Giving Back – Heartfelt Photography

Giving Back –  Heartfelt Photography

As a photographer, there's often one question I hate little more than “I was wondering if you'd take a couple shots for me for free?” However, as human being, I think there's something to be said for photographers and videographers offering to do shoots for which people can never repay you.

Heartfelt is an organization based in Australia that operates through photographers who volunteer their time. It's the kind of opportunity that you cant walk away from without having something inside of you churned up. It's not for the light hearted. Each session is a photojournalistic portrait session. Each session is done for a family who has just experienced a stillborn, permature or ill infant, or has had an infant born with terminal disease.

Fiona Lumsdaine, who primarily shoots fine art portraits, weddings, corporate, and event photography is a photographer who offers her time to Heartfelt. When I saw the images from one of her recent sessions, my heart was a little torn.

I have great admiration for any individual who can walk into a room with strangers who have just experienced incredible loss, mourn with them, weep with them, and help them preserve a memory of the son or daughter they will never raise.

Fiona shot these images on a D3S and D700 with a 85mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2 , and 50 f/1.4.

Although Heartfelt exists only in Australia, the same organization operates under a different name elsewhere. If you'd like to look into it a little more and do not live in Australia, check out Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

If you're passionate about taking your photography to the next level but aren't sure where to dive in, check out the Well-Rounded Photographer tutorial where you can learn eight different genres of photography in one place. If you purchase it now, or any of our other tutorials, you can save a 15% by using "ARTICLE" at checkout. 

David Strauss's picture

David Strauss is a wedding photographer based in Charleston, SC.

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I too have great admiration for the photographers who do these shoots, I'm certain I couldn't do it myself. 

Given the opportunity, and availability... I would consider such a project important. Sometimes when we give of ourselves, our talent, freely we produce our some best work. The reward is knowing your gift of time will be treasured for a lifetime and more.

I would cry more than take picture... i'd be useless in this situation. Amazing work and initiative!

If you live in the United States, the organization The March of Dimes has many similar opportunities. A typical example might be a Christmas themed shoot where a baby might be put in a stocking or wrapping bow and you'd take a few pictures, then move on to the next room. Given the nature of being in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) - you really cannot do much with props or setup. The families will generally be there as well and we'll do a quick family portrait. At the end of the day, I'll give card back to the staff and that's it. In respect for patient privacy I do not take home any of the images for post work or putting in a portfolio.

  What makes it so compelling is that as photographers, we can offer some things that are simple to us are completely foreign to most people. Many of the premature babies are kept under harsh medical a blue lamps that make shots from mom and dad's point-n-shoots look - well - like they are in a hospital. To us, it's a simple matter of a custom color balance setting from a neutral white source under that light. All of the chords, IV's, and monitors that the babies are hooked up to? Shallow depth of field combined with a tight cropping and they are not there any more. Things that are trivial to us mean the world to the parents because they capture the child as a child - not an intensive care patient.

I've been doing portraits for out of work parents and their families for a little over two years now. I aint the greatest at it. But it gives them that photograph they want for their family album or wall. :-)
My D2x has a lil under 190,000 shutter actuations thanks to helping those who need it. :-) And I'll buy another when this one dies.
It's worth it to me, to invest my money and time in other people's lives. It makes them and me happier.

This article and the images in this set really went straight to my heart, I've always wanted to do some sort of charity work to give back to people in need. I am currently googling for local charities to try and donate my services.

 :-) GREAT IDEA JOE. :-)  What I did was, I went to the unemployment office and left some flyers with my number, on their bulletin board, for a few weeks. Then word of mouth started, and it now keeps me busy on weekends.

I am the mama within these photos.  My son's name is Avery.  His first birthday is in 2 weeks time on the 14th of July. Fiona Lumsdaine gave me one of the most precious gifts any mama could ask for.  A perfect photo of her children together.  I feel so blessed that Heartfelt came into my life. is my blog.  I journal life with my daughter, and life without my son. 

I am part of the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep network.  This organization does the same thing.  My initial reaction when first told about the program was I could not do that also.  But you have to realize that its not about you.  You have an opportunity to provide a priceless gift to a family that is not taking their baby home.  Most sessions are close to or full term babies.  That means there is a crib at their home, baby clothes, a car seat, etc.  There is no reschedule or do it next year.  The thing about giving back is that its not what you get from it.  No its not for everyone, but again you are giving someone the gift that is truly priceless and the most valuable piece of work you will ever do.

Attached for educational and encouragement purposes only is the first session I did early last year.  You will make it thru the shoot just fine.  Editing the images and seeing the final product is the tough part, but it is worth it.  It will change what your priorities are.

It's difficult to say I like what I do, I can't quite explain or put my finger on the emotion, I work for and organisation I. England called J-U-M-P who provide a free photography session for families who have a children with terminal cancer, my last assignment was a 6 year old girl called Naomi, sadly she has now passed away, but her parents live and treasure the photo's I took of them all at there home, everything seems friendly and everyone was being strong while I was there, I edited the photo's with tears streaming down my face however, and sat crying in my studio when I recieved the devastating news she'd left this world, I'll do it again without a second thought. I think that 'heartfelt' is a wonderful organisation and think that every photographer/videographer who does this kind of work is a fantastic person

Are there organizations like this here in the states? I once heard there is an organization specialize in providing volunteer wedding vendors for those whom can not afford a wedding due to illnesses.

What an incredible undertaking!  I can't imagine anything more important and heroic than taking these photographs.  Many above have stated that this type of photography may be too difficult for them personally and I can't agree more.  If there are those who are still seeking a way of giving back to their community, may I suggest approaching your local pet shelters and SPCA outlets.  Creating nice photographs of their homeless pets increases their opportunities for placement.  This suggestion is not meant to diminish the importance of this article, I hope it's not taken that way.

Tiny Sparrow is another one here in the states: