Developing a link with schools
By John Latimer
Lebanon photographers help with yearbooks
Bob & Cindy Howard's profession is all about image, but their work is full of substance.
The Howards are owners of R. Howard Photography. In business since 1992, they have worked from their studio on the second floor of the down-town mini-mall, at the intersection of Ninth and Cumberland streets, since 1994.
"I do all the work," jokes Cindy. "He just presses the button on the camera."
The Howards are the first to admit that the image created by their stylish studio is designed not only to make customers feel comfortable, but also to impress upon them that the Howards are top notch photographers.
They point out that many other professional photographers in the area work from their homes, but the Howards say they feel that the impression created by their studio is worth the operational cost it subtracts from their bottom line.
The wood-paneled walls of the waiting area are full of framed examples of Bob's work. Many of the photographs are portraits of high-school students. And that is where the focus of the Howard's image blurs into the substance of their lives.
For the past 10 years, Bob, a 1981 graduate of Lebanon High School, and Cindy, a member of Cedar Crest High School's Class of '83, have donated time and money to help meet their alma maters' photography needs. This has included taking pictures at special events, athletic competitions and stage performances. But the largest part of their commitment is helping the schools publish their yearbooks free.
The couple, who live in Cleona, also began offering the same services to the Annville-Cleona School District in 1996. "With each school the amount we provide in service is based on need," says Bob. "Lebnon needs a little extra. Their publications department is a little behind Cedar Crest's." "At the request of the yearbook advisor, we will photograph any event, sports team, club, organization or faculty member," he adds. "Whatever they need they just ask, and there is no charge for time or materials."
In acknowledgement of their commitment to the high school, the Lebanon School District recently honored the couple by naming them "Friends of Education." Howard said that if he didn't enjoy his job as much as he does, he probably wouldn't be so generous with his time. That enjoyment, and the fact that he credits his teachers with helping him make photography his career, are why he and Cindy are so committed to the schools.
The couple concedes that there are benefits to their relationship with the districts. For example, the schools do not stand in the way of the Howards' attempting to sell photos of students taken at school events to their parents. And the reason there are so many pictures of high-school students on the Howards' studio wall is that many parents remember the couple's support when arranging family photos. "It is two-fold," Bob admits. "It does benefit the business. But putting it all in perspective, last year we donated about $70,000 in services to the three districts."
During a recent week, about 10 hours of work were billable, he says, and the rest of his time was donated. And if you still think the Howards' relationship with the schools is merely to benefit their business, consider this: in addition to taking pictures, the Howards gave a complete 35 mm camera system to Lebanon High School's Lodestone (yearbook) staff and a set of specialty photographic lenses to Cedar Crest's yearbook staff. They also provide an annual scholarship to a worthy Lebanon student.
In addition, Bob Howard also contributes as a guest lecturer in the classrooms and serves as a mentor for students working on graduation projects. Their giving is not limited to schools. The Howards have also donated their services to the city by taking photographs for Lebanon's promotional brochure and a series of Lebanon Police Department trading cards.
The Howards say they like their Lebanon business location and have thrived there through good times and bad in the past eight years. "What we give back to the community keeps the studio open no matter how bad the economy is," Bob says.
(Article reproduced with permission from the Lebanon Daily News)