I am Stephen Austin Welch, a director and photographer. For the past 20+ years, I’ve created visual solutions for my clients. My production team and I have shot award winning campaigns for advertising clients worldwide. We’re based on the west coast in San Francisco & shoot around the globe.
I am a visual storyteller by nature, but I also know from experience that quality communication provides a solid foundation for every production we shoot. We make stunning images and solve problems along the way. Relationships and good business ethics are paramount to me.
In both my tv spots and print ads, I strive to have my images identifiable by the genuine connection I create with my subjects. Whether they be models, actors, celebs, CEOs or ‘real people,’ I always enjoy finding a way to ground and connect.
With our motion broadcast work, I co-direct with my partner Katrine. We work under the name KN+SAW (Katrine Naleid and Stephen Austin Welch) as a directing team specializing in lifestyle spots. We compose footage that is fresh, whimsical and quirky. Specifically, we create and capture inspirational, authentic lifestyle moments. Shooting real emotion is what we are all about. Our trademark footage is filming connected moments and storytelling that has surprise and payoff.
I’ve had the opportunity to shoot at some amazing locations. A few that come to mind are: strapped into a roller coaster shooting kids, hanging from a cliff to capture a hang glider, the crystal clear water of the Caribbean making beer ads, movie lots in LA... but truth be told, I’m fond of shooting in dive bars, too.
I have called many places home including Los Angeles (where I went to film school at USC followed by crewing on features), New York, Boston (where I went to art school and studied photography), Portland, Chicago and St. Louis (where I grew up). When not on the road, San Francisco is where I have hung my hat for the past 20 years.
My career in commercial photography began at an early age (I was awarded my first big campaign by TBWA at the age of 21,) and I’ve never looked back. That being said, my background is actually in motion picture film, fine art photography and graphic design. How fitting, right? With the convergence of medias, I feel right at home. I now get to use all the tricks of each trade on the same shoot! Oh, and in a previous life I played guitar in a midwest rock-n-roll band.
I compose images from a sensibility perspective that speaks to the heart of the campaign. In pre-production we discuss where the client’s brand currently is and where they want to take it. Often the client’s core message is best described as an “x-factor,” meaning that we are talking about a mood, energy, and spirit — it’s that “x-factor” of conveying emotion that I have successfully made a career of revealing and filming.
I particularly enjoy assignments in historic places where I can bring an element of history back to life; however the same principles are true and applied when taking a contemporary location and elevating it by adding to its atmosphere with the use of lighting and camera techniques.
I am also passionate about the post-production side of photography. I am fastidious with my files and pride myself on what I have coined, “great digital hygiene.” Using the best in digital technology, that is most suitable for ‘your project,’ I work with my clients from concept to capture and throughout the post-production process to create topnotch motion and still pictures.
Macro-budget or micro-budget, I treat every job with the same courtesies, expertise, professionalism and know-how. I give my all to make striking and soulful images for my clients.
“I highly recommend working with Stephen. Besides being a excellent shooter, he has a great way of calming a nervous client. His professionalism, confidence and know-how put my normally jittery client right at ease giving me a smooth shoot and making me look good at the same time.”
StevexHarbour • Creative Director | DGWB Advertising
“It was a real pleasuare working with Stephen. He's a great collaborator, fun to work with and an excellent photographer to boot. On a recent project, we had one day to shoot product, people, as well as capture video. He took it all in stride and went above and beyond to do an amazing job. I look forward to working with him again.”
KevinxGammon • Creative Director & Partner | SA-5
“Stephen Austin Welch is one of those photographers who consistently surprises you in a great way. You may hire him for his particular “look” or “style,” but he comes back with imagery that is above and beyond your expectations. The other part of his magic is the cool factor is in the image, not in the post-production. Albeit cliche, he has a great eye. What Stephen means to the Creative Director or Art Director is you can easily visualize his images... you don’t have to take a leap of faith that the Photoshop will cover up for the lack of anything. SAW is a pleasure to work with and look forward to our next assignment together.”
JeffxGriffith • Creative Director | Rodale
“Shooting with Stephen Austin Welch is a rewarding experience. Stephen is easy to work with from a creative standpoint. He gets it. He delivered an excellent photography ad campaign to us. The models responded to his energy and he created exactly the kind of images we wanted. His crew was well prepared and anticipated our every need. He made our client feel listened to and special. I can't wait to work with Stephen again!”
PaulxHarris • Senior Art Director & Partner | Stratagem
“Stephen is one of my favorite artists. I call him an artist because he doesn't use photography as a literal medium, he uses bold colors, striking compositions, beautiful contrasts and throws in stunning personality. Somehow he manages to marry this amazing photography with complete professionalism. He is an absolute joy to work with an I'm not just saying that because his mustache is world class. You haven't art directed, creative directed or created a campaign unless you've worked with SAW as a photographer, indulge yourself and your client, and yes it's a bonus you get to visit San Francisco to do it. Highly recommended.”
