Hey everyone, Jeremy Cowart here. A little over 2 years ago, I launched an idea here on Scott’s blog called Help-Portrait. I had no idea if it would fly or not. But it was worth a shot. 3 years later, photographers around the world have embraced the idea and have reached out to their communities and made a massive impact in helping and serving others.

And with the growth and success of this idea, I’ve had to grow the Help-Portrait team to continue making it all happen. People seem to think that it’s just me running this organization, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a truly remarkable, selfless, all-star team of people around me that are helping make Help-Portrait happen. They are working year-round on making Help-Portrait a success and I’m constantly inspired by them. So I wanted to take this opportunity for you to get to know them a little bit and see why they’re so awesome.

So without further ado and in no particular order, let me introduce you to my Help-Portrait team!

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait:
Kyle Chowning – Executive Director + Board member – Oversee the overall planning, development and execution of the Help-Portrait operations

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
My favorite moment was the first year, when we worked tirelessly to pull off the very first Help-Portrait. I remember stepping back and watching hundreds of people come through our event getting their picture taken—often for the first time in a very long time, or ever, and seeing the smiles on their faces. They were so appreciative. Truth is, they were doing more for me that I was doing for them. Easily one of the most memorable days in my life to-date.

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
Not being a photographer myself, I believe in Help-Portrait not because of what it does for the photography industry, but for the subjects: women who never felt beautiful, knew they were beautiful; homeless people who were typically avoided, engaged and became rock stars, even if just for a moment; lack of confidence turned into confidence; shame turned into pride; rejection turned into acceptance; sadness turned into excitement; hopelessness turned into the promise of something new; unemployed and homeless now had a professional portrait to share with prospect employers; the list could go on and on. All of this happened with a simple click and a print. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that story?

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
If you’re a photographer…

…this is a great way to put your best foot forward and give people who could never afford your services, a gift. I promise, you’ll never regret it.

If you’re not a photographer, Help-Portrait provides a day where everybody smiles, joy exudes and beauty is defined. Any part you can play to make that reality happen, makes the world a better place. You can’t go wrong by volunteering for this event. It is one of the most rewarding experience of my life.

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait:
Annie Downs – Events Coordinator

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
There was this moment, during our event in Nashville in 2009, when I stood in the middle of the room and saw activity in every direction- people being fed by Chick-fil-A, women having their hair and make-up done, families being photographed together, men picking out the perfect frame for their picture. It was amazing to see everything in action.

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
I have seen the power that those few moments in front of a camera have- to give value, to encourage, to release. The change that happens to a person when they feel worthy of attention is amazing. I like being a part of something that reminds people that they are valuable.

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
Help-Portrait is an easy and low stress way to make a huge investment in the lives of others. Just your caring attention, whether in make-up, or welcoming, or shooting the pictures, changes the subjects. Every year, without fail, I leave our Help-Portrait events feeling like I was given more than I gave- in conversations, in hugs, in moments that I won’t forget.

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait:
Michael Moore – Board Member. Secretary/Treasurer of the Not for profit. Manager of Finance and Sustainability.  Work on scope, key structures and best practices for business management, legal and content. Partner on key public projects that involve development, corporate donors, finance with a target to encourage giving revenue to help sustain the ongoing movement of Help-Portrait to give back. Listening to the inspiration of the movement – Taking steps with an eye on the future.

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
Wow there are so many. Just to name a few special moments I think of a homeless man who was so happy of his picture of himself and his small pet dog that he was doing donuts in his power wheelchair in the middle of the floor at the Help-Portrait venue.

Another was a story of a girl who had never had a picture done because a large portion of her face was scarred from acid burns. The makeup artist covered all the burns and she commented and tears flowed about how she was happy to see how beautiful she is. It’s great to see the fun and joy on peoples faces as they get their picture and hair done.

One year a group of recovering drug addicts had their portraits done. One gal exclaimed, this is me after and off drugs – I’m transformed. I walk away charged up for another new year after a Help-Portrait event.

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
In short, giving makes a new person out of the giver and the receiver. I went in the first year thinking this was a good thing to do only to realize that the efforts of a few can touch so many and make such a lasting impact on everyone involved. I believe because I discovered what is so simple for photographers and make-up artists to give away can transform the spirit and give such lasting purpose to recipients. I’ve always known a picture is powerful. However, not until I did a Help-Portrait did I realize that a subject hold an image of who they are and all the goodness of what they can be. It transforms them each time they look at it.

