Building Community

Sep 25, 2023

Building community is our mission, to create a culture of inclusion, self-confidence, fun. It’s incredibly important to me that every kid can see a family that looks like theirs. The fact that every family is unique is the core of our entire business model and central to every strategy. Our values aren’t just something fluffy we came up with, honestly, we’re too small for an HR department. Our values are the base of everything we do – what sessions we offer, our pricing, the client experience, staffing model, and of course our imagery.

Creating Our Community

My oldest daughter was in kindergarten when she said to me with all seriousness, “Do you know that not everyone’s Daddy is in a wheelchair?” It was really a moment for me to reflect.  That was the year I purchased the studio and the year I decided I wanted to be sure that all kids get to see a family that looked like theirs. I wanted to make sure that when someone looks at our Instagram or walks through the studio, they will see families that look different. Ensuring everyone felt included and seen. 

Yes, yes I know we’re just a portrait studio. But I believe every single person has an impact on their community, so we’re going to make our impact count. I personally work hard to ensure I have a positive impact not just on my ladies but on their friends. Life gets hard, I want to make sure everyone I touch knows, like really knows, that they are seen, heard, and loved.

So naturally, that extends to my work and the studios, which is why we build a culture of:


This world is tough. Social media isn’t easy. It’s not the world I grew up in where you dropped an envelope off at the drugstore and hoped a few pictures came out. This has become a world of filters, retouching, and airbrushing. It’s become a world where you can alter yourself so those you went to high school with, say OMG she looks amazing, but don’t recognize you in real life.

In that crazy world, at Ivory Tree, we intentionally take a natural approach. Natural light, natural posing, natural backgrounds, and natural editing because I firmly believe in telling kids they are enough and perfect, exactly as they are! The second, I mean the very second you alter their eyes you are telling them through your actions that they aren’t enough. That they need to be tweaked, or enhanced, they need to be better. And wow, that’s hard for them to live up to. Discover more on our retouching philosophy here.

I want to use photography to show people and kids how stunning, exactly as they are. I just did an ordering meeting for a senior portrait session and the senior said “Look at that, I’m stunning!” Yes girl, yes you are! Our natural approach helps build kids’ confidence by highlighting and celebrating their unique qualities.


Creating a culture of inclusion isn’t just something we say, it’s something that is at the core of who we are. Yes, we donate to every silent auction supporting the local schools and organizations but that’s passive support.  We believe in more actively supporting our community.

Over the years we’ve raised thousands of dollars for charities like: Today is a Good Day, supporting NICU parents, the PSPCA in support of our furry family members, Kisses for Kyle and Alex’s Lemonade Stand in support of childhood cancer, the Free Mom Hugs and Trevor Project supporting the LGBTQ+ community. For us, it’s not just about supporting these amazing charities through raising money but about having events in our studios that ensure people know the studio is a safe, supportive, loving space for everyone.  

Every family is unique. Some are the nuclear family, some families have two parents, some have four, some families have members with special needs or are on the spectrum, some live in multigenerational homes, some families have two moms or two dads, some families were created through IVF or adoption, some families are super casual, some are more formal. Every person is unique, and we are here to celebrate (and capture) it!

We have the belief that every kid should see a family that mirrors their own. We are here to build a community that celebrates originality. This belief is woven into everything we do, it’s why we don’t have packages. No two families look alike so no package could ever meet everyone’s needs.


Life should be fun. Fun for the kids that come in, fun (or should we say easy) for the moms and dads, and fun for our team of rock stars.

I know first-hand that life isn’t always easy. I was 23 when my now husband was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative disease. It’s pretty heavy for a couple of 20-year-olds. But we decided that we were going to have fun anyway. In everything we do, life’s too hard to not have fun!

Honestly, I want to come to work and have fun. Portraits should be fun, they shouldn’t be so serious. The entire point of a portrait session is to have memories. That’s why we have a kid-led philosophy, letting kids set the pace. This is when they are most comfortable & their genuine selves.

We created a kid-led philosophy because specializing in working with kids allows us to bring out your kid’s true personality! I say it all the time, you can have the most talented wedding photographer out there — like blow your socks off amazing. But if they don’t work with kids on a regular basis, they won’t know how to pose. How to engage. When working with adults you can say, take a step to the left, or lift your chin. You can’t say that to a kid! They will look at you like you have three heads. We put hours, honestly years, into perfecting how we engage kids. Discover more about our kid-led philosophy here.

Culture of Community

It takes a village to raise kids, we all know that! But at Ivory Tree, we believe it takes more than a village, it takes a community. Your village babysits when you need a break or picks the kids up from practice when you’re at work. They love your kids, like you do.

A community is a further extension of that, it’s places where kids know, like really know, they are loved, accepted and celebrated for being exactly who they are. It’s at our core to create a community for our families.

Above all, we hope you and your kids feel at home at the studios, like take your shoes off and get comfy!

About the Author

Lara Aman Mattey

Founder I Owner I Ivory Tree

Lara is the coolest person alive, according to her husband, Nick, & two little ladies, Caitie & Lorelai. But she thinks her time is limited on that statement as they continue to grow older. Lara comes from a large family, with whom she is still very close with & you’ll often see shared through the blog and on social media. She went to Penn State (We Are…) where she met Nick.

Ivory Tree's very own photographer, Marcy shot her newborn photography sessions & Lara was hooked! Lara is not a photographer, super weird, we know. But lives for the experience, creative direction, and meeting all the cool folks who come through the Ivory Tree Portraits studio!

In addition to studio awards, Lara was also recognized at a Women of Influence on the Main Line in 2023.

Follow along as she shares studio antics, personal antidotes, & fun stuff going on in the community.

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