High school students run company that gives back to military families

(WJLA) - David Sturgeon is having a portrait taken with his sisters before he heads to Keesler Air Force Base - and 16-year-old Ellie Esher is behind the camera, thanks to "Patriot Portraits."

The nonprofit provides discounted photography sessions for military families and pairs them with teenage photographers hoping to add to their professional portfolios.

As a homeschooled student, Ellie said, "It's harder to get these opportunities, but Patriot Portraits gives that freely, so it's nice."

David's sister, Elizabeth Sturgeon, can't wait to receive the finished project.

"The pictures will be turning out very great, so I can put it on Facebook," she said.

Abigail Hamilton, who co-founded Patriot Portraits with her friend and fellow T.C. Williams High School student Emma West, said she is grateful for the opportunity to help other young, talented photographers build up their professional experience.

"There's so many young talented photographers out there, but hardly any of them get hired because of their age," she said. "We realized we could do something about that through our business."

The two students said they dreamed up the idea for the company as a project for school - and soon found themselves running a growing business.

"We rely primarily on word of mouth, especially in the military community," Emma explained. "It's extremely tight-knit."

Each military family is given a 45-minute photography session for just $55.

"I think it's really great," said client Katharine Norton.

"To have the photos afterwards is a great memory of time we're here and he's not on the road," said client Emily Frandy.

And of course, the teen photographers are happy too, and grateful for the opportunity to improve their photography and business skillsets.

"It's great experience," said T.C. Williams sophomore Isabella Lovain.

"You're giving back to people that have served our country, and you're also getting more experience as a photographer," said Molly Brennan, 16.

Learn more about Patriot Portraits online.

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