Salina Flanning got up early two Saturdays ago. Juggling three toddlers and a fistful of donated toothbrushes, she waited to take a shower at the YWCA's homeless shelter.
The line into the bathroom was long. The makeup artist was waiting. Flanning held her children's Easter outfits, the last new clothes they had bought.
In a few hours, the 36-year-old single mom would have her family portrait made.
"We've never had a family portrait, never been able to afford one," said Flanning, who moved into the shelter three weeks ago after losing her job. "I know tomorrow I'll wake up and these kids will be 6 feet tall. Now I'll be able to capture them like this forever."
The photo shoot was part of an international movement called Help-Portrait (help-portrait.com). The idea was for photographers to give free, professional portraits to struggling families.
At a holiday party at First United Methodist Church, St. Petersburg Times photojournalists set up lights and backdrops, hauled in tripods and stuffed reindeer, and spent a recent Saturday making more than 80 portraits.
Some families who had their pictures taken were staying at the shelter. Others had been invited because they care for foster children. And some families who have homes but can't afford Christmas gifts brought their children to see Santa, who was handing out donated toys.
Flanning sat between her 4-year-old twins and 3-year-old daughter, trying to get them to stay still. A photographer asked them all what they wanted for Christmas.
"A black bike," shouted Issac.
"An orange one," said Isaiah, even louder.
Ivory whispered that she wants that new Barbie princess.
"And what about you?" the photographer asked their mom.
"I want us all to have a home," Flanning said. She paused, then laughed. "Or maybe just a bathroom. For now, that would be enough."
Lane DeGregory can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8825.