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!

Even “bad” photos make memories

We believe that every photo has the ability to be a good photo. In other words, there are no such things as bad photos. Well, maybe if a photo is out of focus and the color balance is totally off. Then, maybe that would just make it an artsy image, not a bad one; however, that artsiness not entirely what we’re going for as portrait photographers. It’s all how you look at the picture, though.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: perfect family photos are for the birds! In our eyes, we want to give you the experience of your family’s full range of emotions, not just stiff, posed shots. Parenthood, and childhood on the flip side, isn’t all smiles and sunshine. While we aren’t suggesting that your family has a meltdown in front of the camera, we are suggesting that even photos in which someone “isn’t ready” or making a funny face are photos that are worthwhile to take.

Throughout a session, it is possible that someone cries, but that simply allows us to photograph a very tender, heartfelt moment of you comforting your child. There are open, honest emotions in that picture that express your love and devotion. That sentiment is much more meaningful, especially when you or your child look back on those photos days, months, and even years later, than one of smiles held stiffly. While it may not be an ideal situation, it makes for a memorable and worthwhile moment in time.

The same could be said for your toddler stumbling, then popping right back up in the next photo to keep running and playing with his sister. Or of your husband falling asleep on the floor next to your baby. Or you smirking at your wife after cracking a smartass joke. There are all sorts of emotions that your family will go through and the whole range is meaningful and deserves to be documented, not just the “good” ones.

As Sam, one of the human halves of Porter Loves Photography says, “The pictures I love from my childhood are the ones where someone caught me laughing with my sister…This is also true of the photos of my parents from their childhoods that I value most.”

We bet you’ve sat around the kitchen table during a family holiday and looked through old family photos. You laughed at the face your sister always makes when she’s annoyed, wondered why you thought that hairstyle was so cool when you were 12, and reminisced about helping Grandma make Sunday dinner every week. Without those albums and conversation, the memories would be so much harder to recall. We would love nothing more than to give you and your family that experience.

But unless you allow yourself to let go of perfection and open up to the idea that there are no bad photos, those memories won’t be committed to film.

When we take photos of your family in an Our Everyday session, we want to tell the story of your family. Simply stated, a story has an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and a resolution. Your family’s story wouldn’t be very interesting, fulfilling, or authentic if we just clicked the camera when everyone was looking one direction and smiling. Capturing your family with their true personalities showing through carries your family story along.