Decent Exposure: Photographer Offers Free Portraits to Unemployed

"My photography business feeds my family, but volunteering feeds my soul"

A picture is worth a thousand words. The actions of a man helping others in this tough economy are worth even more. This is a story about a professional photographer who decided to use his professional skills to offer free portraits to people struggling to find work.

"Even though I'm struggling a little bit in this economy, it doesn't mean I can't continue to help other people and give back a little bit," said photographer Michael E. Stern.

Stern said he heard about a photographer on the east coast taking free headshots for unemployed people and thought it would be a great idea to do the same on the west coast. With the help of his agent, Wendi Kaminski, and Women At Work, a Pasadena-based nonprofit organization, Stern set up a photo shoot. Nearly 40 people quickly signed up for the free portraits.

"My photography business feeds my family, but volunteering feeds my soul," Stern said.

The people who turned up come from all walks of life.

"A lot of people we're seeing come through today have never been photographed before, and this is an opportunity for them to have something done that they might not otherwise have done ever," Stern aid.

The photographer picks the best photo, does some retouching and then sends the image via e-mail to the person so they can develop it, or post it on their websites or social network pages.

"A good picture can have an impact on people searching for work. People get so many first impressions from what the see online," said Stern.

Stern has been taking professional photographs for more than 30 years and his clients include the Walt Disney Company, Warner Brothers Studios and Sotheby's. But this time around, his clients were former real estate agents, administrative assistants and others looking for work -- looking for one great photo, looking for that elusive opportunity.

"Some of them have been very touched. They really think it's a great thing, and they're very appreciative," Stern said.

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