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
Help-Portrait subjects hold on to their pictures. They send them to relatives to show their transformation. They celebrate with their friends. Many of them have never had a picture made. The subjects come to the event not knowing what to expect, the leave with a positive sense of  who they really are. To get to see that process and hear the stories almost leaves me at a loss for words every-time I see it. But we don’t need words when we have pictures.

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait:
Lori Mahon – Publicist for Help-Portrait. I have the honor of sharing the amazing stories that come out of Help-Portrait with the media and connecting the local leaders with outlets to share more about this organization.

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
Wow this is like picking your favorite child! There are so many amazing stories over the last two years.  I have to say that the first year there was a newlywed couple that was homeless at the time that impacted me.  They had never had a photo of themselves as a couple besides on a disposable cell phone.  At Help-Portrait in Nashville, they had their first portrait together.  When they were handed their photos, tears streamed down their faces and the husband looked at the photo pointing to their faces and said to me, “See this – this is love.”  At the time, I was a newlywed myself and it hit me how I had taken for granted the fact that we had stacks of these amazing wedding photos of my husband and I — what a treasure for this couple to have this photo.

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
I believe in what Help-Portrait does for the individual – not just those photographed but those of us that are able to be involved, from the photographer to the glam teams to the volunteers — it shows that there is someone that cares about you as a human no matter your situation or status.  I’m honored to know that I can play a very very small role in growing this amazing organization.  I’m beyond humbled to be a part.

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
To give back – there is no greater gift that we can give someone than love and our time.   If you are looking to be able to be a part of something greater than yourself, consider helping out with Help-Portrait in your local area – it makes a difference.

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait:
Cara Davis – Online Editor, Help-Portrait.com

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
My favorite moment was during the live stream CreativeLIVE last year. It was remarkable to get a sense of the worldwide scope of the day as we watched reports coming in via Skype around the world. It felt so exciting to be part of something as big as this is.

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
At the local event in Orlando I attended last year, I talked to recipients and I saw first-hand how special the day made them feel. To me it’s worth all the time and effort to make someone smile who really deserves it.

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
There’s a sense of community that arises from participating in Help-Portrait that enriches your life. You may think you’re affecting someone else’s life for good, but yours will be changed as well.

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait
Trey Bowles – Strategic Partnerships

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
Hearing the pastor of the church where we had the event in 2010 talk about the impact and power the Help-Portrait had on their community.

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
I believe that there are so many great organizations out there that focus on needs of the less fortunate. Food, clothing, water, medicine, etc. All of these needs are crucial to be addressed and to be provided for those who need them. However, all of those are usually offered in “charity”. Now, in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with charity, but it comes with it a sense of feeling that the person receiving the charity is not capable to provide that for themselves. What I love about Help-Portrait is that we give people something different. We give them dignity, we give them meaning, we give them worth. We make them feel as though they have value and they are special. For one day a year, we are changing the way people see themselves, and hopefully one day soon it will change the way they look at themselves forever.That is the part that blows me away about Help-Portrait

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
Help-Portrait is selfless. Help-Portrait is powerful. Help-Portrait is a movement.  People love to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. People like to find unique and interesting ways to give back and serve in their community.  People want to find a way to use their gifts and talents to help those less fortunate than themselves. Help-Portrait fills all of these needs for people who want to participate. If you are a photographer, this is one of the best ways for you to give back, by using your skills to give back with nothing in return. If you are a volunteer it is a great way to support a movement that is truly affecting peoples lives all over the world.

Help-Portrait is something that is bigger than just one person or one location… Help-Portrait takes the passion of people to reach cities, states, countries, and continents around the world and brings it down to a local level.  And as it has been said time and time again… it is always better to give than to receive.

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait:
Christine Elizabeth – Social Media

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
It’s so hard to pick just one! Probably my favorite is when I watched a 13 yr old girl see her mom after hair/makeup and she screamed, “Wow, Mom!!! You’re so beautiful!!!” How many times does a mom hear that from her 13 year old girl??

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
A few months before I saw Jeremy’s original video about Help-Portrait, I had taken some photos for a family I’d worked with in a hospital whose two older daughters have each received two major organ transplants. I took the photos for fun, because it was amazing to see them running around outside playing after the serious medical situations I’d seen them both in. Then I saw how excited they were about their photos and I was amazed! The girls showed their photos off to EVERYONE. Their mother said she kept looking at them and loved them more every time. One of the girls had her 2nd transplant after we had taken the photos, and she was in the hospital for a long time. She loved her photos so much she wouldn’t let her mom take them home. I had watched this family go through some unimaginable hard times, and I was so happy that my camera could give them such joy! So, when I saw Jeremy’s video, I definitely wanted to get involved! Since then, I’ve seen so many other moments and stories of how people have been blessed by Help-Portrait! We’ve heard some amazing stories from the people we’ve taken photos of, but I’ve also heard the same from the photographers and volunteers who have been a part of our event. Help-Portrait blesses everyone involved!

