Nikki, of Oh the Life! adjusts her camera settings for a film portrait.

Meet Nikki O’Leary of Oh, the Life!

Nikki O’Leary is the owner and photographer at Oh, the Life! a documentary styled wedding and lifestyle photo studio for the vintage loving, adventure-seeking, record-collecting, insanely in-love-with-life couple. Oh, the Life! creates large format film portraits as well, and is a member of the Green Wedding Alliance.

Tell us about you and your story.

What is your background and how did you find your way to the wedding industry?

I came to Chicago in 2013, after completing an MFA in Photography in Boston, where I was mentored by some of the most well-respected artists and art critics. Working in 19th Century and experimental photographic processes, I made art based on stories of my lineage and the sea. My mentors pushed me so rigorously, to look beyond the photograph - to dig deeper conceptually. What I discovered were the most incredible familial stories that I was able to make work about. My time in this program is some of my most cherished, and has informed my work as an artist and photographer. Most importantly, it taught me how to tell a story visually.

When I came to Chicago in 2013, I had every intention of continuing to teach, but during this time, experimenting with what ever else I can do with my love of photography, I began to photograph weddings and couples. I realized that I could spend my days bringing someone else's stories to life visually - for them to look back on, to be remembered for the rest of their lives. What an amazing responsibility to have!

Share a little bit about Oh, the Life!'s history.

When did Oh, the Life! launch? What are you known for?

In 2015, I launched my own company, Thistle and Twine Atelier. I became a proud member of the Green Wedding Alliance, and spent my first 4 years growing the company. As the years rolled by, my style started to evolve, and my brand was ready to evolve, as well. In 2019, I had a huge life change - I married my partner, and we had a beautiful baby boy. I spent the first few months almost entirely at home with my little one - camera in-hand, photographing every moment. And that's when I knew I wanted to incorporate these life moments, as well as weddings into my work. Thus, Oh, the Life! was born!

What sets you and Oh, the Life! apart?

What's your secret sauce? What makes you different from everyone else?

My background as a fine artist, and as a film photographer, has really informed my eye. With film photography, you have to consider everything - the frame, the light, the exact moment that you push down on the shutter. Having limited frames means you have to be intentional with your shots. I find, with digital photography, most photographers click away with their camera constantly. But for me, with all of that experience with film, I like to slow down - to consider my frame, to find the "decisive moment," as photographer Cartier-Bresson once put it. I still shoot a boat load of images! But, I feel that shooting with more intention, as I do with film, has made me a better photographer.

Tell us about your ideal couple.

Tell us about the type of couple that really clicks with you and your company.

My ideal couple, I suppose would be someone like me... A couple that doesn't take themselves too seriously, and who sees the beauty in every inch of life. A couple that looks at life as an adventure, that seeks out obscure music or a good craft beer, or a green tea Kit-Kat. A couple that loves to experience other cultures, or binge on horror movies. A couple that stands up for what they believe in, that proudly beats to their own drum. A couple that tries to live kindly and sustainably, that has a special place in their heart for a furry companion. A couple that works hard, loves harder, and laughs louder.

What is the best advice you have for couples currently planning their weddings?

You've seen so many couples go through the planning process. Share your best pearl of wisdom for those just starting out with their planning.

Don't get too caught up on every tiny detail. There's bound to be one or two things that don't go 100% according to plan. Enjoy the day! It goes by quick!! Take it all in, and embrace the imperfections as part of your story!

What's the ONE thing that couples shouldn't forget to ask potential wedding vendors?

Spill! What's the single most important question that couples should ask before booking a vendor for their wedding?

"Are you part of the Green Wedding Alliance?!" It's a wonderful thing to try to make your wedding a tiny bit greener!

Thanks for stopping by Lakeshore in Love, Nikki!

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