Local photographers give back with proceeds from “porchtraits”

Story by Stacie Gaetz

If you have spent any time on social media recently, chances are you have seen a number of friends posting their family “porchtraits.”

The trend of photographers taking photos of families on their front porch – from a safe distance – has become popular since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to cancel family photoshoots.

A few local photographers decided to turn the trend into something more meaningful by donating the proceeds from their porchtrait session to a local charity.

Amber Holt of the Front Steps Project has helped raise more than $12,000 for the Airdrie Food Bank.

“When I got news that my regular sessions would need to be canceled, I wanted to find something to fill my time, but also use it to help others out in a time of distress,” said Holt.

“I saw a photographer in the States doing it and thought it would be a good thing to put out in our community.”

She added that the response has been overwhelming and she is taking photos of as many as 30 to 40 families per evening.

She said she wanted to donate the money in an attempt to bring the community together during a tough time.

“There is so much negativity that can go on in a time of the unknown, so I wanted to not only help those struggling to put food on the table, but also turn it around and bring some positivity to our community,” she said.

Liel Ainmar of Li-el Photography has been asking her clients to donate to the food bank as well in exchange for porchtraits.

“At times like this, more and more people find themselves in a situation when they need some help,” said Ainmar.

“The food banks start to run low on products, and it’s our job as community to help the fill up those empty shelves, so they can keep supporting the people.”

Lori Reist of Lori Reist Photography is on the food bank board of directors and has also been asking her clients to donate to the charity in exchange for porchtraits.

“It is times like these that the food bank has been seeing, and will continue to see, unprecedented need and we don’t want anyone to go hungry,” she said.

All three local photographers said they are aware that there has been some controversy regarding the practice of taking pictures of people on their front porches. Many people have concerns about whether the photographers and families taking part in porchtraits are following social distancing rules.

Each photographer says they are maintaining the minimum distance of six feet and not physically interacting with the clients at all. They also do not bring props to the session and only photograph people who live in the home (no extended relatives).

“I know that what I am doing is completely following the guidelines of social distancing,” said Holt.

“There is no hand shaking, playing with the kids, or contact. If people were to research it a little more, I think they would understand that all social guidelines are being met (and we are doing this to) bring a little bit of normalcy to their day. In return, they get to give back to the community.”