It is too bad for me that this is not a paying job, because this photo shoot is my calling. Last week’s portrait photo shoot at Children’s Hospital was the fifth time I have volunteered. It is a long and demanding day – capturing a variety of portraits of about 12 children who are fighting cancer or another life threatening illness. I need to arrive at the hospital by 9 am with my car packed with my mobile studio: backdrop and stand, strobe lights and stand, light diffusers, digital camera, sync devices and computer. Each child and I only have 15 to 20 minutes together, and I try to get to know each little person/young adult. Once the child gets comfortable with me, we play around with a variety of poses, and the photo shoot becomes fun. Some children are more shy than others; some aren’t feeling well; others appear perfectly healthy. The ages have ranged from infant to 26. It seems like most of the children I have met are between age 2 and 15. I just love getting to know each personality, and it is fun to see beautiful smiles emerge and love for siblings and parents expressed with hugs and kisses.
The computer processing work takes many hours: first I edit all the images. I may have shot from 25 to 60 photos of each child depending on how energetic the subject is. Then I work on the best 10-12 images (yes, this adds up to about 144 total images). I will crop and then convert to black and white, correct the curves so the flesh tones look good, retouch the face if necessary, retouch anything else and add a vignette.
Every month a different photographer (from ASMP, American Society of Media Photographers) volunteers, and it is interesting that each photographer has a different style. The Pittsburgh organizer for Flashes of Hope says that the families have been pleased with the results of every different shooting style.
When all the images are prepared, within two weeks of the shoot, I mail a CD to Flashes of Hope central office, and then they go to White House Custom Color, where a proof folder is made for each family. About two months after the shoot, each family receives a folder that typically holds 10 4×6” prints, 2 8×10” prints and a CD of all the best images, so the family can make reprints.
As the photographer, we never hear any follow up on the children (privacy rights prohibit this), but this work is rewarding. I have been pleased with my results, and I know the families are grateful for this unique gift. So, I’m ready to do it again!
You can see samples of these portraits on my website under PORTFOLIOS/ Flashes of Hope.