JimxHarper • Director of Business Development | Boxing Clever
“I have had the pleasure to work with Stephen on a very large “library” assignment with a very aggressive deadline. In the beginning we kept the retouching in house , however my creative team was getting a bit frustrated with the end result . Once we gave it to Stephen, it all came together. He is extremely attentive to details, can work with all different personalities giving him direction at a given time. He is a great communicator and listens and embraces the given direction. Stephen and Katrine are a great team, it is as if they are one, they both have the same sensibility and integrity. The client loved the photos, and my internal team was thrilled.”
PattyxWidyn • Managing Art Buyer | Wunderman NY
“I would highly recommend Stephen Austin Welch for your photography and visual needs. Stephen is an amazing thinker and a highly talented visual artist. He puts a great deal of reflection and thought into things and situations that most people wouldn't look twice at. This thoughtfulness can be seen in many of his photos. In some of my favorite Welch photos, a petrified tree stump morphs into Devils Tower in Wyoming, a piece of cardboard torn from a shipping package somehow turns into a mini spiral sculpture, and an empty theater of seats in an abandoned movie house awaits an otherworldly audience in vivid, enrapturing redness. And then there's his photos of me . . . a somewhat obscure musician in Chicago looks like he belongs on the cover of Rolling Stone or in some high fashion photo shoot. Yep, Stephen's got some rip-roaring magic man skills when it comes to pics. But don't just take it from me. Look over his portfolio yourself . . . and then hire him! He'll add a great deal of magic to your project and will no doubt inspire you to see things a bit differently in the world.”
BrianxKrumm • Senior Editor | Quarasan & Singer and Songwriter | The Great Crusades
“Stephen is extremely organized and highly creative. His photography was perfect and he was able to get just the right emotion we needed. The whole process was handled efficiently and our expectations were managed every step of the way. I’d highly recommend Stephen to anyone.”
PatriciaxMalone • Creative Director & Partner | Stratagem
“Stephen is exceptionally talented and has a fantastic eye. I was always impressed with his work. He is also very reliable and always easy to work with. I would recommend him time and time again.”
AngelaxHughes • Owner | Design Bridge
“Stephen was hired with Katrine Naleid as a photographer for Kimberly-Clark's Huggies Diapers library photo shoot by Wunderman in the fall of 2010. Working with Stephen was not only an absolute pleasure but he made the agency and most importantly the client extremely happy. While on location for the photo shoot he was professional, courteous and knew exactly how to meet both agency and clients wants and needs.”
RebeccaxHisler • Account Supervisor | Wunderman NY
“I have worked with Stephen on a multitude of projects. First, Stephen is one of the most accomplished photographers I know. He can execute the most stunning, professional, marketing, fashion and editorial photography. He has experience in old school, crafted techniques such as large format and medium format film photography. However, he is hands-down the highest expert I know in the area of Photoshop color-correction and digital color workflow. As a result, all of his digital photo work is incredible; always perfect color and saturation. I would recommend Stephen for lifestyle shots, and architecture work in particular. Stephen is also a very good print and web designer; having done work in identity and advertisement. I would work with Stephen in the future and highly recommend him if you want clean, cutting edge design.”
MatthewxMatsuoka • Web Director | UC Berkeley
“I have seen first hand Stephen's work as both a photographer and a designer and would highly recommend him for both. It was a pleasure to work with him and I was always thrilled with the process and the results. And he has a great mustache too!”
LarryxWeinberg • Agent | Weinberg Internationale
“Stephen has shot some very interesting concepts for me. The most complicated was of a small girl modeling a giant play-dough version of a video game character. Stephen is professional, creative and has a great eye. Great with capturing people in situations he always delivers a wonderful sense of emotion in his subjects. I will definitely use Stephen again in the future.”
LeexAnnXWeber • Creative Director | White Shirt Design
“I had the opportunity of producing several photo shoots with Stephen Austin Welch. He is a consummate professional. His creative personality adds inventiveness to every project. Stephen is a pleasure to work with.”
DenisexFlachbart • Producer | Theodore Productions
“I first got to know Stephen 13 years ago when I hired him as a freelancer at AMCAL, a fine art, gift and stationery publishing company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Stephen was a primary part of our core design team. He performed an array of jobs such as graphic design & production, scanning & digital image manipulation and creating polished mock-ups for trade shows & client pitches. He had exceptional Photoshop skills. Stephen was great to work with; from the very beginning I was impressed with how professional he was (even at a young age,) and I found him to be an energetic and a solutions-oriented thinker.
