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Saturday at Help Portrait Event

Without question, Saturday was one of the best days of photography I’ve ever had, and my camera stayed in the bag the whole day. I have no photos to show you today. However, I can share with you how a handful of volunteers at a church helped give 45 families a moment of happiness.

Help Portrait is a movement of photographers around the world using their time and expertise to help people in need. For one day, December 12, 2009, thousands of volunteers came together to provide free portraits to individuals and families in need.

You may be thinking, why portraits instead of food or clothing? Well, it’s pretty simple really. We most often think of a person’s physical needs whenever we consider making a charitable gift. After all, people NEED to eat and be warm; so we think of food, shelter, and clothing, and rightfully so. But someone who is struggling to simply get from today to tomorrow also has other needs. A person needs hope…

So, on Saturday, Hannah, Jessica, and I went to a local church, along with about 20 other volunteers, to see if we could give a gift of hope and beauty to a few families. We met lots of wonderful people. The families whose portraits we were making, the church members who helped organize the day, and the volunteers we worked with were all amazing and beautiful people. The families were a bit suspicious of us at first. After all, there’s no such thing as free anymore. They were waiting for the catch, the hook, the price tag. Were we really going to take their photos for free, edit them for free, and print them for free? Really? Yes, we did.

The process was simple. People would fill out a short form, then they would go into the room where the photographers were set up. Several studio photographers had volunteered their backdrops and lights. The families were directed to the backdrop that most complimented their outfits. The photographer would take several pictures in a few poses. Then they would deliver the photos to the post processors for editing and cropping. This is the job that Jessica and I did. Several photographers like myself, who don’t do studio work, volunteered our laptops and editing skills. We took the raw photos and, with input from the families, edited them into the proper format for the 8×10 and two 5×7 prints they would receive. If they had glare on their glasses, Jessica Photoshopped it out, if there was a stray hair, we blended it away. At the end of the day, our edited photos, and all the edited photos of the other photographers, were uploaded to a drive and the coordinator took them to the lab for printing. A local lab had agreed to provide printing at no cost. I wish I knew which lab so that I could tell you, but I don’t.

Hannah was a greeter. Her job was to meet the people when they came in and help direct them through the process. She would sign them in and then take them to their assigned photographer for their photos. If they needed help with other things, she did that too, often standing behind the photographer hamming it up to get the little ones to laugh and smile for the camera. At one point, in between families, she quickly stepped into the restroom. There she found a mother of two little boys that she had just assisted sitting on a bench crying. Hannah went to her, knelt down, and asked her if she was ok. The woman looks up at Hannah with tears streaming down her face. She tells Hannah how thankful she is for everyone who was there. She had thought she would never get a good picture of her babies.

Hope. Dignity. Joy. Beauty. These are things that a person needs as much as food and air.

If you want to know more about Help Portrait, or join, here’s the link to their website:

As for us, we’ll be doing this again next year.

Amanda Summerlin

Amanda Summerlin

Artist and Explorer at Amanda Summerlin Photography
Hello. My name is Amanda. I make neat pictures of nice people, drink coffee and whiskey (sometimes at the same time), and travel. I love traveling so much, I won't charge you any travel fees to photograph your wedding. Check out my travel info page for all the details. And see my blog for all the cool photos.
Amanda Summerlin

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