Life Behind the Camera with Swede Pea Photography
Growing up in Sweden, Stephanie Ferrari fell in love with film. She loved the feel of it and the technical aspects of walking into a darkroom, handling the chemicals, and developing images through the detailed process. But it was a different sort of love that caused her to settle here in the US. Settling into east county with her family, this Swedish transplant was able to take her underlying passion for capturing life’s moments and turn Swede Pea Photography, into a sweet success story.
“I have worked with Shaun and Carina for many years now.”
A bold and brave move to leave Sweden and set out for adventure in the United States, resulted in Stephanie working as an au pair for a family in San Francisco at the young age of 23. During her year-long work visa period, she met her husband. Says Stephanie, “We’ve tried moving back to Sweden but ultimately decided to raise our family here in Discovery Bay. We consider the United States home.”
Stephanie launched a children’s clothing line business while her daughter was small. It was lucrative but busy beyond her expectations, and she decided she just could not keep up the pace while raising two kids. Once her youngest was in kindergarten, she determined she needed to get back to work. She felt stuck at a crossroads over whether to put her creative efforts back into designing clothes or doing something she was passionate about. She thought about the spark she felt as a student in Sweden working with film. She knew she had an incredible eye; she just needed the clientele. In August 2015, Stephanie went with her gut and chose to pursue a career making money from something she truly enjoyed doing.
“ Encouragement and support are important to helping a business thrive. There’s enough business to go around.”
“We approach it like a family and are happy to share.”
Friends sat for photos to help Stephanie create the portfolio she would show prospective customers. Her son’s third-grade teacher had her shoot graduation photos of her daughter and afterward, Stephanie received requests to do the same for seven more mothers. “That started a flood of people coming forward asking about my services. I did mostly senior portraits and family photos in the beginning. My business grew greatly from word of mouth but once I created my Instagram page, I became booked solid,” recalls Stephanie.
Many photographers find it challenging to work outside of their niche. Stephanie feels free to do any sort of photography. She doesn’t set limits on her abilities. Says Stephanie, “I got my start working at weddings as a second shooter for Shaun Samuels. My passion for capturing a bride’s special day led to a role reversal with me becoming the lead and Shaun serving as second shooter.” Stephanie shares her favorite day of shooting was an impromptu day in San Francisco. “My friend in Sweden owns a famous hair salon chain and knows a dynamic duo of Swede designers, television personalities, and performers. They travel the world and take photos at famous landmarks with their flamboyant, unique, and colorful outfits as seen on www.villbergs.com. They were coming to San Francisco and she recommended I do a fantasy shoot for them, so I brought along a second shooter, Carina Mendoza, and we got real creative with The Painted Ladies and Baker Beach serving as a backdrop. It was one of the most remarkable shoots I have ever done,” shares Stephanie.
Stephanie frequently needs an extra set of eyes at gigs. When shooting an active event like a wedding, one person simply cannot capture every minute. She has built a team of professionals who share the same vision and take the same consistent, quality shots as she does. Says Stephanie, “It’s rare to find a photographer whose work matches yours so closely that it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. I have worked with Shaun and Carina for many years now. Combined, our work is very on point and impressive – we just click. I especially rely on Shaun; he works with me at almost every wedding. He will get the special moments from a different angle and his work and mine match seamlessly. We’ve come a long way together.” Moreover, Stephanie is proud of the fact that even though they are competitors in the same business inside of a small town, they are ultimately each other’s cheerleaders. Each is happy for the other when they land a job, and they always have each other’s backs. Stephanie adds, “Encouragement and support are important to helping a business thrive. There’s enough business to go around. We approach it like a family and are happy to share.”
Now that her son is 16 and her daughter 11, Stephanie can devote more of her time to the two or three projects per week that keep her on the go. Half of the joy she gets from her business comes from visiting the varied locations she gets to use as her canvas. Between currently renovating her home and finally trying to get her own family portraits taken, this busy mother and wife keeps juggling away. Stephanie reflects, “Fall is traditionally my busiest season, but this year January and February became tightly booked. If people want to use me to capture their most treasured moments, I simply can’t say no. I’m living the dream; doing what I love, helping to support my family, and working with the greatest friends along the way.”