Helping Out at Help-Portrait

Above: our crew at Help-Portrait on Saturday. From LtoR: Pete Collins, Me, Matt Kloskowski, RC Concepcion, and Erik Bernskiold. Photo on laptop by Scott Krebs. 

On Saturday morning a group of us from Kelby Media Group (including Matt, Pete, RC and Erik Bernskiold [our buddy visiting this week from Sweden]) and were very fortunate to be a part of the wonderful Help-Portrait movement founded by our friend and entertainment photographer Jeremy Cowart, and once again it was a very special day for everybody involved.

Above: Here’s the main shooting room, with four shooting bays set-up side-by-side.

This year, RC organized our local Help-Portrait event, which consisted of photographers and assistants, make-up artists and hair stylists, IT wizards, and Photoshop retouchers, who call came together to make portraits for moms and their kids living at Operation PAR, a women’s drug abuse treatment center in Pinellas County, Florida. The women and their children live in a ‘village’ operated by the center, and for most of them this was their first and only portraits of them with their children (or even just photos of the kids by themselves).

Above: Here’s one of their first stops—make up. 

RC was out front coordinating the shooting, and Matt, Pete, Erik and I were in a separate room doing all the retouching and outputting 8×10″ finished prints right on the spot, and thanks to RC’s excellent planning and execution, the whole thing worked amazingly well.

Above: RC did an amazing job organizing our local Help-Portrait shoot, and here he is telling us how the workflow is set up, and just generally picking on Erik for being an industrial spy from Volvo.

Honestly, the retouching job itself was fairly easy, and we were in a completely separate room, and we had Christmas music playing all day, and it was actually a lot of fun to be a room with all these guys in the “retouching zone” but we needed to keep things light because every time you open a photo of a mom and her children in Photoshop, your heart breaks a little for them.

Above: Our buddy Erik Bernskiold (more affectionately known as “Erin Brockovich” or just “Brocky” during our retouching day), was in town this week and he volunteered to be one of the retouchers. We took him in this week like he was one of our own, even though we knew he was just here secretly spying for IKEA. 

I have to take my hat off to Jeremy for being behind of all this, because until you experience what this does for people yourself, you’ll never realize what it means to these people who are struggling in such a difficult chapter of their lives.

Above: Matt Kloskowski was just a few workstations down from me, and all day long Matt and I would sing our own versions of Christmas songs where we kept substituting Swedish phrases, Erik’s name, and some really lame Swedish jokes just to mess with Erik.

Ours is just one story in many of thousands around the world that Jeremy and Help-Portrait touched that day and I’m just so happy that we got to be a small part of it. Anyway, here are a few more behind-the-scenes shots from our day.

Above: That’s me at my workstation before the retouching zone got ramped up to full speed.

If you took part in a Help-Portrait shoot, and you’ve posted your images or stories from your day, I encourage you to post them here as a comment. Thanks to Jeremy (and locally to Dr. Michael Sheehan from PAR) for giving us a way to do something we love and get to give something back in such a meaningful way. For more info on Help-Portrait, follow this link. 

  1. Way to go guys – I am sure all of the pictures came out great. I bet they had no idea how much talent was in that editing room haha. It reminds me of the first Jay Maisel video on Kelby training when the tourists handed their camera to Jay and asked him to take a picture and then told him how good the shot was. They had no idea haha

    One thing – it just seems so weird to see all the thousands of dollars worth of equipment (cameras, lenses, so many macs, etc) sitting in that small area and knowing how needy those families must be. I know you can’t solve all the worlds problems in one day – it is just striking to see the haves and the have nots. I think I need to look into some more charities before the end of the year :(

  2. Another person here who deserves a tremendous amount of credit is Kathy Porupski. As the person who overseas the Tampa Strobist Collective, shes instrumental in making sure photographers were here and ready for the shoot as well. Its such a blessing to have her around.. and I for one am incredibly grateful for that.

    Thank you Kathy!!

    1. Awe… thanks Rc but really was not much on my end but to gather a few wonderfully talented and willing photographers from our strobist group! The ones behind the camera’s capturing and making the magic happen were the true hero’s of this wonderful project! They spent the day connecting with, making comfortable, and photographing all of our families from the day. I’m proud to be a part of such a wonderful project and blessed to have such wonderfully talented and giving friends!
      Thank you shout out to all of our wonderful volunteers who were involved in our “Help Portrait” project… it was truly an honor to serve as a volunteer with the crew and team of Operation PAR! :-)

  3. This year was the first time I organized it for the Netherlands and did the shoots with a great team in Emmeloord. If you’re not participating I can really advise you to do, it’s a great movement and the people are so thankfully. Reactions ranged from happiness to heartbreaking, I will give attention to our day in the blogpost tomorrow on my site.

