So you’d like to host a Veterans Portrait Project event. Thanks for considering the idea. You’ll be one of many proud hosts such as USAA, Harley Davidson and Lloyds of London (To see a more extensive list, just click HERE).
Let’s get started. First, get to know the VPP, and me, by watching the short video below…
The Veterans Portrait Project is a free event for anyone who served, and are a DD Form 214 holder. Active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel are eligible as well – just bring your I.D. For their portrait sessions, veterans can bring mementos, old photographs, military uniforms, or whatever means something to them about their time in the military, or they can come just as they are. Each participant is provided a high resolution digital copy of their portrait, which they are encouraged to share with friends and family. While we honor military spouses, the event is reserved for veterans only. If the spouse is also a veteran, they’re welcome to pose as a couple. If the spouse is not a veteran, it’s “time permitting” only, with no guarantees.
Now, let’s chat about the space needed to set up the studio. It’ll need to be a covered, secured space at least 20×20’, no less than 8′ height clearance, no low hanging ceiling fixtures and access to electricity. Yes, we can shoot outdoors, but we’ll require a tent and at least one tent-side to reduce wind and keep out the elements. We’ve set up in just about every place you can imagine: hospitals, conventions, VFW/American Legion Posts, museums, theaters, classrooms and garages. We’re very adaptable. So long as we have the minimal requirements listed previously, we’re good to go.
As a host, we ask that you provide one 6′ or 8′ folding table and at least 8 chairs. It’s nice if the host provides snacks and water for the veterans on the day of the event. We’ll bring all of the studio and camera equipment, signage, model releases and so on.
Here’s how a VPP event typically goes. My assistant and I fly in the day prior to the VPP event. The morning of the VPP event, we’ll arrive at the location at least one hour prior to get everything set up and ready to go before the first scheduled portrait session.
We’ll conduct portrait sessions over the course of a set period. Each portrait is estimated to take 10 minutes per veteran. However, some sessions may be longer or shorter depending on the veteran. I don’t like to rush the process, so I’d rather space out the sessions and not need the time. We can always wiggle in a walk-in if there’s time.
Of course, we’re only human and require reasonable personal breaks and one-hour lunch. It’s wonderful when we can have lunch brought in by our host, so we can concentrate on the veterans the entire time.
Following the event, I’ll download, edit and archive the images on an external hard drive for our own records and will deposit images in a password protected PhotoShelter gallery which individuals may access upon receipt of an email generated by VPP. In the event it is necessary to produce hard copy prints, and to package and ship them to veterans who do not have email access, the event host will cover the cost of printing, packaging, and shipping.
The biggest key to our success is the support we get from our hosts. I can’t stress this enough. The Veterans Portrait Project would not exist without the continued contributions of men and women like you!
With that said, let’s get down to the bottom line. Every event is different for the host, but what doesn’t change are the VPP’s basic needs. Those are airfare, lodging, food and operational expenses.
What are my operational expenses? Good question, and one I always have to keep in mind. In order to keep the VPP going I’ve got to maintain liability insurance, equipment insurance, lighting gear, camera gear, background stands and paper, flash bulbs/tubes, light modifiers, equipment and camera cases, model release forms, various administrative tools, pop-up banners, table clothes, VPP swag for veterans, hard drives, servers, computers and software. In addition, I have to cover website hosting, online server support, printing fees, etc. I also have to make sure my team is compensated for their time too. Whats-more, I have pay the government copyright fees to ensure the veterans’ portraits are protected from misuse and thieves. After all, the veterans are my number one priority.
I will always travel with at least one assistant. If the event is bigger, I’ll need more staff. As you can imagine, we travel with tons of equipment. I have preferred status with American Airlines, so I can get discounts on excess baggage. Therefore, that’s the VPP’s preferred air carrier. In order to get our bags from the airport to the venue, we’ll need an SUV. If you’ve got a vehicle that can fit the bags and my crew, great! If not, we’ll need to rent an SUV.
Other variables are the number of days we’ll be conducting VPP sessions. Sometimes it’s nice to partner up with a nearby town and see if we can do back-to-back events and share the cost. That allows us to reach more veterans and our hosts can split the overhead.
Some hosts like me give a lecture the night before a VPP event, which is always a great opportunity for the community to get to know me and the VPP. Others will include an exhibit of my combat imagery or veterans’ portraits, or both. I’ve got two books published, so we also have a book signings. We can put together a pretty spectacular line up for you!
I know it seems like a lot, but we’ve got this down to a science now, so don’t worry. Let me sum this up with a check list.
- Location for VPP studio
- High, unobstructed ceilings
- Power sources
- At least 20×20′ cleared floor space
- Folding table & chairs
- Snacks & beverages
- VPP Support
- Operational expenses
- Community Lecture
- AV/Sound support
- Combat Imagery, VPP imagery, both
- Size of space, installation requirements
- Duration of exhibit