Monday, December 14

Help-Portrait Has Come and Gone – For Now Anyway!

Wow, what an amazing day at Help-Portrait in Orlando this weekend! I spent almost eleven hours there and would not trade one hour of them...not even one minute of them. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I have to admit, I spent the 40 minutes or so, on the drive home, crying like a baby. Hey, it was my one good cry of the year...okay! I was crying just reflecting on the day's events, the wonderful people I met, and the new friends I made.

I can't believe how much everyone touched me, that includes the other photographers and volunteers AND the people whose portraits we shot at the Coalition for the Homeless in Orlando. It was exciting to meet with and interact with so many amazing people today. I think the people who we had the opportunity to shoot today touched me far more than I did them. If I only touched them half as much, I think it was a good day.

 All of the photographers and volunteers with the Orlando group were wonderful! I can't believe the outpouring of support we got from the photographic community in Central Florida, especially in such a small period of time. Because of the coming together of so many people, the Orlando group was able to shoot in two locations in Orlando simultaneously. I can only speak of the experience at the Coalition's main campus, but I would imagine the experience at the Women's Center was every bit as rewarding as ours was.

At our facility we checked in 80+ photographers and volunteers throughout the day, running up to eight or nine shooting stations at times, and four post processing stations at once. I was so amazed to see photographers of all skill levels and genres coming together and working side by side. We had sports photographers working with wedding photographers, baby and children photographers working with those who are more photo journalistic style shooters, and amateurs and hobbyists working side by side with professionals that make their living in photography. Everyone worked together and pulled the day off beautifully.

Many photographers came with cameras in hand, expecting to shoot, and found themselves more useful in other areas for the day, without a complaint. We had two makeup artists at our facility, who had clients lined up, waiting for their "makeover," and they did such a beautiful job. They were truly godsends and I think their work made the biggest impact on some of our subjects. And, then we had our non-photographer volunteers who gave of their Saturday, just to make a difference in someone's life. I made so many new friends today. I think the photographic community in Central Florida far exceeded my expectations. You are some of the most selfless people I know!

I will share with you some personal experiences I had throughout the day, and I am sure others that were there had similar stories to tell.

Upon arriving to the facility at about 7:45 in the morning, there were already a bunch of our people setting up backdrops, lighting, umbrellas, etc. I thought I had gotten there early (we weren't officially shooting until 9:00, but I knew I would be helping check people in) and was amazed at how many people were already hard at work getting set up. One of the first clients to approach me at the Coalition was a woman who had obviously been waiting anxiously to get her picture taken. At that point we were still signing in volunteers and had not yet begun to take appointments. I talked with her briefly, letting her know that we would be signing people in soon, and she seemed satisfied. At least two more times, before official signups, she approached me again, obviously making sure that she would not be somehow missed.

When we finally were ready for subjects to go back to individual shooting stations, lo and behold, who was the first client I escorted back to a station...her, of course! I told her, "see we didn't forget you!" She seemed excited and nervous, all at the same time. She said to me on the way back, "what if I don't like my pictures." And I said to her, "I GUARANTEE you that you will!" I'm not sure I had her convinced though.

I took her to her photographer and stayed with her, cracking her up and making her laugh and smile, while he did his magic behind the camera. I even got her to "model pose" for us, throwing her hands on her hips and such, and she kept laughing and pointing at me, saying it was "all my fault" she couldn't stop laughing. She seemed so nervous after the first few shots, thinking that was it, and wanting to leave, but we kept pushing her back for more "poses" and by the time we had neared the end of our session, I truly think she could have stayed and posed for 10 more minutes with us. She had loosened up and was having a great time behind the camera.

As I walked her to post processing, camera card in hand, instead of asking "what if I don't like my pictures," she was saying "what if I like all of them." I told her we would look at them all and she could pick the very best one for herself. She asked if I would help her pick one out, and I said of course! Which one did Miss "Shy at First" pick? Well, one of her "model" poses, of course!

I kept seeing her throughout the day, as we would pass each other in the hall or outside the building, and tell her that we "need to quit meeting like this," which would make her smile every time. I know she felt she had made a friend that day! If that had been the only person I had got to interact with all day, it would have been worth it.

But, so many more followed, including the little girl that stole my heart. She belonged to a young mother. She had a three year old boy, the two year old girl, and a one month old baby boy. From mother to baby, they were a beautiful family. The kids had been dressed up in their nicest clothes for their photo, with the little girl in a pretty pink sundress. As a mother of three children under three, I could tell the mom had her hands full. The little girl, used to being the baby, I'm sure, kept trying to get mommy to pick her up, but her hands were already tied up with the little one.

Soon the little girl started to cry. I reached out my hand to her, she immediately latched onto my pinky finger, stopped crying, and wouldn't let go. As long as she had a grip on my pinky finger, with her tiny little hand, she wasn't crying! If I pulled it away to do something else with both hands, she would cry again. She held my pinky finger for probably a full half hour.

Once I got the family to their outdoor shooting station, the photographers needed to check the lighting, so they had me sit in the portrait chair to act as a "test subject." (By the way, thanks a lot guys, I HATE having my picture taken, so be sure to delete those!) Anyway, since I had to go sit in the chair, I let go of the little girl's hand and sat down. She immediately came over to me and crawled up in my lap to be in the test pictures. Yeah, she stole my heart alright!

There were so many stories like that all day long. Many clients I didn't personally interact with during their shoots, but as I would see them in the hallway waiting, I would tell them how beautiful they looked, and their faces would light up. It was amazing.

I got to talking with one older lady, who had just come out of makeup, and was telling her how nice she looked. She touched her face and said she normally doesn't usually wear makeup, so she felt a little funny. I told her, I understood, neither do I, but I thought they did a beautiful job on her. I then asked if she had gotten her hair done also, and she laughed and said, no, she had just thrown it on. It was wig! I think she was really looking forward to her picture shoot!

There was also a man, who was a bundle of energy and very outgoing, who I escorted back to post processing. He shared with me, as we walked to post processing to review his pictures, that he had never had is picture taken! I said never? He said NEVER in his life! He was very excited to see the final results on the computer!

It was simply an all around amazing day and I can't wait to do it again! This was a sentiment I heard from all of the volunteers throughout the day. They were ready to do it again and the event wasn't even over yet! I can't thank everyone who gave of their time, to come together and make this a wonderful event for everyone. You guys are truly some of the most caring people I know and I am so happy to say I was a part of it.

Help Portrait Photographer Waiting for potential "fires" to put out.
Help Portrait Volunteers Signing up clients for portraits.
Help Portrait Photographers Waiting for new arrivals.
Help Portrait Makeup Artist Makeup artist getting setup.
Help Portrait Makeup Artist Getting pretty!
Help Portrait Photographers Waiting to shoot the next client.
News Inverviews of Resident Family Resident family being interviewed by a local news reporter.

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