What inspires Nathan, photographer of Porter Loves

When I was a child, my father gave me a camera. It was a manual film camera, not the digital ones I use today, and I was enthralled by figuring it out. I learned every aspect of photography that I could from that camera, then moved on to the next, and so on for many years. I practiced with nature as my subject, though I didn’t discriminate against whom my subjects ended up being.

Eventually, I found that I enjoyed interacting with people rather than nature behind the camera. Whether it’s event photography or taking portraits of families, children, and pets, there’s a unique problem to solve when you work with humans.

I find that I don’t consciously think about the majority of the shots I take. In fact, the shots are much better without actively thinking about them. It’s almost as if muscle memory kicks in and I’m allowed to naturally flow with the subject instead of taking the time to think about what’s happening. When that active thought occurs, there’s a good chance that you lose that connection to the subject and a great moment is gone.

That isn’t to say I don’t pay attention to what’s happening in the shot. I’m always inspired by and drawn to different patterns, colors, and background elements that tell a story. I like to let my subjects move in their own ways without much direction, as that feels most natural and the best photos of them are taken that way. However, if I notice a composition that’s particularly compelling, I’ll suggest different positions for someone to try to enhance the story.

I also take a lot of inspiration from subjects themselves and the spaces they live in. If a kid is all about running around and playing, I want to allow them to use a large space to do just that. On the flip side of that, if a child is more interested in quietly reading with her parents, we will find a comfortable place with great lighting to snap photographs that feature their special bond. Either way, I don’t want my vision to be so strong that it overrides their creativity. I’m just a fly on the wall telling the story.

I’m most inspired from other families’ photos that I see on their Facebook pages or hanging in their homes. In that sense, I can see the compositions they already like, the way that everyone in the photo interacts together, and the colors and patterns they enjoy. I try to continue the thread that’s already there so these new portraits fit with the vision they’ve already started for their family.

There are as many different styles and inspirations in the world as there are photographers. No one person sees the world exactly the same. When it comes time to work with a family, I want their vision and aesthetic to inspire my photos of them. It feels much more authentic when that happens. That’s what I love about photography: you’re able to give the gift of how you see the world to someone else.

What it’s like to work with Nathan

Many times when you’re looking for a family photographer, you look for referrals from people who have worked with the photographer. While we’re happy to share those with you, I wanted to offer my own unique perspective since I’ve observed Nathan work for many years. (By the way, this is Sam. Maybe one day, Porter and Jeanie will chime in, but until then, you get a human perspective.)

What’s really amazing about Nathan is that he can connect with kids so easily, though we don’t have kids of our own. Don’t get me wrong, we both enjoy kids, but Nathan can find a connection almost instantaneously. My topics of conversation tend to run out after “Hi.” Not Nathan. Even if someone isn’t able to form full sentences, Nathan believes that all kids deserve an attentive conversational partner. He understands that they so badly want to express themselves and their observations; he will do his best to listen and chat along despite having any hope of understanding what’s actually being said. Seriously, he’s a master at carrying on full conversations with children who can barely speak real words let alone full sentences yet.

I know you love your kids and encourage their expression, but for a stranger to get excited about that and encourage it, too? I think that’s pretty unique and special. His ability to get excited about what any kid is excited about makes for great photos.

Furthermore, it allows kids to be comfortable and be kids. Nathan is like a really tall kid and many little ones that he photographs pick up on that pretty quickly. They see there’s not a threat, especially when they may be initially apprehensive. Honestly, there are times when the parents are more nervous! I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to us, “Little Girl is really shy, so it may take some time to warm up,” and they worry that we’ll be upset when their daughter doesn’t just immediately open up. That’s not true at all. Nathan knows that he has to make friends first. Before long, Nathan is over there dancing to “What Does the Fox Say” with her like they’re the best of friends.

I can always see something special is happening when this idea of shyness comes up. Nathan figures out that your kids like dinosaurs or trains or Star Wars or dogs, really anything that your kids enjoy, and starts talking about it with them (see above: can talk to anyone). Everyone, including the parents, start to relax and the photos are incredible.

For example: Nathan has figured out that if he takes the time to talk about what he’s doing and show the pictures on the back of the camera, it’s easy for kids to get excited about the camera. One time, we were photographing a family with two-year-old boy, Alexander, whom we were told was very shy and doesn’t open up easily. After a few photos, Nathan sat down to show Alexander the pictures of him on the back of the camera. As Alexander was looking at the pictures, he put his head on Nathan’s shoulder. His moms’ jaws dropped; they were that surprised at how comfortable Alexander was. Nathan was able to connect with him about music and gave him the confidence to be himself and play.

Even though I see it happen regularly, I’m always in awe of Nathan’s inherent ability to capture great family moments. He’s incredible when it comes to making anyone feel confident in front of the camera, but especially kids who are wary at first.

And for the record, no kids are bribed in the taking of these photos. I know he joked about coercing kids with candy in our video last year, but that’s not true!

