Ambers Quinceanera – Paying It Forward

Ambers Quinceanera – Paying It Forward

So it was last weekend, I am proud to say I was the one who shot a remarkable families day. For more on the ins & outs as to how & why, you can read that here.  As to Saturday, it was an emotional day, of what was planned, what to expect, and some things which were unexpected.

I had spoken to her Mom Debbie only a few times beforehand. She happened to have her phone stolen just days before the event, although, putting everything into perspective it becomes just a minor inconvenience her. She’s definitely a strong person & has raised a great family which she supports and cares for deeply. As for me, well all I needed was a time & location to arrive at, and I’m good to go.

Beginning at Mora Salon in Cherry Hill, NJ I got to shoot plenty of bridal prep (Quinceanera Prep?) of the 4 of them. From there, I headed directly to the church, Transfiguration Catholic Church in Collingswood NJ. I knew from speaking with Debbie that the Quinceanera was alot more than just a party, and the the church aspect meant so much to her. I’ve shot many, many weddings, and while several do have their touching moments, I can honestly say that watching her at the Blessed Mary was the saddest thing I’ve witnessed while shooting. I made sure to have my camera out of the way as after a grueling 3:15 she stood up, I hurried back down the aisle before she turned around. Kudos to her Mom & Uncle Peter being there to support her throughout.

From there we ventured on to the cemetery, it’s hard to even think what the boy went thru, I can’t even imagine. I made sure to stay out of their way, although they stated they wouldn’t mind, I felt it was their moment to share,  I was just capturing it from a distance.

Finally, she had a beautiful egyptian themed reception, and grand entrance being lifted in on a chair, carried over to her throne. This led into Father/Daughter & Mommy/Daughter dances where Mom changed it up after a few minutes into Chubby Checkers “The Twist”, segueing back into nice dance song to end their dance.  As is tradition during quinceanera’s, the girl gives 15 candles to important family & friends. Mom led the way, followed by sisters, Aunt Kim, her Dad, friends, softball coaches and finally in a touching moment, her grandmother. From there the party began and dance floor opened up. I used my Sony Z5U’s slow motion feature to run a slow motion video booth, which both kids & adults got a kick out of. Kudos go out to my man TG Gainey for stopping in to 2nd shoot the dances, candles and dance floor footage to help the videos all wrap up.

Below are the videos today, it was difficult to go from the powerful ceremony scene into the reception, so I edited it into 2 videos. Which should be a testament as to how strong & supportive this family is, to stand back up & move onward after going thru something like this.


Pro-BonoLatin for ‘Work being taken on for no charge, being done for public good’.

It’s not often I would do work pro bono. Typically it’s a field reserved for those in the legal profession, although maybe my years spent as a (boring) deposition videographer rubbed off on me. Regardless I really never have, especially with weddings, or events. Nor would anyone really. They are long days spent mostly on my feet, with alot of run & gun, capturing scenery as best I can with about 1 or 2 minutes of setup time, few chances for retakes, and quickly packing up & catching up to the party as they all move along with ease. Then, after the event ends, one labors upon editing, setting to music, exporting & uploading. Numerous hours spent on that as well, which nobody else sees.

However, a couple of weeks ago a news story posted on Philly.com captured my attention. The story of a girl who went thru something beyond tragic, and had a ‘quincenara’ (Spanish version of Sweet 16) coming up this September. They had a gofundme page, and of course my first instincts were naturally to donate. $5, $10, $20 maybe who knows. Then it hit me that I can give so much more that that in terms of value. While I don’t typically shoot Sweet 16s, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs or Quincenara’s, this one will be an exception. And why not, she deserves it.

So I found the Mother on Facebook, and wrote her, offering my video services pro-bono. Without getting too into the details of the response I was glad that she did chose to accept my services, but I found that she was also flattered to have received such a request. No idea if any other photo or video people offered anything similar, and tbh I don’t care, for I’m happy to be the one to shoot it. If you’re wondering, yes I have already received an inquiry for a wedding on this date, and as a single shooter (I don’t farm out any of my work) I turned it down. Might happen once or twice more as it’s still a busy time, but I can say ‘No regrets’.

Looking forward to it, glad that Philly.com published such an article, to see the gofundme page spread, and volunteers like me offer their services for a good cause. Typically I try to take a bright/optimistic approach when meeting the bride on her big day. Congratulating her, noticing her dress, discussing if she’s excited. Admittedly a 25 or 30 year old handles it differently than a 15 year old teen. Also, there’s going to be some sensitive nature to the event as well. However as with everything, I’ll adapt, and I’ll bring all my kits & toys that put a great video together, and create the best darn quincenara video any girls ever had:)

Read the Philly.com article here: