In 2009, Help-Portrait organizer Austin Mann shared some extremely helpful technical tips about doing Help-Portrait events in Dallas, TX. We asked him to weigh in again this year with more advice on what makes his events successful.
10 essentials items you don’t wanna forget:
1) Plenty of gaff tape (mutli colors for signage and other stuff)
2) Plenty of power extensions & power strips
3) Lens cloths
4) Envelopes/something protective to take prints home in
5) Basic contact info forms
6) Lens cloths
7) Big posterboards for signage
8) Speakers/music: It’s great to have some background audio to set a good mood
9) Plenty of chairs: for people waiting, for the work stations, as props on set if needed
10) Tether cables: if you decide to tether, make sure to get some long tether cable at (I prefer custom ones from usbfirewire.com.)
Promote it ahead of time…
Work with teammates within the community you are looking to photograph… cast the vision for HP to them and let them help you promote. Make flyers that say FREE PICTURES but also FREE FOOD!
People congregate around food. They may not realize they want photos or how much an experience like HP could impact them, but we always want food so be sure to put that on the flyer.
On the day of your event, get some huge poster board and write something like “FREE PICTURES & FREE FOOD!” with a big arrow pointing in the direction of your event. This will help you get a ton of foot traffic…
You are gonna need big ones and lots of them. Have plenty of space to spread out camera gear & printers & computers…
Keep an eye on all your and tell everyone involved the same. A lot of people will be coming in and out and if you are careless and create an opportunity, gear could walk away.
1. What advice would you give to someone running their first HP event?
For starters, don’t forget what this is all about… it’s about loving people. If we ever, at any interaction, lose sight of that then we are missing the whole point. Don’t let yourself get too caught up in the technical, the perfection of the image, the complexities of the event, the sharing of the images with friends or anything else… just remember this is all about serving.
Get as many photographers involved as possible. It’s more important than it might seem… it means more gear to pool together, more ways to promote, more to help handle foot traffic, etc…
2. What are the most essential things for running a successful event?
Great hearted people:
Some HP’s will be small and others big… some have tons of equipment and others have nothing but an iPhone. The most important thing about any HP event is that everyone understands the heart behind is really just to share a day with new friends doing things we love.
Your location is key. Ideally you’ll be in a familiar location in the heart of a community with a lot of foot traffic.
Promoting your event is key… to build your team, gain partners and get people there.
I’d recommend not doing an all day event… instead focus it in a shorter period. We usually do 3-4 hours which helps make sure there’s lots of excitement, everybody is on point and it doesn’t drag out energy through the day.
3. What are tips for running a larger-scale event?
Have at least two photographers per station… one to help with the digital stuff/assist and one to shoot… they can swap through out the day.
Get tons of volunteers. If you can work with a church or an organization working in your community, that’s a huge help for volunteers. Volunteers will be needed for a few reason…
1) Directing foot traffic
2) Setting up
3) Tearing down
4) Engaging people as they are waiting
5) Collecting information from people (name, contact info, etc)
Plan your space for entry/exit… ideally they are flowing in one door and out the other. Make great big signs to direct people! Imagine it full of people… how will you communicate to each person where they need to go and what they need to do?
We make giant arrows with white gaff tape on the ground to direct people and also have volunteers constantly roaming to help people get what they need.
4. How have you gone about collecting donations?
I approached a church that I had shot for about this idea and they loved it… they have an inner city ministry with all the infrastructure we were looking for and they allowed us to completely integrate with their existing ministry. I’d encourage you to look within your own network for organizations or businesses that this would really resonate with and talk to them.
5. How did you find, communicate with, and organize your volunteers?
A great way to do this is through a partner working in the community you are targeting. If you don’t have that option, ask friends, tweet and check out the help-portrait.com site for additional resources.
6. How have you found nonprofits to connect with and what are some advice you would have in partnering with them?
Look for potential partners that something like this really falls in-sync with and try to parallel with them as you share the idea… for instance, if you find an org working in food programs then come alongside them and share the idea as being integrated with their soup kitchen.
Share about how HP can really strengthen relationships from their org to a community… how it strengthens families, friend groups and more. HP is a really powerful event and you have a lot to leverage as you cast the vision for partnering. Use the resources at help-portrait.com to help cast this vision… there’s great video resources you can share, photo stories and more.
7. How have you found hairstylists and makeup artists for your events?
We actually haven’t worked with hairstylists & makeup much. I think this is a great addition but not essential. If I were looking for it, I’d find friends passionate about this or search the HP site online.
