Home » Q & A » Q&A: Deryll Stegall, founder, Stegall Imagery

Q&A: Deryll Stegall, founder, Stegall Imagery

Deryll Stegall is a true entrepreneur. After a nearly 20-year career with one company where he did seemingly everything except photography, the Jackson native took the risk and opened Stegall Imagery. Today, the Ridgland studio is booming, and Stegall couldn’t be more satisfied.

Q —  Why photography? What was it about the camera that grabbed you?

A —  When I was 12, my folks gave me a 110mm camera to take on a two-week vacation driving to California and back. I took a lot of shots on the trip, and they raved about them — they even surprised me with an 8×10 print of a pretty landscape shot I took. I think that was a big encouragement to me and lit a fire inside that never went out. My love for beautiful imagery of all kinds has continued to grow ever since.

Q —  What was the catalyst behind you stepping out and establishing Stegall Imagery? Did you have the same fascination with entrepreneurship that you had with photography?

A —  In 2002, having enjoyed a 19-year career with Southern Farm Bureau Life, I decided I was at the point where if I was going to step out and pursue a passion, the time had come. I wore many hats at SFB Life. Great people. Great company. But I wasn’t pursuing my lifelong dream — photography. I had taken photography courses in college, photography seminars through the years, many photo assignments on the side and had run a TV camera weekly at our church (First Baptist Jackson) for 15 years. So this leap of faith seemed natural. Life’s short, you know — I didn’t want to look back one day and wonder “what if.”

Q —  How has photography changed of late? I would guess digital cameras have changed the landscape greatly. Am I right?

A —  Definitely.  I started with film, including a lot of darkroom time, so I can tell you first hand it’s made a huge difference — both good and bad. One major benefit is that digital allows instant proofing. This helps you fine tune exposure, composition, technique, etc. Also, quality digital cameras are more affordable, making the profession easier to enter. One downside is you can spend unlimited hours at the computer editing and retouching — if you don’t get a handle on the workflow it will drive you insane, or broke, or both. The “technology” of digital has created another interesting dimension.  That is, consumers must be careful — many folks today are great at the “technology” (e.g., they can create impressive websites, display a few good images, do some Photoshop tricks), but that person might lack the requisite people skills, technical photographic training, understanding of proper use of light, professionalism, and depth of hands-on experience. But, bottom line, digital cameras make photography more accessible and creative — and I wouldn’t return to film for anything.

Q —  Why did you choose to focus on the business market?

A —  I feel I’m uniquely qualified to work with businesses, with 23 years in the business world before full-time photography, diverse experience in corporate photo assignments, a proven track record of professionalism, people skills, flexibility, creativity, formal photographic training and even video experience. With all these combined, it just feels right, and clients have been pleased with the results we deliver. Please know though, that we still enjoy children, families, seniors and upscale weddings. It’s just that the business market has really grown well for us and it’s a good fit.

Q —  Yours is a people business, and folks can be vain. If you want to make it in your field, it’s not enough just to be a world-class talent behind the lens, right?

A —  Absolutely. You have to make clients look their best using lighting/posing, set them at ease in front of the camera and do discrete retouching to minimize or eliminate aesthetic problems. But, there’s more to it than that. We recently hosted several high school field trips at our studio, and one thing I emphasized to them was that you can be the best photographer in the country, but if you don’t keep good business records, control expenses, service clients well, comply with government reporting and market yourself effectively, you’ll go out of business

Q —  What is the craziest or most unique photo shoot you have ever done?

A —  Two come to mind: 1.) I rode up eight stories on scaffolding with sign installers on the outside of the Cellular South building at Renaissance to photograph the sign installation — what a view; awesome shots; exhilarating being up there. 2.) I took shots on the Gulf Coast on corporate assignment after Katrina — that was certainly unique and left a lasting impact on me. By the way, one of my shots from that assignment ended up on the cover of Mississippi Business Journal.

Q —  What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?

A —  It should go without saying that one needs formal training in photography, some raw talent/creativity and continuing education. But, there are other things that set you apart and keep you in business: look for excuses to go out of your way to help clients; look for opportunities to support your church and other good causes with your photography; keep a humble and positive attitude; keep good records; and, control your expenses. Even a mediocre photographer can make a living, provide solid value to clients and make a difference in the community, if he or she will do these things well.

I consider photography a major part of everyone’s legacy or heritage. Formal portraits, and even candid shots, we leave behind when we’re gone will mean a lot to our grandchildren, or even great-great grandchildren we’ll never meet.

More on Deryll:
Hometown: Jackson
Degree(s): Bachelor of business administration, University of Mississippi
Hobbies/Interests: Broadway/theatre productions, fishing, travel
First job you ever had: Stocking shelves at Sunflower grocery store
Favorite Food: My wife’s cheese grits and eggs, my dad’s fried fish, my mom’s vegetable soup, my mother-in-law’s plantation cake, my own pork tenderloin. Oh, and vanilla ice cream at bedtime
Favorite Movie: “A Walk To Remember,” “Shadowlands,” “Moulin Rouge”


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About Wally Northway

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