On Saturday this past week I decided to lend my talents as a photographer to those in need. I participated in a world-wide charity event called Help Portrait.
Founded by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart, Help Portrait aims to get photographers organized to help out their local community. The goal is to GIVE portraits, not take them. Photographers lend their time, their talents, and their gear in order to give portraits to families and other community members in need. The portraits made by the photographers are not meant to be used in portfolios or blogs. They are for the people who need them, not us.
I first heard about Help Portrait sometime last year. I follow Jeremy Cowart on Twitter and he is continually mentioning the project in his feed. I also watched his inspiring TED talk about the project.
I intended to participate last year, but for some reason I missed the opportunity to help out. Since I was kicking my self about that all year long, I made sure to participate this year.
Living in the DC Metro area lends itself to a lot of people in need and a lot of photographers out there willing to help. Because of this there were a lot of local Help Portrait events going on. I was lucky enough to find one right around the corner from my home at the Carpenter’s Shelter in Old Town Alexandria.
Our coordinator, Amanda, did a wonderful job of connecting with the shelter and the local volunteers who wanted to help. She set up, via email, station assignments based on the volunteer’s talents (such as shooting, editing, make up, hairstyling, and greeting). She also brought three photo printers and rented Pocket Wizard radio flash triggers (plus even more gear) for the three photo booth stations we were going to have set up. She was a big part in making sure the day ran as smoothly as possible.
I signed up to help out all day long. And that day started early.
Me and the first shift of volunteers arrived at the shelter at 7 am for setting up. We set up three photo booth stations in two different rooms. Each room also had its own editing / printing station. Each photo booth had either a one or two-light set up and a simple backdrop.
Before our first clients came in, me and the other photographers all made sure our set ups were ready by taking some test shots of each other. Since we only had about 10-15 minutes with each client, we had to make sure our settings were where we wanted them to ensure smooth and efficient shooting.
The beginning of the morning was very hectic. We had a lot of clients come by in a short period of time. In the course of an hour, I photographed about 6 different sets of clients. But after a little bit of time, we all got in to a nice rhythm of shooting, editing and printing.
The entire day was a blast. The clients were all amazing to work with. They were appreciative, receptive, and gracious. On top of all that, we all had fun helping out those who needed it. I can’t wait until next year’s event!