Milford photographer offers huge bargain — and it’s all for charity

Milford photographer Rich Coyle

Milford photographer Rich Coyle

A local photographer hopes people will smile for his camera April 14 in exchange for a $24 donation that will go to Operation Smile, an organization that alters children’s lives around the world by fixing facial deformities.

Not only will the donation help bring a literal smile to a disadvantage child’s face, it’s quite the bargain as well, since Rich Coyle, owner of Rich In Memories photo studio usual earns $250 for a portrait sitting.

Coyle is one of about 200 photographers nationwide to join with PPA Charities — the philanthropic arm of Professional Photographers of America — to promote “Celebration of Smiles Day.”

Coyle, who according to Behnke’s list appears to be the only New Haven area photographer participating this year, said he does so because it’s a great cause and he was “raised in a home” in West Haven where he was taught to help others and attended Catholic schools where the emphasis was on service to others.

“It’s a nice way to help a kid who doesn’t have resources,” Coyle said.

Coyle said for $24 the photo subject gets a free 5-by-7 print and he doesn’t care if someone wants to bring their dog, a friend or grandma into the picture. He can be contacted at or 203-710-2927. The studio is located at 20 Alexander Road.

For Coyle, it’s all about Operation Smile that day. He said two years ago, he raised enough on Operation Smile day for two surgeries and threw in the extra for that same result when he fell short last year. A single surgery costs $240 with much of the manpower time donated.

“Recording smiles is what photographers do,” said Trey Homan of Texas, who serves as president of PPA Charities Board of Trustees. “When parents participate in this event, it’s a wonderful way to teach children the value of reaching out to others. Even small children can understand the importance of Operation Smile’s work, and they are eager to help these needy children.”

Bert Behnke, executive director of PPA Charities — and a participating photographer in Chicago — said the event usually raises $20,000 to $30,000 per year for the cause, chosen 10 years ago in part because of the significance a smile has in photography. He said one photographer in Arizona raised $8,000 for Operation Smile through the photo shoots last year.

Founded in 1982, the organization treats disadvantaged children around the world who suffer with cleft lips, cleft palates and facial deformities. In as little as 45 minutes, one cleft lip surgery can change a child’s life forever, freeing them from “isolation and pain,” an organization press release states.

“The whole idea is that we create smiles and they (Operation Smile) make new smiles for kids,” Behnke said, noting they support other charities through the year as well.

Every three minutes, a child somewhere in the world is born with a facial deformity and one in 10 will not survive to see their first birthday, an press release from PPA Charities states. “Those who do survive live in isolation and pain,” the organization states. Each year, more than 100,000 children are born with a facial deformity in Operation Smile’s 26 partner countries and tens of thousands remain untreated.