We first met Nathaniel Crawford, the product and lifestyle photographer and videographer behind Captures by TK Photo & Film in 2018 when he was a college student promoting his food blog TermiNatetor Kitchen. We were thrilled to reconnect with him and learn more about his exciting career!
A self-proclaimed iced chai aficionado, Nate fell in love with cooking, baking, and photography at 18. He is also a person who stutters.
After graduating from Eastern Illinois University, Nate began working full-time in the hospitality industry and continued his journey into food photography in his off-hours. Over time, he found himself spending more and more hours on his photo work outside of his full-time job.
When the Covid-19 pandemic brought the hospitality industry to a dramatic halt in early 2020, he took it as an opportunity to explore a full-time career in food photography.
He gave himself three months. In April 2021, he took the leap.
“I haven’t looked back since,” he said.
As a self-employed food photographer, Nate now spends more time and energy with clients than ever before. In addition to being the man behind the camera, he is also the face of his own brand. With that responsibility comes a reckoning with how he communicates with his clients and his audience.
“For myself, I’ve been pretty open about stuttering with contacts and brands,” he explained. “Any sort of first call we have, I’ll share that, ‘Hey, I stutter, here’s what that’s like, and just be aware of it. If there’s any point where I say anything and you don’t understand, I’m happy to repeat anything.’
“For me, being open and honest and presenting the information upfront, it helps me know we’re fine.”
In addition to more creative autonomy and professional flexibility, becoming self-employed has given Nate another unexpected benefit—having more control over when he interacts with clients, which he considers meaningful as a PWS.
“It’s interesting, that when I was in my old jobs, I would have meetings and calls and other items placed on my calendar. There were a lot more forced conversations, where I had less control over whom I spoke to and when,” he said.
“Now I choose who I have calls with, who I have on set, and who I book. There’s a lot more control over the folks I get to work with. From a stuttering perspective, having more control of those sorts of things is really helpful.”
He also enjoys the variability in his work—ebbing from jam-packed shooting schedules some weeks to slower periods when he focuses on business tasks and other behind-the-scenes responsibilities. But the highlights are when he’s on set, working and communicating with others.
“Being on a set and having a team there, the brand there, it’s a fun time. There’s food, there’s music, we’re laughing, we’re having fun, we’re creating art,” he said. “Growing up in a small farm town where no one was disabled let alone stuttered, it can feel isolating, it can feel like you’re alone. But the world is very big, and there’s so many opportunities to meet others and learn and to realize you’re not alone.”
Today, those shoots include setups for national brands, from Calphalon, Ruggable, and Roti to specialty purveyors including Godiva Chocolate, Robert Mondavi Private Selection, and Garrett Popcorn Shops. He credits years of hard work with improving his art, his confidence in speaking, and ability to communicate effectively.
He finds it easy to connect the dots between food, creativity, and communication. He views each as an opportunity to grow and express himself. That means not only continuing to expand his business, but also engaging in opportunities such as public speaking, presenting at conferences, and leading courses.
“It could be challenging, when I was starting out cooking and doing photos,” he said. “Putting myself out there takes courage, and it’s not easy. I think when anyone who stutters speaks, that’s important. Folks who don’t stutter don’t understand how much effort that takes.”
A fan of photographing pasta (“It’s always pretty,” he advises) and an accomplished baker in his own right, Nate’s hard work has now been acknowledged on an international stage as a 2022 finalist for the International Association of Culinary Professionals Best Commercial Food or Beverage Photograph.
It’s a tremendous landmark to reach for a PWS whose journey began taking pictures of dorm room cuisine on an iPhone 6.
“If I’ve learned anything from being in this space and cooking and photos—this process of being an artist has helped me understand the power of my voice. It’s helped me be able to translate how I feel in a way where it’s exact,” he said. “There’s no fear behind it or hesitation behind it, and what I’m trying to convey is exactly what I think and feel. And there’s sort of a beauty in that.”