    It’s been such a succes that we have decided to do it again next year, but now are starting in January with planning to get more national coverage.

    Help-portrait is really something that needs be know much wider, so spread the word and motivate everyone to participate ;)

    1. I completely agree Frank! I want to encourage anyone thinking about it jump in next year and get involved.

      I’ve heard skeptics talk about how ‘a picture can’t really be that helpful’ and ‘wouldn’t it be better to just donate money’ but until you actually volunteer and meet the people coming and listen to their stories and connect with them, there’s no room for criticism. In Tennessee the stories were no different, ranging from happiness to heartbreaking as well.

      One girl wrote, “This was my first time to have makeup for a photo, I felt really pretty and I think I might do it again.” There was one couple who had been together for 38 years and never had a portrait together. It was such a great experience, and a great way to connect with others in your community, I can’t recommend it enough.

  4. I’m thinking you might get some questions about what are the two black, cylindrical objects mounted on stands and angled above the heads of the people on set. Maybe, but not sure if you’ll get those questions.

    Glad to see people doing something for others and Help Portrait is a cool way of doing something nice.

    1. Matt, The two black cylindrical objects you see are a really cool light modifier called a Saberstrip… created and developed by a member of our Strobist Photography group Scott Krebs. I own a few myself and love them! :) Here’s a link to his web site if your interested in more info.

  5. Looks like you folks had a great day. I took part as a retoucher at Help-Photo Frankfurt / Germany and it was such an intense experience. And yes, it’s totally clear, that IKEA sent this swedisch guy for spying. At Help-Photo Frankfurt they even were one of the sponsors. By the way, here is a small video of Help-Photo Frankfurt 2011:

  6. Frank Doorhof gave me the idea to organise it in Groningen (the netherlands) and wow, with a team of great people we made 247 portraits of 168 beautiful people. When Jeremy goes for it again next year, we will join.

  7. Fantastic job guys; looks like you had a blast and left alot of folks with the ‘feel good factor’ that they need so much.

    I never cease to be amazed not just at how powerful a photograph can be but by how giving this whole photography community can be; it’s a privilege to be part of it!

    As for Help Portrait here in the UK, if i was wearing one I’d take my hat off to our good friend Gareth Davies. Having been move by Jeremy’s account of Help Portrait at Photoshop World in Las Vegas, Gareth went ‘hell for leather’ setting up an event in Wokingham, UK.

    Very soon he had brought together an army of over 60 volunteers to help make a special day for several local charities. The only sad part is that his success brought with it some unexpected Health & Safety legalities because of the sheer number of people who were going to be at the studio throughout the day.

    The event on Saturday had to be postponed but not one to be beaten Gareth has set up several ‘mini’ Help Portrait days over the Holiday Season when all those folks who were going to be photographed…will be! He’s made a promise and he’s sticking to it!

    Such is the nature of Gareth…a great guy and a great friend with a HUGE heart and the epitomy of what the selfless, giving nature of what Help Portrait attracts.

    Oh, and here’s a shot of Gareth who from day 1 started to raise money outside of the main event:

    Great post and a great cause…thanks Scott!

    ps> Erin Brockovich…Man, I just about needed resuscitating after reading that…lol :)

  8. We had a great team of 3 doing the photography, Make up and retouch/printing at a small women’s rehab facility in Fort Pierce, Fl. I chose this facility because they set the path for a family member several years ago and I wanted to specifically give back to them. Reaffirming ones self esteem and being able to love yourself is integral to being able to love others. I think this Help-Portrait session helped with that as some of the women had milestone pix made with their children while others marked milestones of sobriety.

    We may not wait until Dec. for the next one.

    Here is the Google+ link.

  9. Thanks for sharing Scott. Our turnout in Grand Rapids, MI was small but rewarding. With a break in the action we did have a chance to brainstorm about next years event. If we can put our plans into place, the number of people we cam serve will grow exponentially.

  10. Oh you guys are so silly with your “Non American” white board sign above Erik’s (Brocky) head. Poor guy looks clueless…I love it!

    I wish I was Swedish, if that would have gotten me in as a volunteer for you in Tampa as well then call me Inga! You guys seem like a blast to work with & of course would be very inspirational to be around for such an amazing day. I commend all of you on your kindness in giving so much of yourselves freely. Such an awesome group of people.

    I really need to take RC up on the invite he bestowed upon me at PSW Orlando last year, to tag along a photo walk with him, Kathy & the rest of their Tampa Strobist Collective crew. Kathy is indeed a very cool lady, I remember her fondly. Hopefully if I can, perhaps next year I too will be able to feel confident enough to be part of such a great day!

