Renata Steiner, also known as Nata, has enjoyed great success photographing people from all walks of life including Olympic champion Apolo Ohno, designer Ross Lovegrove, and former Project Runway contestant Richard Blayne.
Renata's work has also been featured on the Discovery Channel's "I Shouldn't Be Alive", the book "Crave Seattle: An Urban Girl's Manifesto", and in dozens of print and online publications.
I'll let Renata do the talking, as no intro will properly do her justice.
Tell us a little about yourself...
I never planned to turn my love for photography into a profession, yet over time it became obvious to me that I’m meant to work as a full time photographer. Owning and running my own business, doing something I love, is what I would often daydream about while I walked the halls of corporate offices where I held a “day job”. I never truly imagined my dream would become a reality.
Where do you call home?
I’ve lived in Seattle since 2000, however I was born and raised in Chicago. Forever a Chicago girl I’ll be.
What initially attracted you to photography?
I’ve been taking photos since I was a kid. From grade school trips, to home-studio portrait shoots at age 16, to party pictures of adult friends. What drove me to turn something so innate into a profession was repeated encouragement and urging from friends, family, and former corporate colleagues to go for it.
How would you describe your style?
I love photographing people on location using natural light. Specifically I’m drawn to capturing candid moments as well directing people to do something that elicits a natural looking emotion. Aside from that, it’s difficult for me to further describe my own style. Recently I updated my web site contact form that prospective clients fill out when inquiring about my availability and services. On the form I added “what three words come to mind as you look at Nataworry images”. Here are some answers I’ve received, “fun, sexy, romantic, amazing, classy, rich, clean, savvy, natural, creative, unique, dynamic, warm, exquisite, vibrant, professional, and thoughtful”.
What is your preferred camera/lens to work with?
Nikon all the way. Full frame digital. I just recently discovered the fun of taking portraits with an 80-200mm 2.8, however my 50mm 1.4 and 24-70mm 2.8 lenses are always at arm’s length.
What is your most used software/ Photoshop tool, plug-in, etc…?
Whether using Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to darkening the blacks in photos, as well as beefing up contrast so that images pop. And the healing and clone tools are killer for minor blemishes, flaky skin on newborns and lint/fuzzies on clothing. I rarely sharpen photos.
Favorite two photos you have taken recently?
An image of a deep red retro wall phone with a hanging cord mounted on a wall at The Standard hotel in downtown Los Angeles, and Koi fish in a pond with the water reflecting the trees from above.
What’s the best part of being a photographer?
It’s wholly gratifying when clients thank me for capturing their wedding day, or the precious time of their newborn’s life as they have experienced those moments. The absolute best part of being a photographer is being my own boss and creating on a daily basis.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a shoot and if so, how did you handle it?
All of a sudden, in the middle of a shoot, my camera LCD began to show EE, as if no lens was attached to the body, but the big fat 24-70 attached to the body proved otherwise. Normally, if you see EE, you see nothing through the viewfinder. However I could see through the viewfinder what I was trying to shoot. Problem was the image was nearly completely black. I was at a loss and solved the issue by first turning the camera on/off, to no avail, and then I fully detached and re-attached the lens which solved the issue. The problem reared its head again however during the same shoot. I later learned it’s likely a hardware issue with the contacts on the lens, so soon my body and lens will be sent in for repair.
Apart from hard work and dedication, what would you say has been the main key to the success of your photography business?
People generally love to have beautiful or interesting photos of themselves, but often times don’t like being in front of the camera. I am regularly complimented on how much I put people at ease. No small feat especially when working with complete strangers. It’s not uncommon for me to talk to clients for a mere five minutes before sitting them down in front of a camera for a shoot they may not even want to take part in (e.g., headshots for professional portraits or family group portraits), but know they have to for one reason or another. I’ve had clients walk into a studio set up (solid color paper roll backdrop, soft box and umbrella strobe lights, and a lonely looking stool) looking like they’d rather have dental surgery. Later, they walk out smiling telling me how they actually had fun.
The first photographer that comes to mind and why?
Imogen Cunningham quickly followed by Annie Leibovitz. No explanation really other than my subconscious popped two respected photographers’ (whose work I admire) names into my head.
What (or who) has been the biggest influence on your career?
Technically - photoshoots. I learn best by doing. During every shoot I learn something that helps me to do an even better job on future work. There’s nothing like first-time technical glitches to sharpen your skill set in a hurry. That and watching videos online, reading photography magazines, and listening to successful photographer interviews. Inspirationally – my husband, immediate family and close friends.
What advice do you have for amateurs wanting to become professional?
Don’t talk yourself out of following your passion. I was working full time in corporate America and running my photography business part time for a number of years. It took being part of a mass corporate layoff to give me the kick in the pants that I needed to turn professional. It’s incredibly fulfilling. I constantly look at everyday things around me and end up either photographing them, or envisioning them as a photograph.
And the last question, something you’re still learning….
How to edit. I’ve gotten better over time at selecting quality images vs. presenting clients with a higher quantity of images. That can be challenging with certain clients. For example, when it comes to working with new families who are overcome with emotions about how their lives have changed sometimes, I’m asked if I can deliver more images of them with their kids. When all is said and done, I’m only as good as my worst image. Now. I keep that in the forefront of my mind as I sort through images from any given shoot.
For more information on Nata, visit nataworry.com.