Tamir is an organization that provides housing, programs, and services to adults with developmental disabilities.

Tonight, November 20th, they are holding a (sold-out!) fundraiser fashion show at the Canadian War Museum. Stepping Out in Style was created “to demonstrate that regardless of shape, size, or ability we all have beauty, talents, and aspirations to be celebrated.”

Many of their participants will be strutting their stuff on the catwalk. They've even been having lessons every Friday from Models International Management! They will be sporting goods by a number of brands and designers such as Hudson's Bay Company, Rent Frock Repeat, We Are Kings, Silverts, and Stunning! Fashion Accessories.

Krystal Valencia from Tamir approached me to photograph portraits of these individuals in promotion of the event, to act as 'headshots' in the event's programme, and to be displayed as a projection at the show. This sounded like a fantastic project for a great cause, and I was more than happy to collaborate.

The shoot went amazing, each person really got into their portrait session. Sometimes we would put on their favourite music, other times we would chat about their love for a sports team, and some people just looked like they were born to be in front of the camera.

There was such an authentic range of emotions, and I was happy to let it happen organically without directing too much. Anything from a little shyness and reservation, to big laughs, singing and dancing, blowing kisses, you name it. It was a genuine, raw, 'this is who I am' quality in the way the participants held themselves. It was the same quality I felt when shooting the teen musicians for Girls Rock Ottawa. There's nothing quite like it, and it's always a blessing for a photographer.

I felt incredibly lucky to shoot this project. Every person was so wonderful. An absolute pleasure to meet and photograph. It's been one of my favourite shoots to date.

Technical Info: 

We were very fortunate to have some great gear to use on this shoot. I was lucky enough to try out the new Nikon D850 with their beauty 105mm 1.4 lens. I always like having a very high res image to work with in post. Mostly so that I can crop in if needed and not worry about losing res. This being a 45.7 MP sensor, there certainly was no worry of that. I was able to shoot fairly loose on tripod in case a participant had some interesting movement with their arms, but close enough that I could crop in to a head and shoulders if we were getting stronger facial expressions. The 105 was also a great focal length for this shoot, and not to mention tack sharp.

I used Profoto equipment to light these portraits the way I was envisioning. I wanted to combine a focused, specular quality with a softer wrapping light. To do this, I used a strange combination of 3 heads/modifiers acting as a main light.

First, a Profoto Snoot with a 10˚ grid to really focus on the middle of the face. Next was a Profoto Softlight Reflector (beauty dish) with 25˚ grid to make the falloff from the snoot more of a gradient. Then a Chimera small softbox to soften a touch more. I arranged these three 'main' lights very close together, each doing something different but kind of acting as one source.

I then had a Profoto Deep White Umbrella XL bouncing into the wall on camera left for a very subtle fill on the cheek, and a Magnum Reflector for a background light and slight feathered kick.

I used D2's, B1X's, and an older Acute pack. The D2's were especially great for firing off a few frames quickly during a spontaneous moment since the recycle time is so fast. (These heads also fit beautifully into my new Pelican Air 1615 case!)

I used Air Remote and Air USB to control most of the lights remotely. Being able to do it from the computer was nuts. It's also a good way to keep track of lighting setups, if I can ever remember to screenshot the the power settings!

We tethered to CaptureOne Pro as usual via a TetherTools cable, and had my laptop wirelessly mirror to a screen behind us via Apple TV. This let the participants and crew watch the shoot from the common area.

All the BTS shots were taken with a Nikon D750 with either a Sigma 24-70mm 2.8 Art, or 85mm 1.4 Art. I've used both of these myself over the last month or two and they are fabulous.

Since this was a pro-bono project, we were incredibly lucky getting so many amazing people on board. A huge thanks to the following people who helped make everything possible!

Tamir Photoshoot and Event Coordinator: Krystal Valencia
Assistants: Tony Dib and Kamara Morozuk 
BTS Photographer: Kamara Morozuk
Camera/Lens for Portraits: Nikon Canada
Lenses for BTS: Gentec/Sigma Canada
Lighting Equipment: Profoto Canada
Haircuts and Styling: Mohamed Berrada and Danny Bundy from Hairfellas, and Gabrielle Peterka of Pierino Scarfo Salon
Makeup: Taryn Miller and Zab Iqbal
Studio: Lenz
Additional Work for Tamir: Josh Hotz (assisting), Rent Frock Repeat (wardrobe), Brooke MacDonald (model).

To see more portraits and read about some of the individual sessions, follow me on Instagram - I'll also be posting to my story from the show tonight!!

To see the complete portrait series, check out the gallery on my website.

And if you'd like to donate to Tamir, click here.

Thank you for taking the time to check out this project. I'll close here with this, one of my favourite images from the series.

- Jess


  1. Jessica! You should really submit these portraits to some photographic competitions! They are very possibly my favourite shots of all time. Well done!


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