I can't count how many times a client has told me "I hate having my photo taken" or "I'm not photogenic at all!" In fact, my client Altagracia (above) told me that! But doesn't she look amazing? 

1. How you look in photos depends on how you feel.

If you're having a shoot here are some suggestions for the day or week before:

  1. Drink a TON of water
  2. Eat healthy whole foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  3. Try to drink little to no alcohol
  4. Sleep

Because if you're feeling spread-thin and exhausted it will show. No amount of Photoshop can fix that! If smiling feels fake then don't smile. If your arms feel in an awkward position then move them to where they feel comfortable. It’s that simple.

2. The best photos are of you doing what you do

An environmental portrait is more than just a head shot on a gray background. It's about the setting. It's you in your space with things you love and that's what makes the photo interesting.

It's important to have your things ready and your environment the way you like it.

If you're being shot at your desk then clean your computer and monitor, your phone, anything that might be in the shot. If you're a chef have food prepped and ready with your cooking tools at hand.

Once you have the area setup take a step back and look to see if anything odd is sticking out or if it looks too cluttered. Think about what you don't want to be shown in your photos. Look at the floor, walls and ceiling.

3. What makes an interesting photo?

Sometimes it's the person’s hands, not their face that tells the story. Or it could be a coffee cup on a messy desk, shop owners laughing together while working ...

It is these sweet and simple moments that connect us to one another and connect you with your clients and customers.

4. What to wear?

One of my favorite stories is about my client Kate (below). She was not excited about having her photo taken and she was nervous. Part of her anxiety was that she had no idea what to wear?

So I asked her what do you feel most comfortable in? She said, my dirty beat-up overalls. Once she put them on she immediately felt 100% more comfortable. Which made her look happy and at ease in the photos.

The other bonus was the juxtaposition of her in beat-up work overalls against the eclectic aesthetic of her house. It gave the photos another layer of texture that I simply loved.

I say, wear something comfortable, something that is YOU. Because if you're wearing clothes that don't make you feel good it will show. 

5. Makeup + Hair?

Again, this comes down to how you feel. If having someone do your hair and makeup makes you feel good then go for it!  Just don't go overboard with the makeup. Soft and natural will translate better than heavy and stiff.

I know how daunting a shoot can feel when "all eyes are on you" so I hope these tips help you feel more at ease and prepared. The bottom line is this: if you try to have fun instead of dreading it, it will show.

And if you're still totally freaked out then have a glass of champagne during your shoot!




Last week was tough. 

I felt stretched-thin on every level and my creativity was at a standstill. There were lots of tears and frustrating moments.

But instead of listening to my inner self-care-warrior I barreled through it.

If you can relate, then it's probably time to recharge your batteries and reflect without distractions, conversations, or to-dos. 

Because when you take the time to take care of yourself you are happier, more creative, more interesting, and more fun to be around.

Most importantly, you can handle hard things without falling to pieces.

Living in this fast-paced now now now society can take it's toll. That's why stepping away and giving yourself time to process what is in your mind and heart is important.


 1. Get up and get out. Take a walk, even if it's just 10 minutes around the block.

 2. Watch, read, or listen to something that inspires you. I highly recommend watching these documentaries: Iris, and  Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. So, so inspiring.

 3. Pamper yourself: get a massage, splurge on something you've been wanting, change your look.

 4. Stop thinking about the project(s) that are bugging you. Step away from them and when you come back; try to think about them from a new angle.

 5. Travel somewhere. Seeing new things always reignites my creativity no matter where I go or how long I stay.  

Remember that by recharging yourself you recharge all those around you.

I challenge you to take a little self care break, even schedule it. An hour, a day, a week. Even if it feels selfish or impossible - find a way and do it.


Failing Is Good

I always wanted to ride a motorcycle. It was one of those secret dreams I kept locked away.

Learning how to ride wasn't an easy journey for me. About 13 years ago I took my first motorcycle test and FAILED. 

This was a huge blow to my ego and it hit me deep. I felt like a failure so I gave up trying for many years. 

I went back to riding on the back of my boyfriend's motorcycle dreaming about the day I could ride my own bike. I let my ego get the best of me and didn't tell anyone because I was so embarrassed and ashamed.

It took me a long time to "get over it" and try again. But I did try again and this time it was because I WANTED IT and I wouldn’t let my fear stand in the way.

This time, I passed! I floated for DAYS.

I think about how this story applies to being an#creativeentrepreneur. It would have been easy for me to not try again. But what a loss that would have been. 

It's easy to feel like a failure when you put something out there and hear crickets ... The reality is not every idea is going to resonate and that's OK. Don't let that stop you from trying new things.

