Off-Beat Venues for your next Pittsburgh Event

Pittsburgh has so many unique venues, there is a place for your event (and your event photographs)! Because we specialize in capturing images of real people in spontaneous and sincere moments, we love supporting venues that are doing things in a marching-to-the-beat-of-their-own-drummer way, too. Every venue has a different feel and specialty, just like every couple, event, family, and so on is their own unique entity, too.

We always love venues that are new and different. Often times that means places that aren’t super experienced in holding events, although some of our faves certainly are. When you’re looking for your next venue, here are a few of our recommendations and favorite parties with whom to work.

Point Breezeway

Point Breezeway is an old family home turned small event venue in the East End. The building has seen many iterations of itself since it was built in the 1800s. With its “urban-cottage” architecture and the owners’ attention to detail, you immediately feel at ease. Point Breezeway is the perfect venue for intimate, daytime soirees. It has a charming, welcoming vibe. Another important point is the commitment to sustainability—they are as environmentally conscious as can be.

Great for: showers, reunions, intimate weddings, small get-togethers

Pittsburgh Glass Center

Pittsburgh Glass Center in the East End offers glassblowing demonstrations and hands-on glassmaking as part of your event rental—need I say more? They’re one of the only green public access facilities for glassmaking. Since they’re an active glassmaking studio, there’s a creative vibe from the moment you set foot in the door. They host a variety of private classes and workshops and also have space for meetings, receptions, and demonstrations.

Great for: birthday parties, events where you want to leave with something, holiday parties, receptions, meetings, small to medium get-togethers

Workshop PGH

Workshop PGH is located in Garfield and is home to art and other creative classes as well as a small retail section featuring local makers. Like Pittsburgh Glass Center, the space is inherently creative and warm. They’re all about learning and getting messy; the creative process is, after all, not tidy.

Great for: events where you want to leave with something, meetings, birthday parties, small get-togethers

Carrie Furnace

Carrie Furnace was constructed in 1906 and stood at the heart of U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works until 1979. Today, they’re very involved in local arts programming, including continued metal pours. Because it is an old manufacturing site, the space is rough, but very undeniably Pittsburgh.

Great for: festivals, history- and/or Pittsburgh-themed gatherings, large-scale events

The Andy Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol Museum is an homage to Andy in the North Shore. It’s colorful, playful, and a little funky. Exhibits feature Warhol and his contemporaries as well as new artists with a similar aesthetic. The venue can host a variety of group sizes and aesthetics. Tours and studio activities can be added to your venue package.

Great for: corporate gatherings, movie screenings, receptions, lectures and symposia, sit-down or cocktail events, small to medium-sized parties

The Mattress Factory

Located in the Mexican War Streets, the Mattress Factory is home to a collection of ever-changing installation art. It can make for some really unique and different photos! Like the Andy Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory also accommodates groups of varying sizes and interests.

Great for: cocktail parties, receptions, milestone celebrations, weddings, small to medium-sized parties

Ace Hotel

Ace Hotel is part of a boutique hotel family with a retro vibe in the East Liberty. They have three event spaces. One, an old gymnasium, is the largest. Then there’s a sun-drenched ballroom and an intimate private dining room. These amenities give it a truly different-than-other-hotel-venues vibe. The hotel also has a restaurant, bar, and coffee shop so you can pick your desired vibe and venue size. They’re close to many Pittsburgh attractions if you want to do a “stay-cation” and be a tourist in your own city.

Great for: lectures and symposia, movie screenings, receptions, dinner parties, birthdays and celebrations, weddings, small to larger-sized gatherings

Choderwood

Choderwood is a secret garden in the middle of a big city. The land originally housed the Lock and Dam No. 2’s day-shift and night-shift lock masters in the 1900s. It’s an urban oasis between train tracks and the Allegheny River in Highland Park. The uses for this space are almost endless, but the overall feel of this venue is very much like a retreat.

Great for: intimate weddings, corporate getaways, retreats, showers, small get-togethers

Get outside!

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our incredible park system. Pittsburgh’s City Parks have beautiful tree stands and hills with beautiful views. You’re able to rent a pavillion or campsite for your event if that’s your thing or just explore the great outdoors. There are also several beautiful state parks super close to the Pittsburgh Metro area.

 

How We Handle: Different Photography Styles

The great thing about photography is that it’s all so subjective. There is a photographer for every aesthetic and every style that you could possibly imagine. When it comes time to pick a photographer, there is someone who can take what you see and bring it to life via film.