8. Do you have any recommendations for creating and maintaining your group planning site? Any other sites besides the community site you have used?
Amazon is a really valuable resource as you get supplies… they have just about everything you could possibly need and offer free two-day shipping… it can save you a whole lot of errands.
Depending on the size of your event, it can be helpful to have a central task management site like Basecamp or Asana. We’ll be using Asana this year to make sure everyone is moving tasks forward and stay on top of the details…
9. How do you find the best space for your event?
Talk to anyone / everyone about this! If you secure a great partner, maybe they have a community space you could use. Look for things like:
The more vertical space you have the better… this will give your photographers room to move lights up higher and just generally feels better.
Entry & Exit
Look for a space that has several entries/exits. If you have a lot of people show up, you are going to want them to be able to flow in and flow out easily… not gonna happen if they are all using one door.
Make sure there is sufficient outlets where you locate… you might even test it with your lights on full blast.
This can be helpful through out the day to download software updates for printers / tethering… uploading content on the fly or various other tasks.
This is important to keep sanity in the shooting room… If you have a lot of people there and they are just floating around the chaos
Having a couple bathrooms is ideal! Make sure they are ready for a lot of people.
10. Any tips for smooth and efficient work flow?
Simplify. Don’t make it any more complicated than it has to be. In the past, we’ve shot tethered and shoot JPEG only so the transfer speed is quick (small file size than RAW so much faster transfers.)
Another major speed enhancer is to set your print quality on Medium. Printing max quality can be 1/4 of the speed and marginally better print quality. The medium quality looks really great on most printers and will be significantly faster output. Also, printing to glossy paper as opposed to matte will save you time & ink.
Plenty of table space makes a big difference. Gaff tape all cables to the ground so no one can trip. Have a trash can at each station so each table stays tidy & clean.
11. Setting up tips? Tear town tips?
If you can, set up the night before just to make sure everything is working properly. Inevitably there will be things you’ve forgotten or need to change… and if you have a bunch of people showing up while you’re trying to fix something it can be stressful.
12. Day of tips?
• Get there earlier than you think.
• Get coffee and donuts for your crew.
• Don’t forget to account for tear down time when communicating with your team… solo tear down is no fun at all.
13. Printing tips? Photo station setups?
• Print quality: Medium
• Paper type: Glossy
• Paper size: 4×6 is fast & easy… we do 8.5×11 too but be aware it adds complexity (reformatting, changing printer papers, settings, etc.)
14. What ideas do you have when it comes to hospitality for your guests?
Plenty of food & drink!
Chairs for people to sit (but make sure they are moving on after they’re done being photographed.)
Make sure your volunteers are floating around engaging people and helping direct them if they’re unsure where to go.
15. How do you put on HP events at homeless shelter?
Provide food! There will definitely be tons of people there.
16. How do you get PR at your event?
Thinking through this aspect is really important… there’s a few things that should be considered:
1) Location: Consider the demographic you are targeting and make sure you are easily accessible. We work with a local church that has an inner city ministry in West Dallas. It’s ideal because it gives us a trusted relationship into the community, an ideal shooting location in the heart of our target area and a great platform to promote our event through.
Signage & Flyers: We hand out flyers weeks before so people know we’re coming. We also have signage up on the day of to drive foot traffic our way.
News: Let networks and newspapers know what you are up to ahead of time. HP fosters community development and change within cities so they love to cover this kind of thing. If you are interviewed or asked about HP, don’t lose sight of what it’s about. Remember that making a portrait with someone impacts both side… them and you. Talking with the news is a great platform for you to inspire others to use what they’ve been given for impact.
20. How have you gotten frames?
We don’t usually deal with framing. Instead, we slip prints in to clear plastic sheaths. These are cheap, simple and easy. Amazon is a great place to find low cost frame if needed or you could also reach out to a local framer and see if they’d be interested in sponsoring something like this.
21. What are some of the most fun and creative things that you have done that have helped make your event special?
This event is going to be really special no matter what you do. Printing on site is especially fun.
The most fun & most important thing you can do is simply love. Share life. Dignify. Listen. Equate. Be Present. These things that we may consider fundamental that others may have never experienced.
Don’t let it stop here… let HP be the beginning of this but I’d encourage you to think of this as a gateway into year-round work in these communities… what doors is it opening? Why should we only do things like this on one day per year?