Interview with Calgary Photographer Erik McRitchie on his "Porch Portraits" Project

Calgary photographer Erik McRitchie was recently featured on CTV News for his ongoing photo project, “Porch Portraits”. In these times of social distancing, McRitchie is hoping to bring us all a little closer together and document the changes and effects of the global pandemic. He graciously took some time out of his schedule to answer our questions about the project, the effect is has been having on people, and how he goes about getting his shots.

TCS: What inspired you to start taking “Porch Portraits”?

McRitchie: I was inspired by NWT photographer Pat Kane and his portraits from a distance series and felt that this would be a perfect way to build community spirit and positivity here in Calgary!

TCS: Are people paying you to capture their porch portraits?

McRitchie: No, I haven’t taken any money for these even though people have offered to pay me for my services. I’ve asked families if they are able, to make a donation to a local charity who is helping Calgarians on the ground instead. We’ve seen thousands of dollars donated to the Food Bank, Brown Bags for Kids, United Way, The Mustard Seed and more!

TCS: Has it been difficult to adapt to doing portrait shoots while social distancing and keeping 2 meters away from people?

McRitchie: The hardest thing has been having to stand back when you first meet people. The natural instinct is to step forward and shake their hands but you have to connect from a distance instead. I always start with a few questions, “How are you guys holding up? Do you need anything I can help with? How are your kids feeling about school being canceled?” That always gives us a pretty natural point of connection right off the bat. You can also tell people are really thankful when the shoot is done and they want to come and shake my hand to say thanks but they can’t. It’s a hard part about meeting new friends right now.

TCS: What kind of positive reinforcement have you received about this project? Have you received any negativity for doing “Porch Portraits”?

McRitchie: I’ve heard so many good things through this project, from people using their own gifts to help others, photographers from across the country doing similar things, and the thousands of dollars that are going to help those in need. I’ve heard a few photographers who have a very negative opinion on these shoots… saying they are promoting unsafe practices and possibly undermining other professionals opportunities. I personally am just doing my best to build community spirit and give back to others in a difficult time, I’m adhering to all safety protocols outlined by AHS so I don’t see a problem with it.

TCS: What have been some of the most memorable moments while capturing porch portraits?

McRitchie: Celebrating 5 birthdays now with people I’ve never met before. It’s like I’ve been invited to witness a special moment in their lives! One little girl turned 5 and she was so sad her party was canceled. Her mom and dad and siblings all came out with party hats and balloons and we celebrated her on her front steps. She had a grin from ear to ear! I’ve also talked to doctors and nurses right after their shifts, you can see the tension in their eyes but they are so thankful for time with their families and to grab some special images together. One other story was around a young family, the dad in the family was stranded overseas so they face timed him and held up a phone so he could be a part of the shoot.

TCS: What is your editing process like and how are you delivering files to clients?

McRitchie: I’m using Lightroom for everything, I come home to order my files into days and then cross-reference my shoot bookings to link the right family with their images. I cull and edit each image and deliver folders digitally to each family. Usually around 15 or so images in each, full family shots, kids together, mom and dad with kids, single portraits and some fun shots.

TCS: Do you listen to music while you edit? If so, what kind of tunes keep you going?

McRitchie: Big fan these days of some more chill music while I’m processing, I’ve been listening to Leon Bridges, Xavier Rudd, Ben Rector, and Dermot Kennedy, also a big fan of Mac Miller.

TCS: What advice would you give fellow photographers during this difficult time?

McRitchie: Hang in there, look out for each other, find ways to keep creating for yourself. Things are going to turn around eventually, stay positive and find a way to help others out, you’ll be amazed at how good that is for your own well being!

TCS: What equipment have you been using to capture porch portraits and why did you decide to use certain focal lengths etc?

McRitchie: I’m shooting with a Nikon D850 and usually use 3 lenses… 105mm 1.4, 200mm 2.0, 24-70 2.8.

To View More Of Erik’s work visit:
Instagram – erikmcr

Featured in this blog:

Nikon D850 Body

Nikkor AF-S 105mm f1.4 E ED

Nikkor AF-S 200mm f2.0G ED VR II

Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f2.8 E ED VR

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