You Don’t Have to be Perfect to have a Picture Taken

As you can tell, we have a thread of not needing to be perfect running through our business’s core values. Obviously, we do the best work we can for you, but we don’t feel like you need to look or act or feel perfect to have photos taken.

We understand that there is a lot of mental, physical, and virtual space devoted to perfecting your outward appearance. From self-help books to gyms to tutorials showing you how to best contour your face for a slimming effect, we have created a world for ourselves that values being the most physically perfect versions that we can be.

We want to be gentle here, but we also want to make our message clear: you don’t have to be perfect.

Often, people will avoid having photos taken until they are at their goal weight or have the proper attire and makeup on. We completely understand wanting to put your best foot forward, but as we wrote in our “Even ‘bad’ photos make memories” post, sometimes the un-posed and messy photos carry the best story and memories.

Some of that is fine and understandable, but if you say “Don’t take a picture of me without my lipstick on!” people are left with very few genuine photos of their parents, grandparents, and other friends and family because they just never got around to that “perfect” moment when they looked their best.

When you take looking absolutely picture-perfect to the extreme, you may never have any pictures of you with your family and there certainly won’t be any that are taken professionally. It would be a shame to let the memories wash by because your hair wasn’t done or you need to lose those last 5 pounds.

Then there’s the trouble with unrealistic expectations of beauty. In an industry that’s been run rampant with airbrushing and photoshopping, many people think they have to look a certain way to be photographed. Or, people expect photographers to make them look like they’re in their twenties when, in reality, it’s disingenuous to portray your 60-year-old self, with all the knowledge and earned smile lines you have, as a young kid.

Yes, we do some retouching, however, it’s very light and only to remove some blotches in the photo; it doesn’t interfere with appearances. We respect reality and genuineness, as evidenced by our love of capturing people in their everyday environments.

We would much rather empower you to book the session, ask for a consultation, or somehow make the first move towards photographing your family despite how you think you “have” to look for a  “good picture” to be taken. There is no such thing as perfect, a lesson hard-learned on our end, so we know what we’re talking about.

Instead, there are family traditions, smiles and hugs, and memories. We would much rather you capture that instead of a perfect version of yourself on film. Furthermore, we would love to continue this non-perfectionism movement and give you those memories in film to cherish for years.

Event Photography is more than just Weddings

You probably know us from Our Everyday family photo sessions, but we love to shoot more than just those sessions. We also love to do event photography in Pittsburgh (or travel elsewhere as the situation arises) to capture some other special moments.

Weddings 

We started off shooting weddings because when you start a photography business, everyone’s first question is, “Do you shoot weddings?” Eventually, we stopped taking those projects because big traditional weddings weren’t things that brought us the most joy. It sounds selfish, but when you start your own business, it’s usually not to do work that doesn’t make you happy. Plus, there’s a whole cadre of really brilliant wedding photographers in the Pittsburgh region that we love having as our friends and colleagues. They’re talented photographers and that job lights them up; we’re much happier to refer friends to those folks instead of competing for something that isn’t our favorite thing.

However, we still shoot weddings that aren’t very…wedding-y. Yes, we know, we just said we’d rather refer than compete. That said, as long as the event we’re photographing lines up with our brand and core values, we’d love to be there to gather memories for you. We bet that if you’re coming to us, you like things that are a little quirky and not entirely traditional. Us, too!

Erin and Bill had that funky vibe that we can totally get behind. Their wedding was at Tender and it was so much fun to capture some really special moments of the couple and their friends celebrating. As you can see, the bride isn’t wearing white, it’s an intimate gathering at a unique indoor location, and it wasn’t a very religious, though they did have a ceremony.

Of course, you don’t have to check all boxes of “unique and different” to come to us as your wedding photographers. That’s just a taste of what lights us up and probably does for you, too.

Birthday Parties

We also really enjoy being at birthday parties to photograph families celebrating and having fun. It’s like an Our Everyday session that’s just slightly more special because it’s a birthday! We especially enjoy kids’ birthday parties. Goofing around and acting silly is our favorite thing and kids seem to dig it as well. Nathan is really engaging and after kids warm up to someone with a big camera, he’s able to see and shoot some very special moments.

This first birthday party was fun to photograph because you could see the joy in everyone’s faces and we were able to give those special memories frozen in time to the family to treasure for years to come.

Non-Profit Events 

We’re big fans of Pittsburgh and love to support the community as much as we’re able. Throughout the year, we offer a limited number of discounted rates or sponsorships to organizations that align with our brand and core values. We know there are lots of amazing organizations doing great work here, so it’s very important to us to believe in the mission of the ones that receive a special rate. We’re more likely to work with organizations that are in the arts, helping the environment, or working for social justice.

You can see some of these in our portfolio. We’ve worked with Arts for Autism, Pittsburgh Glass Center, and Uncover Squirrel Hill, to name a few.

Hands down, we love to give people the gift of memories. Whether it’s through capturing an off-beat wedding, a birthday party, or a non-profit organization, we’re happy to be there with bells and cameras on to capture it for you!