Stephen has a comprehensive understanding of the process from photograph to design through production to the final piece. That is, having worked in design studios he has a sense of what is needed at the various stages of the process: he listens to the needs of his clients and understands his role. I have been most impressed, however, with his dynamic and forward thinking style, positive disposition, versatility and discerning sense of aesthetics. He has a stellar portfolio, solid work ethics, and is a fantastic person to work with. I highly recommend him for any creative endeavors.
MarianaxOldenburg • Creative Director | MO Design
“Stephen created images for the magazine that not only exposed something people hadn't seen before in a creative and epic way but utilized techniques and equipment I had never seen before to create beautiful images that created one of the most memorable photo essays in my nine years at the magazine. Congratulations and thank you.”
ChrisxNichols • Associate Editor | Los Angeles Magazine
“Three words come to mind when I think of Stephen's photography: playful, sly and original. Nearly every image I see snares my attention, teases my senses and makes me want to be a part of the picture. He’s rather quite clever.”
DemianxFarnworth • Copywriter | Fallen and Flawed
“Stephen has a most excellent sense Design/Style/Cool. His identity work for my company was top notch. You can trust SAW with any project and he will *always* make you look good.”
MarkxEngelhardt • President | Intuitive Engineering
“Working with Stephen Austin Welch was a treat. I worked with him on several extremely different editorial projects: Lifestyle cover and feature photography and urban architecture. He approached both projects with a sense of joy and discovery, leading to some wonderful images and a wide range of options. I highly recommend him.”
KathleenxClark • Director | Clark Oshin Gallery
“I had the distinct pleasure of working on several print productions with Stephen in the last 10 years. With high profile products and high pressure projects, Stephen encouraged, appreciated and directed the crew with kind command. Bumps on the road were invisible and the clients felt listened- to. The greater goal was addressed, the entire team was pulling the cart in the same direction. It was a joy to create imagery under his direction.”
TerixCundall • Stylist | Propville
“Working with Stephen was a great experience, in the studio and on location. Especially on location in Santa Monica, everything was handled professionally, thoroughly and stress free. He and his team even thought of bringing Dramamine for our roller coaster shot! I look forward to the next time I work with Stephen.”
ShawnxRosenberger • Creative Director | Thermostat
“If you've ever seen the inside of Stephen's studio closet you'd know he's a very prolific talent. In a world of images you've seen one too many times... his unique take is hip, witty, beautiful and dynamic. To this he adds the dimensions of being both well-groomed and charming and maintains his charismatic image by keeping company with the finest talents in his field(s).”
SuexTallon • Owner | Sue Tallon Photography
“I am extremely selective who I chose to collaborate with, so I did more then work with Stephen, I watched him as well. I saw him stay focused, when he was surrounded by minor chaos. He adapted quickly to an imperfect situation and when it would have been easier to accept something less then the best, he continued to push for the photograph he knew was right. As a result, the product we received was excellent and beyond what we thought was attainable. In addition to skill and experience Stephen brings his unique personal style to a project. He combines his genuine warmth and wit with an intense commitment to quality. I was impressed by a professional with the rare ability to balance his creative and business sides so well. I think Stephen is a strong candidate for anyone who wants something more then just the usual and I’m happy to recommend him technically, professionally and personally.”
MatxSquillante • Principal | KSN Partners
“So here's the thing... I read with interest some of the testimonials that were written about working with Stephen; and I can truthfully say that I, too, have had interesting times working with the boy; however, I believe that my experiences may have been somewhat more challenging: like the time I needed to get to the hospital to see his grandfather before visiting hours ended only to find Stephen expressing his most artistic abilities by drawing on my bathroom floor with my newest tube of lipstick. Or perhaps we could give him accolades for the time he mistook a 5 lb. bag of sugar for a bag o' sand; he dumped it all over the kitchen floor so he could build "sand castles" in-doors.
Creative? Yes. Focused? You bet. Pain in the butt? Absolutely. Then of course, there was the time that Stephen decided that the sign (located in his grandparent's yard advertising that the neighborhood in which they lived was a good place to locate within the city) needed sprucing up. While Stephen definitely agreed with the message, the design was not to his liking. So he simply took it upon himself to improve it. Wish the cop with the drawn weapon asking what SAW was up to defacing the sign had been convinced that his artisanship and vision were in the best interest of the developer. Fortunately he was able to avoid not only being shot, but also an arrest.
I will say that he and I can be looking at the same object, and he has a talent for seeing things that I do not see; and I concur that my eldest son is a super creative designer, wonderful photographer, is extremely inspired, stays focused under all circumstances, is committed to the task at hand, and is a true professional; but he drives me crazy. ~ Mom”
CarolynxWelch (aka Stephen’s Mom!) • Owner | The Art Loft Gallery