Photography students from the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Art recently put their skills to work for a good cause by taking part in a national service event called Help-Portrait.

Students set up a mobile lighting studio at Nacogdoches HOPE, a local food pantry, and made portraits for clients who might not otherwise have been able to afford professional quality photographs. Students also edited and printed the portraits on site,so that people were able to take home several finished prints from each session.

“I love doing this project,” said Amanda Breitbach, assistant professor of art at SFA. “The students learn from working with new people and making portraits in a new setting, and they also learn that they can use their skills in photography to give back to their community.”

Breitbach’s students in the photographic lighting class have spent this semester learning the technical and creative aspects of lighting using studio strobes, flash and ambient light. The Help-Portrait project gave them the opportunity to practice those skills in a real-world setting, Breitbach said.

“I’m so glad we did this,” said student Cameron Sweet as he and colleagues packed up their gear at the end of the day.

“Our clients and volunteers were absolutely delighted with their pictures,” said Nacogdoches HOPE director Denise Lee. “It was a joyful day for me to observe individuals and families getting such beautiful portraits when I am certain they could not afford such a luxury. Everyone left with smiles on their faces.”

Breitbach said she hopes to make the project an annual event for SFA photography students.

Photographer Jeremy Cowart founded Help-Portrait in 2008 with the mission of empowering photographers and others to use their skills, tools and expertise to give back to their communities. Help-Portrait events take place each year in communities across the country.