One of the best parts about Saw & Mitre is getting to know and interact with so many talented photographers. Nataliya Lalor, of Greenwich, CT is one such person. Nataliya and I connected about a year and a half ago and have worked on several projects together for her clients. The coolest thing for me has been watching (from afar) Nataliya transition from a part-time photographer (dreamer) with a full-time day job, to taking the leap to being a full-time photographer (and still a dreamer, of course). A couple months ago I was amazed when I received an email from her with a couple photos of her new studio. Wanting to hear more about it and check in on her on how her photography business is going we conversed over a couple emails to put together a Q/A. In it we cover her transition as an Art Director at an ad agency to her vision for creating her new studio space.
You can check out more of Nataliya's photographs on her website.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to being a working photographer?
I spent my entire life looking for that perfect creative career. I studied fashion in High School, graphic design and 3D animation in College, worked for almost 10 years as an Art Director in interactive advertising, and during all that time, I photographed on the side as a creative outlet. I always wanted to photograph people, but because I’m a total introvert and really a fairly shy person by nature, I didn’t exactly have anyone to photograph.. until my oldest son was born in 2010. He was my “willing” model and I fell completely in love with being able to document his childhood. It got to the point where I wanted to photograph other children too, and I figured the only way I could legitimately come into people’s homes and take photos of their kids was by having a legal business. I did this on the side, while keeping a full-time corporate job for about 3 years. All I thought about was photography, every day. I needed to do it. That ‘need' allowed me to survive the many mistakes I made during those initial years. And when I could no longer continue working locally (and as the family vs. work battle raged on), I ran the numbers and decided to go all-in.
Being a “full time photographer” isn’t an easy job. It’s an around-the-clock thing where you’re constantly thinking about how to improve (at least I am!). There were many disappointments, heart-wrenching moments, and plenty of rejection. But photography is like meditation for me. I feel at peace after a photoshoot. It has improved my life and taught me so much. I see everyday life differently now and I appreciate the things that most people miss. I feel like I finally found something that FITS and that feels right for ME.
Q: You recently opened a new studio that looks amazing! From the photos, it seems very thoughtfully planned - tell us a little bit about it. What's your vision for it?
I plan everything in my life. I think about every detail (I had spreadsheets for baby names).. and my Studio is a very natural extension of that. From the very start, I had a list of what I needed and what I wanted to create for my clients. I made to-scale detailed floor-plan layouts. I had a Pinterest board with all the furniture and fixtures...and a spreadsheet with the exact costs. I wanted to have a space that allowed me to provide a better experience to my clients, an area to showcase the luxury-quality products that took me years to curate, and a shooting space where I could focus on creating simple editorial-style portraits I am so drawn to. In order to fit all of that into a 378 square foot space, I had to have a plan! And my vision? That came really easily. I wanted a white, serene space that felt like home. I wanted kids and families to feel comfortable the moment they stepped through the door. And I wanted them to see beautiful portraits on the wall, because that’s where their images should be, too.
Q: Your studio portrait work has a soft, beautiful, Rembrandt feel to it. What type of equipment do you typically use during a studio portrait session. What can clients expect during that time? How do you engage the children you work with?
My equipment is very simple. I learned to use natural light really well first, which I believe allows me to create portraits that look natural even though I’m using artificial light. For almost every single indoor or studio image I create, I use a single speedlight (Nikon SB-700). For Studio shots, I have the luxury of utilizing my 43” Westcott Apollo Orb and that is the only modifier I use (it helps that my Studio gets tons of natural light too). I wish I had a fancy strobe or two, but so far I haven’t had much need to upgrade. I think it all comes down to knowing your equipment really well.. whatever that equipment may be. My photoshoots are unique in that I only photograph kids of a certain age (at least 5 years old) in the Studio (I love photographing babies and toddlers as part of my in-home family sessions). I want the kids to be able to enjoy the experience. I arrange professional hair styling for every session. I also style and pair outfits with background colors to create at least 3 different looks. I often collaborate with the kids and we make those decisions together. I spend a lot of time listening. I make suggestions and I guide, but I never force a pose or a situation. I encourage movement. Crazy behavior, jumping around, and being wild is totally fine (sometimes to the horror of well-intentioned parents). My focus is always on the person in front of the camera. And I don't use props unless it’s something that has a special meaning to that child. Kids seem to really appreciate that I treat them with respect and that I listen to them and ask them what THEY want. I love that we work together to create portraits that not only beautiful, but also truly meaningful to them.
Q: What's coming up for you in the next few months? What's getting your creative juices flowing currently?
I’m really looking forward to the Fall fashion show at Ella & Henry (a children’s clothing store in New Canaan, CT). Working with other small-business owners is very exciting because they are as passionate about their work as I am. With my new Studio, I can now also host mini sessions and maybe even camera workshops.. so I’m very much in the process of figuring out what all the possibilities are! Right at this moment, I am also very excited about our family trip to Maine in a few days. Photographing for myself and my family is always really fun. It allows me to experiment and hone in on what makes my heart sing (which translates to my client work, too). I am usually very selective about the times I bring out my camera because I want to actually experience the day with my kids. But being on vacation, I get a free pass to document as much as I like (within reason, of course). Oh, and I’m only bringing one lens (the Sigma 35mm Art) and no speedlight... setting limits is my favorite way to be creative.. so I’m really looking forward to it!
Thanks again, Nataliya! All images used courtesy of her.