Melissa McNutt & Narisha Heider of Images Portrait Studio

As a parent of two young children, I (Anthony Crosby) feel very thankful for the thought of raising them in this community of ours. I’m grateful for the fact that they’ll grow up around so many wonderful local friends, neighbors, and professionals, getting to know them and be known by them along the way. I’m excited for them to meet people as children under five and keep those relationships even after they graduate high school. That’s one aspect of what makes living in such a tight-knit community so great. There are individuals here, such as today’s guests, who are committed to investing in long-lasting relationships through their work and play. That type of attitude is not found in many places, so it’s something I never want to take for granted about living in Elko!

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This week, we’re joined by the two amazing women behind Images Portrait Studio, Melissa McNutt and Narisha Heider! Melissa has been the owner of the photography studio for over twenty years, and Narisha has been right by her side for over ten of them. In fact, at the time of this interview, Narisha is in the processing of purchasing the business from Melissa!

In the meantime, the team (Melissa, Narisha, and their three other employees during busy season) at Images have been hard at work, providing quality photos for many Northern Nevada residents. Not only do they shoot in Elko, but the ladies will travel to other towns such as Ely, Battle Mountain, Wells, and even Eureka, to take pictures for fourteen different schools and numerous sports leagues. However, they don’t only work in sport and school photography; you can also find them around the city taking pictures for weddings, seniors, special events, and weddings. All in all, these women have immersed themselves in the community, and we’re excited to talk with them today.

Thank you for joining us this week, Melissa and Narisha! Before we talk more in-depth about Images Portrait Studio, let’s get to know you a bit! How did you come to be involved with the business?

Melissa– I’ve owned Images for about twenty-three years, and I started in Ely, Nevada. One of my sisters and I bought the business from my older sister. We were always self-taught; we just had a love for photography and would take as many classes as we could along the way. Eventually, my sister and I parted ways, and I took over the studio. We moved to Elko eighteen years ago. We were super fortunate because Images took off in the sports section. We’ve had leagues for eighteen years; they’ve never left us. For example, Elko Junior Football League has been our contract since day one. Eventually, I started working with the schools, and we’ve been very fortunate with that as well!

Narisha- I started working for Melissa about fourteen years ago. I actually went to school with her daughter, and Melissa took my senior pictures in Ely! When we came up here, she had something tragic happen in the family, so I told her that I could help with the business. She taught me everything, and we’ve been climbing up together from there. It’s been nice because we’ve been able to grow our relationships with the kids and schools over so many years!

Melissa– Yes, that’s what’s nice about being local. We know so many of the kids, and they know us. We know the staff at the schools and their routines. My husband is a miner, so I know the mining schedules, and we can work around them.

There are many fantastic photographers in our area; what makes Images unique in this space?

Melissa- I would say it’s our years of experience and our customer service. We really care! We will not take a photo without taking at least three or four. We are detail-oriented, and I think that comes from my first years in the business. In the beginning, I didn’t have digital; I started with film. I had ten shots, and I didn’t get to see those ten shots for five days! So, I learned from some of the best how to pose and be professional.

Narisha- We tell the people who help us package that if they wouldn’t put a picture up on their wall, then they need to speak up and let us know! We want people to be proud to put their photos right up!

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You’ve both been working in this field for so long. How are you approaching your work now, in 2020, after doing it for many years

Melissa- I’m ready to let go of the schools and the sports because I’ve done it for so long. I’m getting older, and I want to concentrate on my son and husband. I’ve already spent so many nights not at home cooking dinner because the studio always came first. I still want to be involved with photography, but I want to focus on my art. So, I’m trying to ease out of the labor part and being away in the evenings. That’s where Narisha comes in.

 Narisha- I do this because I love it! Some people may say they get bored of the repetition by going to work, but for me, I don’t have that. It’s always different and fun. I love interacting with the kids, and it never becomes tedious.

You both take pictures for families and things of that nature; however, a lot of your work is done with many of our local schools and sports organizations. How does that type of photography differ from doing something like a maternity shoot?

Melissa- I think we get to be more of an artist when we can go slow down with a family and have time with them. With sports, we’re only given so much time to do the pictures sometimes. Sometimes, we’re ten minutes between each team! It’s a routine, but we still try to stop and talk with each of them.

Narisha- When we go into a school, we only have so much time to take the pictures, but we try to still bring our creative side to it. We can usually get through a classroom in about ten or fifteen minutes. It’s nice though because the kids at schools we’ve been with for a while are used to us. They made have been intimated at first, but now they love it, and the parents love it that we take those extra two seconds with the kids.

Well, speaking of the schools and sports leagues, we should address the obvious. With everything shut down and closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how has that affected things for you all at Images?

Narisha- It’s affected things on the financial end because this business is seasonal. Right now, everything is so unknown. That’s the eerie part of all this; it’s the not knowing if we’re going to be able to do schools this go around, same with sports! It’s so hard because even though we want to do it, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. We don’t know at this point.

Melissa- This is devastating to the business. As Nairsha said, we work seasonally, and this will take half a year of income away. We just hope that this will make some of the schools realize that it’s best to work with a local photographer, whether it’s us or someone else. We’re fortunate to have many principals in town who do back that philosophy, but some don’t. I hope, in these times, they all start supporting the locals.

You both have worked hard throughout the years, serving and giving back to our community through your business. What’s it been like for you running a photography studio specializing in our area? Why Elko of all places?

There are a lot of photographers in this community, so we choose to stand out by our customer service. That’s what we really try to show everyone. With each family that we work with, we will do whatever fits them best, because we do live here, so we get it and understand what people here are going through.

Melissa- I’ve been very blessed. I started in Ely, but a lot of people there didn’t support sports photos and all that. When I came here, I was completely shocked by how much this community appreciates photography and how well Images was accepted. We love and support our community!

Elko area! Let’s do what we can to support this valuable local business in these uncertain times! They’ve served our community for so many years; let’s have their back if we have the means! Images does have gift card options and is currently offering to do “distance photography” shoots for those of you who would still like to get their family pictures done this spring
! Facebook Website

Melissa, Narisha, thank you for joining us this week! Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers before we let you get back behind the lens?

Melissa- I would like them to know that we’ve been in this community for eighteen years, and although we’re going to have a change over in ownership, nothing else is going to change about Images Portrait Studios. Our customer service, knowledge, and commitment to the community are always going to be there. I have been very blessed over the years, and I’m very proud of what we built!

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See you around, Elko!

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