Here at Porter Loves Photography, we specialize in capturing images of real people in spontaneous and sincere moments. We believe that the most poignant images come from organic and authentic interactions, whether that’s your family playing in a park, a birthday party turned family reunion, or attendees dancing at a backyard wedding.

We wholeheartedly embrace of-the-moment photos so you have memories of real interactions, not posed photos with props and color-coordinated outfits.

pittsburgh documentary family photographer

If you are into that, great! Like we said, photography styles vary person to person. What works for our clients may not work for our colleagues’ clients and vice versa. What matters is that you get photos you want.

The beautiful thing is that we can all play to our strengths so you get those amazing photos no matter your style preference or who you work with—so long as your vision and the photographer’s vision are complementary.

There’s nothing worse than eagerly waiting by your email for a message that your images are ready only to realize that they’re nowhere near what you’re expecting. We’ve gotten blanket emails looking for photographers for a wedding at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland with a reception to follow at Soldiers & Sailors Hall. That’s awesome if that’s your chosen venue, but we are not your people. Our vision and yours will likely be so far off, they’re almost in different countries. Further, it will be a waste of your money and our time (#sorrynotsorry, there’s no sugar-coating that fact).

pittsburgh documentary family photographer

So what can you do if you don’t know what—or who—you’re looking for? The best thing is to do your research. Instagram acts like a portfolio for may photographers now. If you like the soft colors and romantic aesthetic of someone’s feed, you’ll likely enjoy the photos they take for you. On the flip side, if you like our vibrant colors and the impromptu shots you see in our feed, you’ll probably dig the photos you get from us.

As we’ve said before, we’re all about authentic moments. Instead of taking posed photos that are reminiscent of a studio-style of photography, we’d rather tag along with the fun you’re already having as a family on a visit to the Science Center, the splash park, or a family hike.

pittsburgh documentary family photographer

If you’re looking for something more polished in a studio environment with coordinated clothes and vintage props or a huge, traditional wedding where every detail has been planned just so, we have referrals for you! Luckily, we have an excellent community of photographer colleagues in the Greater Pittsburgh region specializing in just about every style there is.

Remember, every photographer has a different style.

We want everyone who hires us to have an excellent experience, but that only happens if we work with people for whom we are a good fit. We totally get that we’re not the photographer for everyone. When you invest in photos, one size does not fit all. It’s more important to us to give you want you want; we will tell you if the project doesn’t match our specialty. In the end, having amazing photos that you love is most important, no matter which pro took them.

pittsburgh documentary family photographer

The Story behind Porter Loves Photography

The story behind Porter Loves Photography is one of our favorite stories to tell. It’s probably because we both have such strong attachments to the candid photos of our childhood and wanted to share that with as many people as we could. We’ve told the story of what inspires Nathan and what it’s like to work with him; now it’s time to tell you why we’re Porter Loves Photography.

We wanted to offer something different to families than the mall portrait studio. The end.

Kidding…but also, not kidding.

Everyone has their own aesthetic. Some photographers take beautiful photos where everyone is a bit more posed and styled. While we appreciate the beauty in that style of photography, we wanted to do something different. I’m sure our parents had the best of intentions when they stuffed us into matching outfits and made us and our siblings sit still for a photo in a studio, but the end result doesn’t do much for us.

Part of why we’re into photography is to use it to record memories. We aren’t “live in the past” kind of people, but we appreciate getting together with our families, usually with a good meal and a good beer, and recalling certain life events.

A large percent of happiness from an experience comes from recalling it. What better way of recalling it than by having a visual aid! A photo of that time enhances the memories and the story.

We particularly love the photos that are candid captures where personalities shine through. As we’ve mentioned a few times, the photos that we value most from our own childhoods are the ones in which we’re being kids: we’re excitedly tearing off wrapping paper, enjoying a birthday cake, pouting because someone else is stealing the show…whatever it is, we love the “realness” of those moments.

So, we used that love to inform our photography business. We figured we couldn’t be the only ones who appreciate those  “of the moment” shots.

While technology has made it so much easier for parents to create these kinds of images on their own, it’s nice to have a professional eye. Not to mention, mom or dad gets to come out from behind the camera! They can interact and be a part of the memories instead of just capturing them. When you look back on these photos years later, you have a record of everyone being in on the fun.

A big part of our values as Porter Loves Photography is what we know our friends value, too. We often hear them say, “I want to get family portraits done, but I just haven’t gotten around to it,” or, “I don’t how to plan it so that the kids will behave.”

While you’ll absolutely get high-quality photos, we’re more interested in making sure your family has a great experience first and foremost. It’s important to us to create an opportunity for professional photos that doesn’t feel like a stiff portrait experience. Go to the park, go to the zoo, bake cookies in your kitchen, and so on. Whatever you do as a family, we’re there to document the fun. The vignettes that Nathan finds and photographs will naturally flow from there.