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
I love to see others join in our Help-Portrait community, because I know that they will feel the same excitement that I’ve felt. Being a part of the team, working on social media, and talking with people involved with Help-Portrait all over the world, has been amazing. I’ve talked to photographers in many different countries, and heard their stories, and seen the same joy we saw in our event in my city expressed in so many different ways. I’ve heard from so many photographers and volunteers that they are so thankful for this opportunity to give back. Many people have given back in similar ways before, but Help-Portrait gives a unique opportunity to be a part of a bigger story. I was excited and blessed to be able to give photos to that family before I’d heard of Help-Portrait, but that feeling is multiplied and magnified as I’ve taken photos of other families, knowing that I was joining a community of thousands in so many different places all at the same time. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to know that I’m just a small part of the story, and that the same joy being experienced in my event is happening all over the world at the same time!

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait:
Rachel Moore, Project Coordinator

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
Honestly this year will be my first official Help-Portrait event to attend. I have heard so many stories and seen so many video clips, can’t wait to experience it firsthand this year!

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
From a photographer’s standpoint, it’s so encouraging to have the opportunity to re-emphasize a person’s worth and value through my occupation. Help-Portrait is simply another outlet to bless people. Like Trey mentioned, a lot of time when you think “giving” you associate it with the giving of food, money, clothing, all to relieve temporary needs. This movement seeks to give people something longer lasting- pride and self-worth.

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
It really puts a whole new spin on the photography industry, which can be heavily focused on photographing pretty people and staying up to date with the latest trends. I would highly encourage other photographers who are wanting to find a new sense of purpose begins their work to get involved. I am excited about applying the same idea of Help-Portrait, encouraging people to bring out their self-worth, in my interactions with my own clients. Everybody needs to be reminded that they have value, and to do that through photography still blows my mind.

Name and your job title/role for Help-Portrait:
My name is Lauren and I’m the Community Manager.  I run the community site where the folks involved with Help-Portrait connect to set up events in their areas for the big day.

What’s your favorite moment from your Help-Portrait experiences so far?
The first year of Help-Portrait, I was at one of the events in Washington, D.C at a mens homeless shelter. The men we worked with that day were some of the most intelligent, hilarious, and kind men I’d ever met.  I remember asking a man named Joel who his photos were going to be sent to, and he told me that the photos would be going to his parents, because he had been homeless for over 20 years, and his family didn’t have one photo of him in the house. Joel told me that he wanted his parents to have something to look at and be proud of. I think that was sort-of my “A-HA” Help-Portrait moment. That is exactly why Help-Portrait exists. Help-Portrait isn’t about taking a photo of a needy person. It’s about restoring hope into folks who may have lost it somewhere along the way.

Why do you believe so much in Help-Portrait?
People like Joel are why I believe so much in Help-Portrait. The fact that a photograph can be taken of someone, and it can make them feel valued and worthy again is something beautiful and inspiring.

Why should others get involved with Help-Portrait?
Why not get involved? :)  There are so many aspects of getting involved with Help-Portrait.  From photographers, to hairstylists, to make-up artists, to logistics- there’s room for everyone.

About The Author


  1. Looking forward to the 3rd year shooting the Help-Portrait event. It is by far the most heart felt thing I do all year.

  2. If you’re not involved with this event, you should be… It will probably be the most rewarding assignment you’ll ever shoot, and I guarantee you’ll have a tough time keeping a dry eye when you listen to the stories of the talent that you’re shooting. Try it – I dare you!

  3. This will be my first year helping Help-Portrait. I am soooo excited !! There are 7 events going on throughout my city (Columbus, Ohio). Can’t wait to give back !!!

  4. Still trying to get permission for the powers that be here in Spain to do the photos for the children in the local abused children’s home. Isn’t bureaucracy frustrating :( Hopefully they will sort themselves out soon.

  5. I am not involved. Do any of you know if there is an event in OKC?

  6. Hello,

    Is there someone in Columbia SC organizing this event? I’ll love to contribute.



  7. This is a wonderful thing you do. I will check it out in my area and hope to get involved.

    Thanks for making Christmas human & a bit more merry for so many people.

