Photographers Camillia Courts (left) and Billie Metz Charlton

Photographers Camillia Courts (left) and Billie Metz Charlton

Pictures tell children’s stories

Camillia Courts and Billie Metz Charlton have taken thousands of pictures of their own children. Now the friends, both professional photographers, are focusing their cameras to help families with children who have life-altering illnesses.

“We’re parents and we know that when families have a sick child that they might put taking pictures on the back burner and then realize later that they have no pictures of their child’s life at that time. You want to remember everything about your child’s life,” said Metz Charlton, who studied at the Western Academy of Photography and has had her own studio since 2005.

Courts, who knows Melissa Knowles of Mission and Michelle Regner of Oliver, the photographers who started Helping Hearts as a way to give this special gift to families, was asked to be one of the volunteer photographers and recruited Metz Charlton.

“Camillia is an amazing self-taught photographer who adds so much to this project,” said Metz Charlton.

Helping Hearts has a website where families can apply and if they are accepted, they are assigned a photographer in their area who arranges a session with them. The sessions can be wherever the family wants: at home, studio, outdoors or in the hospital and include family members, siblings and pets if wanted. The free session takes about an hour and the family receives a disc with 20-30 edited images and a free 8×10 print. The family can have the prints reproduced in any way they want and there is no obligation to buy anything. The photographers donate their time for the photo session and editing.

Courts has one session set up.

“The family was just delighted that there was something like this for them in the area, the mother told me she cried when she was filling out the application form. They are really excited about it. They’re looking forward to it and so am I,” said Courts, who has been shooting weddings and family portraits since 2009.

“I love being creative, and children have such natural energy and smiles. Even if they are sick, there is that light and energy about them.”

Metz Charlton is also looking forward to photographing children for Helping Hearts.

“I find I get the best photos of children when I provide an environment where they can be themselves and are not posed,” she said.

Helping Hearts has grown across the country with more than 100 photographers taking part. For more information or to apply for a photo session email or see