Benefit gala!

So! Remember how I talked about that adoption conference I attended, sang at, and photographed this past Saturday? Well, I’ll be sharing more about that soon, but that wasn’t the end of my adoption-related shenanigans. Based on a prompting from my friend Sarah and the various emailings that resulted, I ended up volunteering my lens to a magnificent organization here in Chicago called Lydia Home, and it just so happened that their yearly benefit gala was a few days later, where they could put me to use!

Fortuitous? I think it was a God-thing.

Monday evening I trekked my way from work to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, camera in tow, ready for the action. Though it was barely 5:45 when I arrived, it was already pitch dark outside.

I was expecting a little intimate dinner–but no!

Whoa. It was a huge event, attended by about 1,200 people.

The event started with a silent auction.

The items up for bid were so varied–a bright blue kayak. A soft designer sweater. Tickets to various sporting events. An American Girl Doll. This necklace:

Joy #1: being involved in a cause I believe in! This organization has so many fantastic programs (especially the Safe Families initiative), and it’s all gospel-based.

Joy #2: serving with my talents, which doesn’t even feel like work. It was just fun.

Trouble #1: the lighting. At an event like this, you don’t really have any control. So the best you can do is set your camera so that it’s as sensitive to the light as possible, without compromising shutter speed and creating blur.

Ay, me. A combination of my camera quality (not entirely professional), the aperture capacity of my lenses (not wide enough), the dim lighting, the color of the walls, and the tall ceilings (too high for my flash to be able to bounce off ’em) produced so many dark and noise-filled photos.

And believe me, the ones I’m sharing here are not even the worst.

(Incidentally, I had a dream last night that I was buying a better camera with a wicked awesome lens. Does this mean something?)

Anyway, when I sent the photos off by FedEx, I resisted the urge to apologize to the lovely ladies who I’d been in touch with. “I’m sorry my photos aren’t the best . . . ”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to navigate the dim lighting . . .”

“I’m sorry my high ISO caused so much noise . . .”

“I’m sorry I’m not the quality of photographer you were probably hoping for . . .”

. . . but I think I need to do what with photography what Julia Child did in the kitchen: don’t apologize. I did what I did, and let’s keep on keeping on. So I shut my trap (except with you guys, of course–you get to hear it all!), and I think I’m glad I did.

I can’t help but see all the flaws in my efforts, and I wish both for my sake and theirs that I had done a perfect job. But I didn’t. But what I did was acceptable. So moving on.

It’s hard to quell the perfectionist within who’s piping up and saying things like “Why did you even offer if you couldn’t be perfect?” But I know that’s not the voice I’m supposed to be listening to. Instead I should listen to the voice that’s telling me to keep putting myself out there. Offering my photography, flawed as it may be. Through this event, I connected with a woman who said I might have the chance to do some senior portraits for kids who otherwise couldn’t afford them. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

And enough about the little lady in my head called Pollywiggle Perfectioniste! Let me share Trouble #2: plants.

Two twiggy creations flanked the podium, which wasn’t a problem when there was only one person, and when he or she was directly behind the podium–or when this lovely singer walked all over the stage, giving me plenty of plant-free shots:

However, these twiggy arrangements created difficulties when people shared the stage. For example, this sorry shot:

Twiggy blockage, twiggy shadows. Alas!

I considered stomping up there and kicking them over with the yell of a warrior, but I thought that might guarantee that I don’t get invited back.


I did my darnedest to Photoshop the twig shadows off this girls’ face to save the shot–here’s the original:

The Photoshopped:

Side by side:




Which brings me to Joy #3: hearing from the kids who have been helped by the program. This young man was shot by someone at his high school.

After getting out of the hospital, he went back to school. And guess who was calmly walking the halls? Yep. The guy who’d shot him.

He needed to get out of that situation. And Lydia Home was able to help.

Joy #4: a fabulous sermon from the pastor at Harvest about not worrying. We’re just not made to do it, friends!

Joy #5: the food.

This cake, in particular.

Or wait . . .maybe that’s Trouble #3? Hard to discern. I’ll chew on it.

Heh heh.

(did I just make a dad joke?)

Anyway folks, that’s it for today! What do you photographers recommend I do next time I’m in a low lighting situation with high ceilings? And what kind of organizations in your towns really move your hearts? And have you heard of Safe Families before?

13 thoughts on “Benefit gala!

  1. Giselle

    Jenna, I don’t know much about photography, so to me, your shots WERE perfect. They captured the event and the feeling and even brought shivers and tears to me. So you did great in my book!

