Serving heartbroken families: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) is a non-profit organization that offers free portrait sessions for families that are about to, or have lost a baby. All photographers retouch artists and other roles graciously donate their time so that these families can have what are commonly considered remembrance portraits. This small act of kindness helps so many families that might otherwise only have a few cell phone pictures, at best, of these precious infants that must leave too soon.

I am going to address the number one question I get right away: Is this hard to do? Well the answer for me is yes and no. Yes — emotionally this can be difficult and technically you need to have the skills that most professional photographers have (knowledge of camera flash or ancillary lighting). And no – I know I am giving someone something they will never get a chance at again, they will most likely not be holding this child ever again and want to be able to remember this little sliver of time they get to be together. For me, that is enough to be able to get through any session.

If you visit the NILMDTS website, or search for NILMDTS, you are sure to find several stories of families that have been touched by this service.

A photographer’s view

Photographer Scott McNeill offers his take:

“Two years ago I retired from my professional business life and I wanted to find a meaningful way to give back to the ‘community.’ Photography has been a passion of mine for 50 years and I looked for ways to use this interest as a way to give back.

“Some how I came across Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and felt that it would be a perfect fit for me. Since I am not a professional photographer and have not had formal training in portraiture, I spent time reading, looking at YouTube and other sites, to learn about infant portraiture photography. I was approved as an affiliated photographer on March 4, 2016 and took my first session on April 10.

“As of today, I have photographed three sessions. All have been challenging in one way or the other, but when I finish the retouches and upload the images to ShootProof and hit the ‘share’ button, I feel like I have done something nice for a mom, dad and baby. Hopefully the gift of photographs we provide mom and dad will help them heal and will also help them remember their baby.

“When I conduct a session I try to hide behind the camera and I deal with the emotion of the session when I am in my office retouching the images.

“By the way, I am fortunate to have my wife as my photographer’s assistant.  She not only helps with the lighting but she is a good listener. It helps to have someone to talk to about the sessions and the challenging situation moms and dads find themselves in.”

It is not necessary to be a professional photographer to volunteer for NILMDTS; there are several roles that need to be filled in every city/area, including photographer, assistant photographer, digital retouch artist, area coordinator, local recruiter, session dispatcher and hospital trainer. Please visit the NILMDTS website for additional information.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Jeff

    Great cause. Erica, congrats to you for making it happen.

  • Juli

    Thanks for sharing this post for such a wonderful cause. I wish I could volunteer my services but I just don’t think I can do it, and admire the photographers who can put their emotions aside to go such good..

    • Erica W

      FIgured out I could reply directly too late – There are a number of ways you could volunteer and I would be happy to discuss those with you if you were interested.

  • Anita

    Proud of all of your accomplishments Erica and what a great cause to contribute your amazing talents to

  • Erica W

    Jeff- Thank you!
    Juli – there are other ways you could help out if you are interested – you could help teach lighting to assistants or give an in service of some sort – or just help educate hospitals on the guidelines.

  • Craig Kasseckert

    Thank you for a great article. Unfortunately my wife and I did not find/know about NILMDTS until my son was on his death bed in the PICU. Your article gives me opportunity to pause and think that maybe I can use my hobby to give back in his memory for the short time he was with us. I need to look into it further.

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