It takes time to figure out what works and what doesn't. Keep changing things up and challenging yourself in your business and if you fail, TRY AGAIN.

It's through our failures that we truly learn.

I recently read this by Jill Coleman about giving up that I think sums it up perfectly: 

"Giving up is easy. It's effortless. And because succeeding takes messing up, struggling, enduring obstacles and failures, most people will shy away. It's too uncomfortable, too painful, too much risk. And I get that. And I've felt that way a million times. You think why bother? Who cares? And when that happens, remember: YOU DO. You care. Even when no one else does. Because your dreams matter. Your goals and aspirations mean something. They represent you building your resiliency, weathering the storms, adjusting, trying again, getting better and racking up small wins, one at a time, all of which add up to big successes. Don't wait for someone else to tell you you're an expert or that you can do it. You'll be waiting a long time. Instead, just own it and jump. Yes, it's scary and what if I look like an idiot and what if no one supports me and what if someone calls me out? It's tough. But the alternative is *not* trying. Giving up on something you want. And I don't know about you, but that's becoming less and less of an option for me." -Jill Coleman


I am drawn to the magic of the desert. 

So I decided it was finally time go. Without much of a plan Alex and I hopped on a plane thinking New Mexico would fill in the blanks.

We stayed at Ojo Cliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa in the north cottages which were perfect; not super fancy but with a chic-rustic-comfort. Staying at the spa the whole trip instead of moving around was one of the best decisions we made. I truly felt like we were able to relax and take in the scenery. We would adventure during the day and then come "home" in the evening and enjoy the mud baths and mineral springs, then eat tasty food at the wine bar.

The scenery around Abiquiu as we saw from the top of Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch was breathtaking. There is magic imbedded in those rocks, I'm certain of it. Mix that with the silence, wind, and heat and you've got yourself a spiritual awakening.

Alex was more keen on the hike than me, I was wearing TOMS and all we had was warm water in an old Gatorade bottle. But once we started hiking and getting further away from the people down below something inside me changed and I remembered "outdoor Steph." That chick who loves hiking, getting dirty, and putting sticks in her hair. When we came off that ridge we felt like we had accomplished something, like we actually earned the right to eat food, drink cold water, and tasty beers.

The only thing I had planned in advance was to take the private tour of Georgia O'keeffe's house and studio in Abiquiu, NM.

This experience turned out to be much more important and inspiring to me than I had realized it would. I respect Georgia O'keeffe and the way she chose to live her life; her way. She found something in New Mexico that she connected with and decided to build a life there. 

It was surreal standing outside that very window you see below taking a peak into her life that has been frozen in time. Seeing her records and stereo (she loved music and had one in every room), and her minimalist/nomadic decor mixed with adobe and wood was simply perfection.

The guide said that she built those three windows so that she could look out at that tree and it would be framed like a Japanese three panel screen. Brilliant.

We stood in her courtyard with sweat dripping down our faces in full sun. The same courtyard where this famous portrait was taken and where she painted Black Door With Red.

I just couldn't believe where we were and how sacred it all felt. I understood fully in that moment that we create the life we want to live and I secretly vowed to myself to always be wild.

O'Keeffe inside her beloved Ghost Ranch home in Abiquiu, New Mexico, as photographed by Karsh, 1957.

It's hard to capture the whole experience here but this trip changed my life.

It woke me up and reminded me of the person I have always been and the person I want to be moving forward.



Have you had a tough time naming your business?

I have. I've heard it compared to naming one's child and though I don't have kids I imagine naming one can be difficult. I guess it's that "forever" thing. 

Bear with me, this is a long story ... but naming my business has been ONE BIG STRUGGLE and I'll tell you why. 

Let's start with my name(s). My maiden name is Butts (don't worry, it's ok to laugh). I've dealt with jokes and snickers my whole life, It's cool. I actually love my maiden name and as strange as it may sound - it gave me strength and confidence at a young age.

Kids would ridicule me and say things like "HEY butthead" or "YOU'RE A butthole. But when I didn't react they would simply give up. So I learned early on that was good way to deal with the "attention." When I'd go through the checkout line and hand over my license the clerk would try to contain a laugh but then I'd smile and give them the "it's ok" look and all was good. In class when my teachers would take roll and it came to my name somehow their voice would reach an octave higher and it felt like BUUUUTTTTSSS would ring through the whole school!

But again, I was cool with it. I think it's because I grew up in a loving environment surrounded by a clan of Butts's whom I loved and cherished. They never felt weird about the name so neither did I.


