Help-Portrait Charleston was Awesome

Today's Charleston Help-Portrait event was a little on the cool side (cold for some), but turned out to be a pretty successful event. It was very well received by the people that attended the Without Walls Ministry Christmas event. I was told that there were about 200 registrations, which meant that somewhere around 400-500 people got their photos taken. As an added bonus, the rain held off until after we packed everything up at the end.

Help-Portrait Charleston

I spent most of my time manning the laptop, editing the photos and printing them, so I didn't get a chance to see much of what else was going on with the event and don't have too many photos of what went on. I did get to see the faces of most of the people when they got their photos though. The looks on everybody's faces made being out in the cool weather worth every minute of it. Made me feel really proud that I was able to be part of an event like this.

Not surprisingly though, there were a few glitches to deal with and there were several lessons learned, at least on the printing end of things. Because of the way things were laid out and the threat of rain, we weren't able to have the cameras tethered to the laptops, so there were memory cards being shuffled back and forth by volunteers between the photographers and laptop stations. Not ideal, but workable. We ended up putting the cards along with description sheets into envelopes for the shuttling so that they would stay together and not get lost.

Portrait Stations

We had 3 portrait stations set up and three laptops/printers for viewing and printing the photos on. We were only able to get two of them working though. Even though printing setups were tested by the printer owners beforehand, there were still glitches once everything got set up on site. Perhaps the cold had something to do with it. The first printer kept insisting that one of the ink cartridges be replaced, even after it had been. I spent the first hour or so wrestling with getting the second printer to print 5x7" photos before finally giving up and switching to 4x6" prints. That put me a good bit behind the photographers, so I had several stacks of memory cards to import images from while trying to get things printed. It also meant that people ended up waiting longer than planned to get their photos. The printing ended up being a lot more chaotic than I expected. Memory cards coming in and going out, editing and cropping photos before printing, keeping track of which prints go with which ticket, people gathered around to see if their photos were coming out all made things pretty hectic.

Printing station

I did get my first experience with Adobe Lightroom. Pretty impressive piece of software. Too bad it doesn't come in a Linux flavour. Another thing that held up the printing on my end was that Lightroom seems to prefer grabbing the RAW file over the JPG image. RAW images take quite a while to render before being sent off to the printer. It also takes a lot of memory and caused Lightroom to crash a couple of times on me. For future events, make sure the photographers' cameras are set to take only JPG images. Makes things go much much faster.

Lesson summary from the editing/printing side of things:

  • Test the printing setup at least the night before. Then test it again.
  • People bringing printers should also plan to bring their laptop (or at least bring the printer driver to install on someone else's laptop)
  • Time permitting, get together before hand to make sure people manning the laptops are familiar with the software being used to edit/print the photos.
  • Tethering cameras to laptops is probably the preferred way of doing things.
  • Shoot JPG rather than RAW. RAW takes too much time to process.
  • You probably don't need quite as much ink as you think you might. Of course if you get what you think is enough, you'll probably run out.

Chaotic and crazy as it was, I loved every minute of the event. Looking forward to doing another one in Charleston.