Setting up Help Portrait in your city


Help Portrait Shanghai Dec 7, 2013. Get involved here.

In my time photographing for the blog, one of the most fulfilling actions have been gifting portraits to my subjects. It’s one way to build trust but also a form of thanks for sharing their stories with me.

For the past four years, I’ve been very lucky to be part of the founding team for Help Portrait Shanghai. Help Portrait was first started in Seattle, USA, with the idea for photographers to give back to their local community through their equipment and skills. This takes place every first weekend of December. This year, Help Portrait will be held globally on 7 December.

Help Portrait has since bloomed into a global movement and I’m proud to say that Shanghai has been the only Chinese city to have been consistently involved. The core photographers and volunteers grew from the Shanghai Flickr Meetup group, a mix of talented, fun-loving local and expat photography enthusiasts who have bonded over events like these.

Over the years, we have cooperated with various local NGOs including Stepping Stones, HandsOn Shanghai, focused on educating children of migrant families all over Shanghai. It can be expensive to have professional portraits taken, some families save for months to splurge on such expense. We simply donate our time and effort to deliver free portraits – a set of two to three in various sizes to share with grandparents back home! Over the years, we have photographed several hundred migrant families.

With the biggest stroke of luck, we had also secured Canon‘s sponsorship of a few printers (we send them back right after) and printing paper. They’ve been a silent but hugely supportive partner since the inception of Help Portrait Shanghai.

For us photographers and volunteers,it is a productive and fun day fueled by coffee, jokes with the kids and each other, fast food over lunch and a rowdy dinner to celebrate. I look forward to it every year.

This brings me to you, dear reader. The Help Portrait Shanghai team has been discussing ways to promote the concept to other major Chinese cities. Together, we’ve put together a guide in English and Chinese on how to make Help Portrait happen in your city. We hope to raise awareness of this project in China

Guide to Help Portrait in China (English)

Guide to Help Portrait in China (中文)

We’re only a month away from Help Portrait Day. Don’t think too big, focus on a core few of dedicated photographers and volunteers to benefit a small group of people. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it so much, you’ll grow your efforts in time.

You can always contact me for more details on Help Portrait Shanghai, or head over to the general “Getting Started” page of Help Portrait.

Helpportrait_03 Helpportrait_04

HP Shanghai 2011 02

HP Shanghai 2012 04

HP Shanghai 2012 05


Help Portrait Shanghai over the years from JC Li,, and panterry



  • Reply November 5, 2013


    What a wonderful idea Sue Anne.Unfortunately, I am not a professional photographers, would have been nice to bring this idea to Xi’an City since I am moving back in Nov from Shenzhen.

    I am very much inspired by the stories and subjects caputured with your lens. I have been searching for similar blogs like yours that deals with Xi’an city, but haven’t had any luck so far.If you knew any, please let me know.
    Thanks in advance

  • Reply December 2, 2014

    Ken Tam

    If you guys still run help-portrait 2014, you can post event news and photo to many thanks.

    • Reply December 5, 2014

      Sue Anne

      Thanks Ken, there is a crew on the ground in Shanghai doing that.

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