So as confident as I was with my name I didn't want to use it for my business. I just couldn't imagine a logo other than two butt cheeks - ha! So instead I came up with sb ink. design. I know, so sophisticated right? I really thought the "ink" part was clever because I was only designing print at the time. Get it .... ink and print. I think you're starting to see why I've struggled so much. I should have stuck with my name!

I thought my problems were solved once I married because I took on Alex's beautiful name - Zangeneh Azam. But if you're like most people I've encountered while having this name pronouncing it is tough and spelling it is even tougher.

So, to simplify I went with Mrs. Z Design. Cute, yes - serious business name, no. I also learned a BIG lesson after buying the url mrs-z-design.com that dashes are a PAIN IN THE ASS in both emails and urls. So don't do it. You've been warned ... 

So I decided I wanted to get rid of the dashes and simplify so my business name became sza.me. Now, this one was great because it was short and easy enough to remember. But what exactly did it say about me and my brand? Nothing. It wasn't a brand it was a portfolio site. I needed something with chops. Something bigger .... 

I was also at a strange point in my life. I had just quit a state job that had been slowly sucking the life out of me. So I was recovering from that and trying to find my true voice again. I needed color, vibrancy, rule-breaking, adventure, dirt on my boots, and freedom. 

For months nothing was clicking. Nothing felt right even after working through branding e-courses and reading everything I could find on naming a business.

It wasn't until I took a trip to New Mexico and let it all go that I connected with the wild inside of me. It was there that Wild Woman was born.

I wholeheartedly loved my brand because it was ME. And creating it helped me get back in touch with who I really am; a wild creator. 

Wild Woman branding

That being said, it only lasted about a year. It was when I was knee deep in craft fairs and making zero money. Selling my feather earrings and organic lotions that I realized it was a passion project - rather than an actual design and photography studio. 

But I'm thankful for what I created through Wild Woman because it was the first time I actually connected with my brand.

Because a brand is more than just a logo, a color palette, images, and typefaces. A brand is a feeling and a mood. It's also your voice and the message you put out there every time you post something or speak about your business. It's a cohesive whole of individual elements.

So I decided to move on and rebrand. I felt sad letting go of Wild Woman because there is more I want to do with it. I've always wanted to start a WW retreat where wild-boss-women from all over gather, talk shop, and breath in fresh air together. So maybe that will happen one day.

Ok. Enough of Wild Woman ... onto the next rebrand.


This time around I wanted a brand that would stand the test of time and at first, I thought this would.

But after a while the name felt too kitschy and I simply got tired of it. Sure, the design was refreshing and made me feel more professional. Yet, it wasn't exactly a rebrand it was a refresh.

The truth is, I hadn't figured out who my dream clients were or what exactly I wanted to do. Instead of narrowing in and getting laser focused I went broad and showed ALL of my work. I showed my travel photos and magazine work, invitations, greeting cards, brochures etc ... There was no focus in my message or in what I was doing and I wasn't getting hired.

So I quietly changed the name of my business to Steph Zangeneh Studio.

I didn't make any announcements or talk much about it. But I slowly transitioned the site (after a few different designs) to what it is today.

Most importantly my message and purpose became clear: branding, website design and photography for boss women. 

I only showed the work I wanted to be doing instead of everything I've ever done. The magical thing is that once I got clear and narrowed my focus my dream clients (boss women) started hiring me. 

So in a way, I'm back to square one as far as naming my business goes. For now I'm still using my name even though there are drawbacks. But if that magical new name comes along that can encompass my message in a better way I will definitely go for it and change. 

UPDATE: I have finally rebranded and found THE name for my brand and business: Wild Within Studio. Here were the deciding factors:

1. Though I think my name is beautiful, for some it’s hard to spell, pronounce and remember.

2. Most importantly, I wanted a name that speaks to the women I work with. Because I believe that the WILD WITHIN is where the magic lies.

There are so many meanings connected with the triangle but I chose it as my symbol because a triangle is pure power. It’s strong and everything it needs to STAND UP comes from within.


  1. Start with your name. But if you get porn spam or people can't spell or pronounce it then it's probably not a good name for your business.
  2. Use word association games. Write down all words that have to do with your business (use a thesaurus) and get creative. Then take your favorite words and write them on post it notes and cover a wall. Move them around until something starts feeling like YOU.
  3. Make sure it's simple and easy to remember. The shorter the better in my opinion. 
  4. Avoid kitschy and using dashes! You want your name to stand the test of time and you want people to take your business seriously. 
  5. MAKE SURE THE URL IS AVAILABLE. I just can't stress this enough. 
  6.  Most importantly make sure it's YOU. Does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy and you can't stop looking at it? Then it's a good fit.

What are your thoughts on naming a business? Have you had a tough time?