    The thought of you doing senior portraits for kids that can’t afford them is such a great idea!! I think you could make a big difference in people’s lives – when you’re in high school, all you want is to fit in. I know it’s not a life or death situation, but why shouldn’t they get pictures to hand out like everyone else? Why do poor people need to be constantly reminded that they don’t have the resources? There is not reason why. And with your help, they CAN be like everyone else. They can have their pictures. And even if it seems small, you’ll have made a huge contribution to their lives.

    I am big into volunteering and I just love hearing about a cause that pulls at someone’s heartstrings. If we would all do what we can for each other and for animals, this world would be such a wonderful place. It starts with one person.

    =) I’m getting sappy, so I’ll stop now.

    1. Jenna Post author

      Thank you Giselle! I really hope this senior portrait thing materializes, because it sounds not just like a great opportunity but also like FUN! I love taking pictures, so this doesn’t even feel like work to me. And you can go sappy on me at any time, with no need to apologize! =)

  2. mjskit

    What a fun and rewarding job! Your photographs are fabulous. I love the way you turned some into black and white. You’re too critical of yourself. 🙂 The pictures are all fabulous!

  3. Twinky

    Very commendable job on the photography, I’d say! You have some very good ones there. Probably the greatest challenge is to get people’s faces, and closely enough that a large “impersonal” event becomes much more visually personal, about individuals rather than a crowd. That is the great challenge of wedding photography beyond the set-up bridal party shots. Closer-ups are always better for catching people, who they are, how they feel… Keep at it, and you will get it!! I know you!!

  4. Jennifer Beach

    I’m so glad that you were able to do something like that! It’s always a joy to be able to use photography to help someone else out.

    I hear you on the lighting! I have a particular horror of low ceilings with less than naturally bright light. But it looks like you got some really good pictures despite the troubles.

  5. Suzie

    It looks like such a lovely event Jenna and your pictures are great. I especially love the one of the young man (that was shot), you captured the moment perfectly. I, like you, am highly critical of my photography too but, like you said we can only do our best and offer our services. Still…I know how hard that is. The photoshopped picture of the girl and where you removed the twig is impressive. I am just learning how to do that and I’m finding it a wee bit difficult…lol! Ah well, I’ll keep plugging away until I get it right 🙂 That is awesome about the senior pictures. I did a young man’s senior pictures this year and his Dad was in the military and only had so much to spend on pics. I decided then that all my senior pictures that had a military Mom or Dad would be discounted, including his. Heck, they are fighting for our freedom, it’s the least I could do. In my small town, I try to get people involved in sending packages to the troops. I support the anti-bullying in the schools and support anti-abuse programs also. I have not hear of Safe Families before. I also love to take my dog, Haley (a German Shepherd), to the old folks home on the occasional weekend. They love to see her and she loves the attention (and treats) that she receives 🙂

    1. Jenna Post author

      Suzie, I loved hearing about all the things you’re involved in–and the anti-bullying in particular really touched me (especially after hearing about that recent suicide because of bullying). And of course, having 2 sisters who are army wives, I think it’s great that you’re offering that military discount! =)

  6. Carrie

    This looks fantastic, Jenna!!! Good job! Your generous spirit is such an encouragement to me, and I’m so thankful to have your example to look up to and desire for myself. 🙂 I’m so sorry we missed this gala, but it seems to have done wonderfully, even without us! 😉 Love you, lady!

  7. Skippymom

    I understand having a “perfectionist” gene, but those pictures are fabulous and as someone else said you are too hard on yourself. They really are moving and so warm and personal. For the size of that event I am truly impressed with the intimate portraits you snapped.

    Good luck! And thanks for sharing Lydia’s Home with us. What a wonderful cause.

  8. Veronica Miller

    Bless you, bless you, bless you! I love your kind and generous heart, and I know that God does too. 🙂 I’m also glad that you didn’t apologize. I have always over-apologized for everything I don’t do perfectly and I’ve finally started forcing myself not to. I feel better about myself when I make no apologies! 🙂 Usually no one notices the mistakes and flaws anyway. I think you did a great job and of course you will do better at the next event like this b/c you’re gaining experience. You go, girl!

  9. Megan

    I think your pictures look great. I think that for most people who aren’t into photography, they won’t see all the imperfections that you see. But what they will notice is the awesome composition and the different perspective that you give them, by what you chose to photograph. I speak from firsthand experience as a non-photographer. I know a little bit just because Andrew is a pretty good amateur photographer and sometimes explains to me what he’s doing in photoshop or why a certain picture is better than another one. But it’s really cool when we go some place together, and I have a certain perspective of what I saw when I was there, but then I see his pictures and see a whole new dimension to the place and things I never saw before.


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