    Have a great day now!

  11. Frank Doorhof attended me of help-portrait. Robert and i started to organise it for Groningen (the netherlands). It was an overwhelming day. With a team of 50 beautiful people we made 247 portraits of 168 persons each with their own story. It was a great day and next year we will join again.

  12. What a surprise today. So glad you guys invited Erik to be with you all for this special event. It was maybe 3 years ago Terry White mentioned Erik had helped him with his website. Not knowing much about who to get to help me with my website at the time, I figured if Terry White could have Erik do his site, he was probably a good guy. I wasn’t disappointed. Erik’s work is wonderful.

  13. It was fun and rewarding to be a part of such a special day! Everything went so smoothly thanks to RC, Michael Sheehan, Kathy Porupski, and the talented retouching team!

    Thank you for sharing your time, talent, and resources.

    When we were bringing in the equipment on Friday, one of the girls was sitting outside. She realized we were setting things up and was telling someone they were going to get their pictures taken the next day. I turned and smiled and was thinking about the fact that she had no idea of what a great crew of NAPP gurus would be there! I said something about there would be some talented people they would be working with and her response was all about getting their makeup done! It made me proud of the Kely team because everything was all about the girls. The hair and makeup artists made the girls look their best. the photographers were fun to work with and got some great shots, and you guys worked your magic!

    Wathching the girls enjoy themselves while shooting was wonderful. They felt special and it showed. Then to see their faces as they looked at their images was incredible! It was an honor to help create a lifetime memory for them.

  14. I always say that it’s hard to encourage community among photographers without showing community among leaders first. You guys are doing just that. It blows my mind actually that all you guys are involved. Thank you SO much for doing this. I have no doubt that you made a massive impact on Saturday. It’s a shame though that we can’t see portraits retouched by you guys though.. HA! Out of all people that can’t show their images. But it just goes to show that you guys are THAT selfless and humble. Seriously. So inspired. Love you guys.

  15. I volunteered for this in upstate New York. It was everything you guys said it would be. I laughed and cried several times. My job was shooting the activities at the event and when families got to see their prints, they were overcome with emotion. I hope to make this an annual event. Thank you, and thanks to Jeremy for making this happen.

  16. It has been a great pleasure for both me personally and for Operation PAR, to be associated with such a wonderful group of retouchers from Kelby Media and our Tampa strobist Meetup group as photographers whom we have had here for the last 3 years. This year was even better, and because of funding cuts to our programs we had less women and babies to shoot, so we had more time to spend with our ladies and so the event was even smoother and more relaxed than before.
    Thanks to all our wonderful staff at the event for their help in making this another day to remember. The girls are delighted with their photos. I am getting CDs of the picks to each of the 25 girls so they can use them with their families, facebook etc. Prints are no longer enough. Wow! It is amazing how their families have also reacted so positively to these pictures. It allows the family members to see their addict in a very different ( and Positive) light, as someone with greater potential, as someone in Recovery. Thank you all.

  17. Scott: Thanks to you and all the Kelby Media folks that retouched our photos for this wonderful cause. Once again I was reminded of how fortunate we are. The ladies & their children were so much fun to photograph and they were so appreciative. Giving them those prints was the best part of the day! Thanks to Michael Sheehan, Kathy Puropski, Scot Krebs (and his & my Saberstips) and all the other photographers, MUAs, runners & helpers. Can’t wait until next year!

  18. Nice picture of gang of Five, but someone is missing there. Where is Corey Barker ???
    Answer – Corey was with me :) and I was with Chip Weiner group. Chip is member of Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and he was “director” of photo session at DECCO at Tampa(they help women with drug abuse problems). I knew that Chip is great photographer,organizer and teacher, but I did not know he is so powerful, that he was able to “steal” Corey from Kelby gang :) Corey was absolutely great and he did retouching. You,guys, should see him completely dedicated to his job and completely focused on his work. He “glued” himself to computer around 1 pm and stayed there about 5 hours without any brake. About our event….we had full crew, from make-up artists to printing “mechanic”, but this was not most important. Most important was something ,what was in the air.It is hard to describe. People who were in these events, know ,what I said(I hope :). Anyway – when I came back home I told my wife: do not buy me any Christmas gift, because I just got one. To be there, was a gift for me. Thanks Jeremy C, Chip,Lori, Corey, Mo, Teresa, Karin,Shelly,Jeff,Teresa,Bob and others I forgot Your names(sorry,next year I will be better). Thanks to our models from Decco – Tiffany,Melisa,Anette, Jessica, Melanie, Maria, Alexis, Debra, Ketisha, Giselle and all seventy others we had pleasure to meet.

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