A man lies tangled in a shower curtain, lifeless, with blood spattered everywhere; "kill your boyfriend" was the theme of this shoot, conducted by photographer Nikki Riley for one of her clients who'd recently parted ways with her latest beau. Nikki's willingness to transcend boundaries, paired with her creative flair, has sent her to New York City and Atlanta to shoot risqué and editorial-style fashion spreads and helped her earn a nomination for PHL17's Philly's Hot List of Best Photographers 2011. Raised as a "John Lennon kid" by a photographer mother, her inherited desire to snap shots came to fruition soon after graduating college, when she traded her 9–5 desk job for a career in photography. Nikon D700 in tow, Nikki spends her days at the 1,700-square-foot studio she co-owns, The Hive 215, which features high ceilings, loft windows, vintage furnishings, and a beauty bar where specialists prep clients' hair and makeup.
Though Nikki's fashion and portrait shoots favor bold colors and clean, magazine-quality finishes, her intimate boudoir shoots explore both high and low angles and toy with exposure—in every sense of the word. Taken from the most flattering angles for each body type, shots of lingerie-clad legs and torsos sway from high-contrast black and white to elegantly washed-out color frames lit softly from behind like an angel auditioning for the cover of Maxim. Nikki caters these shoots to the desires and comfort level of each client, letting imaginations run wild with coy pinup poses or showcasing epidermises for keepsake shots of clients in any state of undress.
Armed with an army of innovative and certified shutterbugs, Olan Mills Portrait Studio provides families with high-quality portraits, continuing a mission that was established more than 75 years ago by founder Olan Mills Sr. Skilled in the art of capturing infants, children, families, and bunny-ears-giving ghost orbs on film, Olan Mills’s experienced smile snappers will take a series of poses amid a variety of backgrounds and lighting options. The studio is equipped with a selection of props—including numbers for birthdays, toys, and boxes—and patrons may bring their own photo-enlivening items from home. The resulting photos find their way to prints in natural color, black and white, or sepia tones; they can also be immortalized in the studio's signature Old Masters style, a canvas brushed with highlights to recreate look of an oil painting. Like the gentlemanly mariners of ages past with their full schedule of sea-battles, the photographers welcome appointments, but do not require them.
In its 2,000-square-foot studio, DollFace's professional snapping duo, Darah and Siobhan, strives to unleash the buried bombshell in clients through expressive, elegant boudoir photography. Aspiring sirens begin their 30-minute mini sessions and subdue belly-dwelling butterflies by filling the studio with their favorite tunes and a few swift sips of bubbly. Hair and makeup application is available for an additional charge; once ready, kittens slip into the more conservative of their two outfits to help ease into the flashbulb's glow in front of the camera's honest lens. Once power suits have been stripped down, women are welcome to improve the appearance of a variety of set pieces with their presences, either taking direction from the photographer or vogueing to the beat of nature's drum—the heart.
The staff at Tommi Salon and Spa pamper clients in an airy space with third-floor views of the center city. Stylists trim tresses beneath broad windows in the salon, which also offers services from coloring and straightening to ornate wedding-day updos. The spa swathes clients in a luxurious, but minimalist aesthetic. Footbaths glow blue, purple, and green along a sleek white banquette with six pedicure stations. Other services, such as facials, massages, and waxing, take place in four private treatment rooms; aestheticians also create custom-blended treatments inside a dedicated Spa Lab.
Bright eyes and toothless smiles are regularly flashed at Little Nest Portraits, where the photographers specialize in children's portraiture. Owner Laura Novak and her quirky, talented staff love to fish for spontaneity and smiles during in-studio and outdoor photo shoots. Like backwards magicians, their trick is preparation: they chat with families beforehand to run down the session, pick up personality traits, and dish out tips such as what to wear. After frames are snapped, their home-design specialists can augment the prints with accessories such as hand-painted frames, canvas wraps, and gallery mounts.
Moments are captured in the comfortable studio, which creates a natural aesthetic with charming textures and a blend of modern furniture and antiques. Not content with merely decorating walls and mantels, the studio also strives to make its community more beautiful, giving back to a number of charities and working with school fundraiser programs.