  8. Thanks, Scott, for putting the Help-Portrait folks in the spotlight. They’re doing some very cool work.

  9. I was wondering if you will be doing the tour Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. anytime in 2012. I really wanted to attend the one in DC but it was sold out.

    Thank You Michelle

  10. Hi there Help-Portrait Team. A friend of mine tipped me on this blog post after I posted an exasperated cry for “Help” on my personal Facebook page.

    1. I am a freelance photographer, and that’s how I heard about Help-Portrait, believe it or not, 3 years ago when it launched. But that’s not what draws me to this event. Because…

    2. I work full-time (not as a photographer) at a local nonprofit. A good one! One that reaches nearly 33,000 people each year in an area that you’d expect to be incredibly wealthy and not needing help: the suburbs of DC in Northern Virginia.

    So, my request, from the moment I heard about Help-Portrait, has been that you (or dare I say “we”) create a method by which nonprofit organizations can identify themselves as wanting to host a Help-Portrait event and then the photogs and hair and makeup people can find the event … that the nonprofit is hosting. Wouldn’t that make it easier for nonprofits to find help, and also for photographers to find events?

    I’ve contacted group admins, posted on walls, and otherwise tried to encourage some movement toward an online interface not just for photographers to organize themselves, but for nonprofits to identify themselves on behalf of their clientele. I have yet to have seen a meaningful response. It’s as if I’ve been asking the wrong question. I’m a smart guy, though, and see clear room for improvement. This would end what has been a very frustrating cycle that’s happened every year so far for me. Here’s how it’s gone.

    I tell my coworkers about Help-Portrait – months in advance. I tell our Volunteer Coordinator to check it out. Volunteer Coordinator comes back to me and says they can’t figure out how to request an event. I get on the Help-Portrait site, hoping to see some kind of tool for the community beyond photographers. I strike out.

    Kyle’s post in this blog is particularly telling. When asked “Why should others get involved” Kyle gives answers for photographers, and non-photographers. However, both options Kyle presents presuppose that a person gets involved by volunteering (and that is all coordinated through photographers first). I think the Help-Portrait movement would benefit greatly by providing one more path of involvement: for non-profit representatives to create events, solicit a certain number of photographers, assistants, etc, and to help arrange that the clients can also be there. Many nonprofits have facilities, photo releases, and dozens – hundreds – thousands of people who could use the help.

    Thanks for your attention. I really do think that this is a missing component, and with a simple online process, groups like mine could really benefit.

    • Hi Graham – I’m hosting one in Pennsylvania. From what my experience was creating the event, you can host a Help-Portrait without actually being a photographer.

      Maybe the staff could correct me if I’m wrong – but you could ‘create’ the event on the HP community site as a leader… and then court local photogs, etc.

      I think your idea is good, but might otherwise complicate the system. The HP site alone isn’t the resource to get people involved. If I relied on photogs to find me on there, we wouldn’t be having an event. I had to reach out to our community, as I was one of the only people in town who understood the idea… And in one short month, I managed to arrange a full roster of photogs, stylists, a small army of volunteers and to get the word spread to thousands of low-income families and individuals.

      There’s no reason a photog has to start the momentum in a given city. That’s just how it’s often done.

  11. Helping others via photography is a most rewarding experience. I have not participated in this project but did recently organize about 25 folks to participate in the Portraits of Love project sponsored by the Photo Manufacturing and Distributors Assn. In this project portraits of the families of deployed soldiers were made. Images were then uploaded to a Fuji Film site where families could order two free prints; one for home and one to be delivered to the soldier down range before Christmas. In our case, we went to Tinker AFB here in Oklahoma City. We took photos of over 100 families during a single Saturday. Each photographer edited their own photos andbgot them to me for uploading…more than 1,600 images in total! It was a lot of work, a long day, but one of the most rewarding things we have ever done. The take away is to get evolved with these projects or in other ways to help people in your community through photography.

  12. Where do I get the details for Help-Portrait?

  13. Jeremy, Kyle, Annie, Lori, Cara, Trey, Christine, Rachel & Lauren….Thank you for your inspiration and for doing all that you do to make this event possible annually. Watching how participants react to having their photo taken and seeing those images is poignant. Hard to explain how deep a photo goes or how precious the tool of a camera can be. That’s a gift you’ve given to us all with H-P. I can’t wait to impact this year’s Help-Portrait locals on Saturday and to hear the stories of HOPE across the globe.

    ~Dayton HP-er,

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