For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Ronald McDonald House and the services that they provide, PLEASE visit their website and read up. What an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G organization. The RMH is a nationwide organization (and trust me, I do not do them justice with my brief description) that provides a “home-away-from-home” for families currently seeking treatment at a neighboring children’s hospital facility. These families travel from all over the world to receive therapies and procedures for their children. RMH provides them with a place to stay, food for their bellies and a community environment shared with other families in similar circumstances. Crazy-Amazing organization.
My first visit to the Ronald McDonald House (with camera in hand) was during last year’s holiday season. Santa Claus stopped in to collect the kids’ wish lists and toy requests. He brought along some presents and a pair of dancing Christmas trees. Each child took turns sitting on Santa’s lap and smiling for my camera. It was a blast!
So let me start by describing just how packed my mini-mini van was. It was PACKED. I had studio lighting, backdrop stands and backdrops (the folding kind and the rolled-in-the-tube kind.) I had props like crazy. It was Easter themed, so I HAD to have over-sized eggs and a basket. I had my beanbag chair, just in case I had any new babies. I had stools, blankets, faux fur rugs, flowers, my brand new, really cute baby flower cart, etc. If it fit, it was in my car. And if it didn’t fit, well I tried.
I borrowed a concierge cart to haul my studio goodies from the parking lot to the determined set-up area inside the Ronald McDonald House. It worked wonderfully. Although, if anyone was watching, I’m sure they got a great show. There is a 45 degree (that’s a total guess) decline (to)/ incline (from) my car to the front door. The empty cart trip down to my car was a somewhat terrifying journey, with the cart trying to go much faster than my legs care to go. The loaded trip up just reminded me how crazy it is that I can completely master photographing/chasing a two year old for hours on end, but somehow cannot handle a brief hike up a very small mountain for two minutes.
After I caught my breath and unloaded the cart, I spent a few minutes determining which equipment I was actually going to be using. After all, these were mini-sessions, meaning that they would last about twenty minutes each, with about 5 minutes in between. In a full studio set-up, you would generally use 2-3 lights. With my available (ambient, very vibrant natural sun) lighting, I opted for a single, simple soft box. The big purple bag could’ve stayed in the car after all.
I then decided that I really should just keep it simple and stick with one backdrop. After all, a 20 minute, prop-loaded session really doesn’t need a bunch of background changes to make beautiful images in the end. And, these are kids that I’m photographing; kids that probably don’t need/want to be moved over and over for different backdrops. So BLUE vinyl backdrop it is! (BUSTED: I did actually use my white muslin for a few shots of a larger group (3) of kids.)
I will say that while I didn’t use my beanbag chair, my flower cart, or ANY of my blankets, I did make use of all of my other props at least once. (Could’ve left about 50% of my prop stash in the car.) The bunny ears were an absolute hit, as were the eggs. Babies REALLY like to bang eggs together. I even got to use my newborn, hand-crocheted bunny outfit.
These families have been through a lot, but for 20 minutes those kids pulled out their “cheeses” and put on the smiles and the funny faces (and the bunny ears.) I think they kinda had fun and maybe even enjoyed the experience. 😉
It was pointed out to me that so many of these families haven’t had any recent portraits taken; all of the hospital visits, treatments, and long journeys from home just don’t allow the freedom to do so. And so I will make sure to come back every few months to offer up my services for these amazing families and this incredible organization.
Next time, I will probably pack a little lighter.