Northwest Arkansas Help Portrait

Photographing Help Portrait last year was a completely different experience than I last Saturday. I was in a different place in 2010 than I am now. Last year, I had just finished an ugly divorce, stepping out from a part-time photographer/stay-at-home mom to full-time shooter on faith alone. I felt like I had spent 4.5 years falling behind all of my newspaper colleagues, and all of the sudden I needed to be better than everyone else just to provide for my 4.5 year old son. I am a bit competitive, so I probably put WAY too much pressure on myself.

I walked away last year feeling frustrated with the technical side of my images. I am not a studio photographer, but I guess I thought I could become one that day.

This year I decided to “tag-team” with my wonderful friend Jason Ivester, who is a staff-photographer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. We decided that we would work together and practice our studio lighting. I thought that it would be fun to work with him and it would relieve a little bit of performance anxiety.

I went into the day thinking I would walk away with more knowledge about my craft. What I walked away with was more confidence in myself as a photographer and artist, and a little more skill in relating to my subjects.

The first person I photographed was a man who walked into our room carrying an urn that held the ashes of his deceased wife. He said it was the only way they would be able to get a photograph together this year.

No pressure here…. at all. At this moment, this man changed everything for me. All of a sudden I had to relate to him, and an urn. All of a sudden it was my job to get this man to be comfortable and relate to me while showing the love he felt for his wife. I enjoyed working with him, making him comfortable and making the warmth of his eyes reflect in the photo. The lighting is simple and the moment was wonderful. I am so happy I was able to give him a copy of his photograph, and take time to pose for a photo with him. I think he made more of a difference in my life than I did in his.

                                           Thanks Spencer Tirey!

                           Thanks brother Ivester.

I guess I’m not the only one who liked his photo. It ended up being one of the photos posted on’s blog, and used in a story on ABC news to represent the event.

Over the years, I’ve learned that taking photographs of people isn’t just about smiles, it’s about capturing personalities…. I can say this with confidence following my second subject as she informed me that she doesn’t smile because she “doesn’t have any teeth.” It took us a little while to work through and get comfortable with each other, but in the end I think we found a happy place.

Finding a comfortable, happy places summarizes that day… and what I will now carry over into my work.

I also photographed two daughters with their mother. We started with the youngest who arrived in her Sunday best, fur coat and purse in hand. She had some spunk. He blonde hair started out in curls, and I thought it would be fun to make her feel glamorous…. after all, she had a fur coat! Not too far into shooting, she asked if she could take off her shoes. ABSOLUTELY! By the end of her shoot the curls had fallen out, her hair was messy and she looked like the tom-boy I imagine she is.

I photographed her with her sister. A heavier set, curly red-head with glasses, who seemed to lack confidence. She started off saying that she did not like having her photo taken but by the end, she relaxed and showed her beautiful smile. My “job” with her was to make her feel special and beautiful… isn’t that what every woman wants?!?! I absolutely LOVE the photo of her with her sister. I feel like I really captured a loving moment between them.

My final family was a mom, dad and two wonderful daughters. The oldest daughter was a bit timid, while the youngest was full of excitement. While photographing the oldest with her curls, purple glasses and bright lip-stick, I asked her sister to put bunny ears on my head… It was important to me to make the experience fun for these little girls. I wanted them to walk away with smiles. They were absolutely precious children, and I had so much fun with them.

                            Jason Ivester ROCKS!

I grew that day, though not as expected. While I was able to improve on the technical side of photography, I gained invaluable experience of learning how to tell a person’s story… with one click.

Help Portrait Northwest Arkansas – Images by Beth Hall

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January 17, 2012 at 05:01 AM


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