Here is a detailed account of the Help-Portrait event preparations in Dallas, TX. Thanks to Austin Mann for organizing this and sending the information in. We feel certain this will help you as you plan for your event.

Hey all,

We did our Help-Portrait event a little early and fortunately it turned out to be quite a success so I wanted to share with you guys some of the things we did to prepare for it. It all started a few months back when my friend Taylor called me up and told me about what Jeremy was doing with Help-Portrait in Nashville. We decided we wanted to do something like it in Dallas, so I called up a local church to see if they’d be interested in helping to provide a location for it, funding, volunteers and more. I basically told them I wanted to get some fotogs together to take pictures and give them away to people that couldn’t usually afford nice photos. They loved the idea and agreed to help in any way they could.

They hooked us up with another church (Cornerstone Baptist) that primarily works with low-income families and we decided to have our event at their building. Using their facility proved to be amazing because it was a familiar location, all the folks wanting pictures knew how to get there were comfortable in that setting.

Here’s a video from that day.

We then made a really, really simple flyer and distributed them to the community through the pastor at Cornerstone.

Before we knew it, we had over 800 people signed up to come out and were in need of some serious equipment and preparation… We certainly don’t have the perfect solution and everyone’s set up will be different with different situations, but here’s what we did for ours:

We set up eight photo stations, each with a photographer and also digital tech to run the computer/printer. Everybody shot tethered. THIS WAS A HUGE LIFESAVER. There’s no way we would have been able to work with so many people if we didn’t shoot tethered. By doing it this way, we could have someone editing, selecting and printing favorites as the pictures were being shot. Shooting to cards and swapping them out can get so complicated fast when you’re trying to keep track of what images are where, which cards have been copied, etc.

Each station had a white seamless backdrop. We got 9-foot rolls, 60 feet in length and cut the paper into four 9ft x15ft pieces and gaffed those pieces to the wall for our backdrop (one piece per station, 9ft going horizontal). If I did it again, I’d get the 12-foot rolls because 9ft just wasn’t quite wide enough to accommodate all the families we had.

We worked with a local rental company, BOLT, and they gave us a great deal on all the lighting equipment and backdrops. The church provided us with about 30 volunteers, this was tremendously helpful in managing such a large group of people… it would have been chaos without them!

Here is a video that Austin did explaining the equipment needed.

Here’s what we had at each of the eight photo stations:

We had one powerpack that could handle at least two heads at each station. You really don’t need anything fancy, some stations had Dyna-lite, some Profoto Acutes and some Profoto D4s… D4s were definitely preferable but not essential.
We had two heads at each station, one with an umbrella and the other to blow out the backdrop. In some cases a third head would have been nice, but again not essential. Head power extensions are a huge help when using a centrally located pack, so you have flexibility to move the lights around where you want but still keep the cords on out of the way.

We also had two C-stands (w/ arm & knuckle), one for each head, at the stations. C-Stands are heavy and cumbersome but so worth for the flexibility the offer compared to a regular tripod stand.

We had one nine foot seamless white backdrop at each station. 12 foot would have been better. We just taped the big sheets up on the wall.

Printers & Paper
At five of the stations we had Canon iP4700s. They were perfect… $99/each, super fast, ink efficient, small, and great quality. We also had some bigger printers (like Canon Pro9000s) in case we needed bigger prints but we never really did.

We used mostly 4×6 paper, cause that’s the fastest and easiest to print. The paper we used was Canon Photo Paper Glossy 4×6.

We also used a lot of 8.5×11 for larger prints. The paper we used for that was Canon Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss.

As for ink, I got WAY too much. The entire day of printing we replaced less than 10 ink cartridges ALL TOGETHER. That’s after printing somewhere in the range of 1200 4x6s and 150 8.5x11s! I had three backups for every cartridge for every printer. I would recommend one backup and if you need more you can go get it.

To protect the prints, we put them in Easy Mounts Clear Plastic Sleeves. These really helped a lot and I wish I had gotten some for the 8.5x11s.

Miscellaneous Essentials:

Tables and Chairs
Each station had an 8 foot table. This provided room for the laptop, the printer, extra ink/paper and lenses etc. We also had a couple chairs/stools available for the digital tech and also for the people if they felt more comfortable sitting for their picture.

Power Extensions
You don’t want to get caught somewhere without power. What if for some reason you have to shoot outside instead of in the parking lot? Have plenty lengthy power cords on hand.

Gaff Tape
Can’t get enough of this stuff. We used to keep our tether cable secure in camera, to hold up our backdrops, to tape down cords so people wouldn’t trip and so much more.

15 FT USB cable for tethering
We used these to to connect the cameras to the Macs. We had 10 ft extensions available too, but didn’t really need them.


If you have any questions, email and we will connect you with Austin.