I’ve been contemplating the type of images I want to shoot in 2020. I’m always thinking of what I can do to stretch my creative boundaries and test new waters.

The new year marks the 30th anniversary of my career as a professional photographer. I’ve shot mind-boggling quantities of film and files, now photographing the grandchildren of the first high school seniors I had photo sessions with at the start. My own child is a high school senior rounding third base and headed for her final semester before college. Where does the time go?!

As I have previously explained, while I still do portraiture, my main focus now is commercial photography (capturing products for websites, brochures, etc.), photojournalism (photographing events and portraits of featured personalities), and producing editorial-type content for subscriber websites like Patreon and OnlyFans.

It took me several years to realize my “calling” was not to become a sort of Olan Mills imitation, but rather create images and video that reflect contemporary lifestyles and entertainment. That’s not to say I won’t do a commissioned family portrait – money talks – but my bread and butter is more commercial- and editorial-focused than one-on-one straight consumer sales.

I’m trying to avoid visual clichés like posing someone on the railroad tracks and come up with concepts that are cool and original, drawing inspiration from the images I see other photographers I admire are creating and sharing on social networks.

Overall, I want to add more balance to my portfolio.

My goals are to produce:

  • More winter fashion looks.
  • A larger percentage of male models (so challenging to find good ones).
  • More mature (over 30) models, to reflect the consumer demographic shifts.
  • Less cheeky or provocative glamour, more fitness/fashion and expressive environmental portraiture.
  • Focusing on editorial content tie-ins (photo/interview packages) and stock photography; i.e., more specificity of purpose.

If there’s one thing I learned in 2019, it’s that it is no crime to not take advantage of a pretty day with picture-taking for the sake of it.

Specific Stock and TFP Shoots I Want to Do in 2020 and Beyond

  • Winter Fashion – sweaters, etc. in the snow and on the street during cold months.
  • Shopping Beauty – consumer culture and street fashion amid luxury brands and upscale settings. Brick and mortar retailers are becoming extinct, I am interested in shopping as therapy and status.
  • Flower in Her Hair – a beauty in a jungle-esque setting with a bright flower in her hair.
  • Floating Luxury – Contrasting swimwear shoots looking bored on a yacht and having fun with a poor boy in a small boat.
  • Summertime lifestyle looks – youth culture captured, baseball camp and cutoff shorts, interacting with a cute boy, eating watermelon, tanning, etc.
  • Rocker Chick – big hair, metal bands, goth-ish makeup, guitar slung over shoulder.
  • The Face – Beauty headshots of a gorgeous model with striking eyes, emphasis on makeup and hair styling.
  • Swimwear with editorial fashion vibe – bikini paired with accessories like jewelry and big hat, etc., emphasizing luxury and style.
  • Dinner date – girl all made up for a night out at a restaurant, perhaps on the patio with city lights slightly blurred for bokeh effect behind her.
  • Beach Babes – two models in their 20s enjoying a day on the lake, expressions ranging from giggles to moody.
  • Environs – shoots emphasizing anonymous models exploring stunning natural settings like waterfalls, canyons, etc. Space left for adding motivational quotes.
  • Funny T-shirts – models posing in t-shirts with funny or provocative sayings or cool vintage logos.
  • Tribal markings – dramatic special makeup to decorate face and body. Or the colorful powder used at music festivals.
  • Waterfalls – epic scene with an epic beauty.

Goals Fulfilled in 2019, Expanding in 2020

I fulfilled a stated goal this time last year to significantly boost the amount of video I produce. I ended up creating a large amount of video, both documenting events throughout the summer for sharing on social media and generating clips for various talents to use in their own promotional marketing efforts. I even dabbled a little bit in politics in 2019.

Ongoing projects I want to continue into the new year are my Images & Lyrics project (combining photo sets with the words from popular songs), and my editorial treatment of intimate apparel, consulting with more experts and academic sources in that field to quote.

Changing Circumstances for 2020

A major change from last year is less uncertainty, more available dates for shooting, and greater mobility than I’ve ever had before.

My schedule for the last 18 years has revolved around living with my daughter, but she moved into her own space in 2019, and my time with her is more fluid and spontaneous than following a set schedule.

Restrictions and Limitations

Most Beautiful Women

I would love to have a new “muse” from the Fort Payne/Gadsden/Chattanooga area to collaborate with regularly, ideally producing content for her Patreon, OnlyFans, etc. so we have a financial incentive to shoot throughout the year.

I’ve relocated from Chattanooga to Fort Payne, so I may need to recruit new faces who won’t flake out on me after one portrait session.

glamour photography

“Lana” aka CJ Perry, who was featured on Savvy.com before signing on as a Diva with the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., (photography by Rick Hughes, art direction by Steven Stiefel).

A model friend I shoot with regularly is recruiting me to help her create promotional photos and videos for her wrestling persona. Yeah, you read that correctly. Researching this a bit, I’m very shocked there is so much demand for that sort of thing, but I guess it should be no surprise considering the popularity of sports entertainment properties that are constantly advertising on the television. My friend is also a trainer, so perhaps she and I can develop the next wrestling superstar. I did have a former model, CJ Perry, who went on to become one of the biggest WWE Divas, but I can’t really take credit for that. I’ve never been a huge wrestling fan and this isn’t really the high art I aspire to, but this project appeals to me as something that would sell to niche audiences, allowing me to pay models without them having to be naked or do anything sexual.

I love live music and also want to do more band/performer photography and video. More artists, authors, chefs, and intellectuals, as well. Essentially, I want to capture images of people I respect and admire. I want to learn and share their stories.

Since I now work for a newspaper, I look forward to meeting interesting people in my community. I remain very competitive when it comes to photojournalism, still get a thrill out of seeing my images on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and I’m driven to not only get A good photograph but THE photograph best suited for an article.

Steven Stiefel photographerI’m planning a series of articles on the opioid epidemic in northeast Alabama, a national problem affecting so many lives. I’d also like to look at gun policy as a complicated issue. This is a troubled but fascinating time to be alive – and I want to take advantage as a photojournalist by creating a series of photo essays in which the images tell the story just as powerfully as the words I pair them with.

This time last year, I was doing a deep dive into search engine optimization as a part of web development. I’m barking up a different tree now. I may return to that path at some point in the future, but for now, I have settled into a comfortable place after what has surely been the toughest year of my life. From this point forward, I rebuild with the goal of becoming even better than before.

Most Beautiful Women

Influencer Photography

I continue to offer “influencer” marketing services, which include custom photography, copywriting of bios and media kits, as well as imagery for social media marketing such as Instagram, and videos like the clips I did for Steph throughout 2019.

Most Beautiful Women

I started out the year with high hopes, traveling to Nashville to shoot with Alex Van Zeelandt on January 12, 2019.

I briefly performed an Instagram marketing campaign for a Nashville model and was growing her following an impressive amount before her mother unexpectedly died, prompting her to take an unscheduled hiatus. I’d be interested to see what I could do with that under different, uninterrupted circumstances.

So that’s an overview of my “game-plan” which is, of course, subject to complete change.