Photography by Kristy Lumsden Photography.
With combined photography, writing, and graphic design services that enable artists to take off professionally, Porter Loves is a unique business that directly supports artists to build their businesses from the ground up, or refresh, retool, or rehash an existing business. The founders, Sam Laffey and Nathan Shaulis, a couple in life and in business, use their creative backgrounds and professional know-how to service artists with professional portraits and artwork photography; copy writing and editing; and website, logo, and portfolio design so that artists can keep doing what they love.
“Oftentimes, clients don’t want to do the thing that they’re hiring us to do–we hear them say, ‘I just want to get back in my studio.’ So, we have a very symbiotic relationship, where they don’t have to do something they hate, and we can do the things that bring us joy,” says Sam Laffey and Nathan Shaulis.
Nathan, the photographer of the business, provides professional portraits for artists that capture their individual personalities and intimate creative processes, rather than constrict them to a corporatized style. Porter Loves is also deeply connected with nonprofits and other artist-supporting organizations in Pittsburgh. As the official photographer for the Arts for Autism Foundation of Pittsburgh, Film Pittsburgh’s film festivals, and the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Nathan covers their annual fundraisers and other events.
While Nathan creates stunning photographs that help artists market themselves, Sam also helps creative folks share their stories through words. Sam works with all different types of artists and helps them articulate their stories for a larger audience who doesn’t yet know their work. As an enthusiastic conversationalist and thorough copyeditor, Sam particularly enjoys being a resource to members of Radiant Hall, a nonprofit that preserves studio environments for working creatives and provides access to Sam for editing their artist statements and biographies. She also helps artists and creatives with website copy, resumes, and grant proposals.
In other graphic services, Porter Loves designs business logos and cards, portfolios, and posters. Porter Loves also occasionally helps artists with social media strategy.
For Sam and Nathan, Porter Loves is a great evolutionary point in their business. Their primary services, photography and writing, used to exist as two separate brands: Porter Loves Photography and Porter Loves Creative. Their first business, Porter Loves Photography, was prominently a business for family portraits, but Sam and Nathan both kept strong footholds at the Pittsburgh Glass Center as an employee and photographer for glass artists. When artists began asking Nathan about copywriting services, he referred work to Sam, who eventually became fulltime in the sister brand of their business, Porter Loves Creative.
“After a while, we decided that these things were made for each other. We’re each talking to the same people and need to hone in on what pieces of the puzzle can we offer together,” says Nathan.
As Sam and Nathan pursued more artistic clients, like those in their artist interview series, they realized that they wanted to fully commit to serving artists. A client survey also revealed that their audience didn’t understand their separate brands. Plans to officially rebrand as Porter Loves in April of 2020 were slightly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Porter Loves now embraces its primary mission of providing emerging artists with the professional materials they need to be successful.
Sam and Nathan joined their eforever group in May of 2019. Sam had already been a part of a women business owner group, but after that dissipated, they both took advantage of joining an entrepreneur group that was more affordable and where they could both be members. Since joining, Sam appreciates that she and Nathan are now on the same page about the business side of Porter Loves.
“It’s been a nice unifying point for us to both be engaged in our business development. We often get into habits where I’m doing client communication, invoicing, and marketing, and Nathan’s doing more creative work; and I feel like I’m in a silo making business decisions for us. So, it’s helpful for both of us to check in and compare how the last month went for each of us and talk about those different perspectives.”Sam Laffey, Porter Loves
From Nathan’s perspective, their eforever group helps him consistently think about their business instead of only checking in during a crisis.
“I have a moment to breathe to myself now. Instead of coming up for air every quarter or twice a year and asking, ‘what’s going on,’ I’m thinking more actively about the business on a month to month basis.”Nathan Shaulis, Porter Loves
Porter Loves, named after Sam and Nathan’s Boston terrier/pug mix, is based in Pittsburgh, PA. If you’re an artist looking for a professional photographer or copywriter to get your website up and running, apply for a grant, or design your portfolio, visit porterloves.com.