fine art and stock photography company.
With her current role at BW Productions as Lead Photographer, she loves working with a team of talented individuals to produce high quality projects for clients.
Stephanie has volunteered for organizations such as Advocates for Human Rights, Rocky Mountain Innocence Project and through BW Productions charitable projects.
A recent highlight for Stephanie was having a piece of art selected for phase one of the new Salt Lake City International Airport in terminal A. The piece is 38.5′ x 9′ and was taken up in Little Cottonwood Canyon featuring Aspen trees.
Outside of work, she enjoys all the outdoor activities and adventures that Utah has to offer! She appreciates live music, art and time spent with family and friends.
How She Sees the Photographer’s Industry
Stephanie feels it is important to “help women know that they have other options as Photographers. Women are falling into certain markets and not seeing that there are other options out there. A lot of women feel that family, baby, and wedding photography are their only options. That simply is not true.”
She then describes how, especially in Utah, those markets are over-saturated. The oversaturation creates steep competition and often discouragement to those who are trying to get their foot in the door.
She feels that it is vital that women support other women within this industry. This can be difficult when you are competing against one another, but creating those professional connections will take you further along your path. Also, it can be very valuable to carve out a niche for yourself by specializing in a specific genre of photography.
Stephanie has learned to be flexible and constantly adapt within the industry. Factors such as trends, technology, gear and software are always evolving – so, it is important to keep learning and challenging yourself.
She has found different niches to stand out in and encourages other women to explore their options as well. Other types of photography that can be explored include:
- Fine Art
- Real Estate
For Stephanie, she feels like the journey to where she is now hasn’t always been a direct path. The various skills learned in a variety of jobs and the connections she has forged along the way have lead her to this point.
A big challenge for Stephanie was to overcome her own perspectives on figuring out how to make photography a full-time job versus a side hustle. The delicate balancing act of family and career isn’t always smooth, but it’s a work in progress.
Over the last decade, she has learned to positively place her talents within the industry and put the appropriate value on her time. It is important to always know your worth and advocate for yourself.
Stephanie recounted a story of sending in a bid for a project that she was qualified for and knew she could confidently do, although there were some aspects of the job she hadn’t done before. In an effort to secure the project she underbid her talents and undersold her abilities to do the project. She ultimately lost the bid to a male competitor who wasn’t as qualified and also lacked experience in the same area as she did. But, the difference was that he came in with the higher bid and the confidence to back it up.
She took losing this bid as a learning opportunity. Stephanie talked to her male competitor who was hired for the project in order to understand what she could have done better. After talking with him she learned that he was confident in his ability to learn how to research and prepare to do the project. He didn’t let the unknown make him question the value of his work or his ability to learn how to do the project.
Stephanie has since fought for her rates and values her abilities within the industry. She places value on her expertise as she ventures into new arenas.
Working Through Stereotypes as a Photographer
Stephanie states that it is difficult to work through the stereotypes females face within the industry. Generational and misogynistic behaviors create challenges and obstacles for women. Often times assumptions are made about what female professionals’ roles are before an introduction is even made on set. It is important to be confident and secure your place in the equation of each project.
Stephanie has found that creating professional connections and carving out a space for her and other females for set/project meetings is key to changing stereotypes and making forward progress for women. Confidence, being a good listener and valuing your skills will give your greater respect and freedom in your career.
When you start a project it is important to establish your role in the project with the client and make a professional connection at the beginning. Some clients have difficulty acknowledging females and that is a challenge, I find that establishing some common ground with the client can be invaluable in moving forward.
One aspect of the industry that she began dealing with as a recent college graduate was sexual harassment. Stephanie was working at a retail outfitter where she was the only female in the shop. She recounts how two men would say sexist jokes often and make inappropriate comments on a daily basis. After reaching out to management several times and the situation remaining the same, she decided to leave the job but on her last day made a toast to the two men in particular in an effort to call them out for their behavior. Sarcastically toasting that she couldn’t have been more thankful to them for creating such a welcoming and open workspace for the first female to be a part of at this particular company. Looking back it was a learning experience and it has helped her be an advocate for other women in the workplace down the road at different companies.
Valuing Her Work
A difficult aspect as a photographer is when people do not value your talents, creativity, and skills. People would often try to cut her short or even get her to do work for free if the person tagged her in a social post or promised some promotion in return. Her best advice for freelancers is to establish firm rates and offer a family and friends discount if that is something that is important to you, but always put a value on your time.
She gives the example of how you always pay an accountant to do your taxes and wouldn’t ask the accountant to do your taxes in exchange for promoting their services. She advises new female photographers to the industry to be confident despite the unknown and fight for respect and equal pay.
Some Last Advice
Stephanie ultimately wants females to know their value and the amazing talents they bring to each project. Always advocate for yourself and don’t back down from potential opportunities that you want. Before meeting with clients it can be a good idea to prepare with all of your amazing selling points, strengths, experience and any other relevant connections you may share. Know your clients, listen to the clients and make their project goals come to fruition through the lens.
She states that one of the most important skills photographers can have is to adapt easily to changes and challenges on projects. There are so many factors happening on a shoot, so being able to shift and transition is a fun challenge of the job. With each project you do there is growth and improvement, so know you value and be your best advocate as well as advocating for other females.
Stephanie is thrilled to be a cofounder of Utah Women in Production and Photography along with McKayla Kruetzkamp and Madison MacKay. She looks forward to collaborating and networking with this group of amazing and talented females in an effort to network and grow careers.
Follow Stephanie on Instagram HERE.
Join us on April 20th to listen to our guest speaker Jen Hansen!