Virginia photographer offers families a priceless holiday gift

Free Christmas photo sessions for families

Our series A More Perfect Union aims to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us. For many families, the cost of a professional holiday photo is out of reach. But in Lynchburg, Virginia, we found one woman and a team of volunteers at The Christmas Studio, giving families what can only be described as a priceless gift.


It was an offer almost too good to be true, but when the doors opened, they discovered it was real: a photo session in a festive setting with a team of pros behind the lens.

For Delisha Dickerson and her sons, and every family that comes to The Christmas Studio, the offer of a holiday photo came without a price tag. 

Twelve-year-old Breanna Layne came with her mom and sister Kaylee.

"I've dreamed of doing this but it's never really happened, and now my dream came true," Breanna said.

Her mom, Brandy Layne, is a caretaker who seldom has the chance to be cared for. Brandy said she would never be able to pay out of pocket for the photo shoot on a limited budget. Before today, Brandy had only selfies of her family.

Photographer Leah Stauffer dreamed up the idea.

"I've come across a lot of families throughout the years that ask for like, 'Hey can I have that photo? That's the only good family professional photo we have.' And I just started thinking about those families," Stauffer said.

So she put out a call for help, everyone she asked said "yes" and then she let the community know.

"When I started doing this, I was worried that no families would show up. And someone told me, 'Leah, if one family shows up, that's all that matters,'" Stauffer said.

She needn't have worried. They hoped for 40 families, and 87 signed up. Each one got the star treatment, including hair and makeup, and a holiday photo.

For Brandy and her girls, it was just what they needed.

"We're just kind of starting over but we're getting there. This is a good start," Brandy said.

It's a moment captured forever – and a gift for which there is no price.

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