We also realized that kids test boundaries with their parents more so than with a stranger. So, essentially, they’ll listen to us when we direct them instead of being stubborn threenagers and refusing to do what you ask of them.

It’s important to us to give families photos of special things they do together in an organized way (see: zoo comment above!). Nathan is great at reading kids and giving suggestions so the situation doesn’t turn to mass chaos. And if someone is being stubborn, we’ll use that to our advantage and get a few photos of that to capture the gamut of emotions you’d otherwise miss in posed studio photos.

This also reduces the chance of kiddo meltdowns. Since you’re doing what you’d already be doing, it feels natural to them. Do what you’d do as a family anyway, have us there to get it on film! We take care to make sure that kids are comfortable with us before we go clicking away.

We want families to look back and say, “Wow, what a great investment. I had an awesome time with my kids and I got beautiful images from that fun time!” as opposed to, “Well, these images are worth the money, but dang that was a stressful day.” Nobody has time for that. Plus, when you look at the photos, you’ll likely remember the mass chaos of the day first. Who wants that?

And the name, that’s all on our fur-babies. Coincidentally, it’s also the name behind McGinnis + Bean. They love to show of their hooman’s artwork and, well, they wanted something else named after themselves and Westinghouse was already taken.

So, you could say that the story behind Porter Loves Photography is knowing that you value real time with your family. Our mission is to enhance that experience through photography. It adds another layer to the memories and lets your family be a real family.

Why You Need a Dedicated Family Photographer

Here’s the thing about kids: they never stop growing. Shocking news, I know. I’m sorry I had to break it to you. The good thing, though, is that the changes they go through aren’t unnoticed. You see them daily and with a good family photographer, you can record those milestones.

Nathan here. I’m half of the humans of Porter Loves Photography and the photographer behind it all. There’s a family I have been photographing for almost 12 years. Through the magic of film, I have watched their daughter go from a baby to a toddler to a big sister and it’s been an absolute honor.

The wonderful thing about consistently being there to photograph the family is a benefit both on the family’s side and on my side as the photographer. The family gets better photos because I’m able to establish a connection with the family and get to know them closer as friends.

A dedicated family photographer…it isn’t just for royalty anymore! Here’s why you need to take photos consistently as a family.

As I’ve mentioned before, it takes some kids a long time to warm up to a stranger, especially one holding a metal box to his face. Half, sometimes even more, of the first session with children is always about them. I like to take the time to introduce myself, get to know them, share what we’re doing together, and observe them interacting with their family.

Kids are just trying to figure out the world around them and some are more reluctant to open up to new experiences than others. In the subsequent sessions, they already know me. They know what the expectation and situation is going to be, so their brains can relax a little; they aren’t trying to “figure it out” anymore and they can just enjoy themselves.

Because I know their personalities, I can easily manage them in front of the camera. Each session is better than the one before because I already have that knowledge of how they act. I know what the kids look like before they’re about to genuinely smile so I can capture that better.

I think of it this way: you can read a person when they walk in the door and get a decent photo that way. But if you sit and watch them for half an hour, you can observe their mannerisms. A photographer is able to get a much can take a better photo because you’ve been able to see their mannerisms.

Being a repeat family photographer means we can plan better for future sessions. Rachel and Scott do this with me before every shoot to take away as many less-than-ideal factors as possible. We’ll know to avoid a certain part of the park because the kids weren’t into the swings last time or remember to bring extra snacks to stave off the mid-day grumpies. For as prepared as I and the family can be, the session isn’t always 100% ideal. There’s always something that can be learned from for the next time.

There’s also the connection that I’m able to establish with the children. At a past photoshoot for a family wedding, the couple’s son was throwing cards and he gave one to me. You best believe that I’m bringing that card to the next shoot we do with their family.

Last, but not least, having a dedicated family photographer to take repeat photos of your family means that you’re going to get some incredible perks and products. Every family gets digital files after our session together and you can order as many prints as you want; however, that’s just one day of photos.

When we have an ongoing relationship, we can make collages and albums with years of sourced imagery. We can take the same photo in the same spot and see how your children are growing. You can also have an album of all the family events without having to do any work. An album of your baby’s first years without having to lift a finger to make it? Sounds ideal to me!

When you work with a dedicated family photographer and consistently get together for family photos, you can see the changes in your kids and your family overall. Most importantly, you can mark those changes in the photos we take together. You can remember what was happening around the time the photo was taken.