Recently I had the chance to participate in a really cool volunteer event called Help Portrait. It is an event that happens around the world where photographers, editors and other volunteers get together to use their skills and equipment to offer free photo shoots and printed portraits for families in need. The group in my area hosted three locations, and I worked at the registration table at one of them.
I’m not sure what the official count was, but I know that we signed in more than 70 families at our location. It was great to be able to greet the families, see all the children in their best clothes, get them signed in and sent on their way to the hair and makeup area and then their studios for their portraits.
There were 10 little studios set up in the Sunday school rooms at a church that let us use their facility. The photographers brought backdrops and lights and made it really nice. In a larger room, a team of editors were busy taking the memory cards, editing as many photos as they could in 30 minutes, then burning a CD and printing out a few photos.
Picture frames were donated, so one of the best photos was printed out and put in a 5×7 frame. The framed picture and one or two additional 4x6s were then presented to the family, along with a CD of all their images with a photo release included so they can print more pictures themselves or e-mail them.
After the photo shoots, the families waited in an area near the registration table, and so I was able to visit more with many of them. There were tables set up with crafts for the kids to do, and I got to help some of the kids decorate foam photo frames with stickers (all donated) and color a variety of Christmas-themed coloring book pages. A few kids attached themselves to me, climbing in my lap or coming up and hugging me all around my leg. It was so sweet.
In between checking in the families, I got to spend a little time peeking into the doorways of the photo studios, watching some of the families get their pictures made. It was great to see the photographers interact with all of them, especially the little kids, treating them so sweetly and having fun. The faces of the children were fun to watch. Some seemed shy, others were so excited to be dressed up and feeling pretty. One little boy just kept grinning and jumping up and down with his hands in the air.
Around the craft tables I got to see the smiles on their faces when the photographers brought down their printed photos. Everyone seemed pleased and ooohhed and ahhhed. One of my favorite pictures I saw was an older woman kissing her mentally-disabled adult daughter on the cheek. It was so sweet, and the woman was so happy with her experience. She told me it was the best picture they’d ever had made.
For many of the families, this was the first formal portrait they’d ever had. It was the first time many of the younger children had ever been photographed.
I know I take the ability to take photos for granted, to grab every little snapshot I can of my Neffie, to see in pictures how much he has grown and changed. I can’t imagine someone having no baby pictures of their child, or no pictures of their family as a whole.