5 Ways Photographers Can Give Back

5 Ways Photographers Can Give Back

We’re always on the lookout for ways photographers can give back to their communities and help non-profits raise awareness for issues all over the world. Not only can photography help people in need, but the right photo can advance a cause by presenting an issue in a completely new light.

So for 2013, we’ve put together a list packed with great ideas on how photographers can help out. There are so many groups and organizations out there using photography for good, so we’ve included the ones that stood out to us most.

1. Giving Back Through Non-Profits

There are a variety of non-profit organizations aimed at raising awareness of global issues through photographic philanthropy, and range from general to very specific. Here are a few to help you get started (though there are many more):

PhotoPhilanthropy: Appropriately named, the mission of this well-known non-profit is to bring photographers together to drive action through social change and offer many volunteer opportunities. They have a variety of programs to help facilitate this, including exhibitions, awards and grants. http://photophilanthropy.org/

Nuru Project: “Nuru” means “light” in Swahili, photography being the medium of light. The Nuru Project sells photojournalism prints to support compelling causes and storytellers. They work with a variety of non-profits, and contribute to a given organization whenever a customer buys a print. The non-profit gets the majority of the funds (50%), while the photographer and the Nuru Project equally share the rest. All printing costs are borne by Nuru Project. This means a full 50% goes to the non-profit and 25% goes to the photographer. http://www.nuruproject.org/

Project Exposure: The goal of Project Exposure is to create an opportunity for photographers of the same community to collaborate with one another and bring global issues to light. Project Exposure covers travel fees and expenses for photographers who are willing to work pro bono for a great cause. http://projectexposure.org/

Help-Portrait: The idea behind Help-Portrait is simple: find someone in need, take their portrait, print their portrait, and deliver it.  The Help-Portrait website is an online community offering ways to connect with other portrait photographers as well as those who are less fortunate. Providing someone with a professional-quality portrait who otherwise could not afford it is an extremely personal way of giving back. http://community.help-portrait.com/

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: This unique organization offers remembrance photography to families who have suffered the loss of a baby. Because of the nature and sensitivity of the work, volunteer photographers are carefully evaluated to make sure they are fit for the task – but if this is your calling, you can easily apply on their website.  https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/

2. Giving Back Locally

You don’t have to be affiliated with a large, well-known non-profit organization to give back, especially if you want to give back to your own community. Independent efforts of philanthropy allow your services, time or money go directly to those in need – so that you may likely see the results of your efforts firsthand.

Donate Prints: There are plenty of local institutions and businesses that would benefit from having stellar photographs on their walls but may not have the funds to acquire them on their own, such as libraries, schools, and other public institutions in underserved areas. Many of these organizations hold events such as contests, raffles and silent auctions to help raise funds for a worthwhile community endeavor, and are always looking for items to be donated for these causes.

Give Free Introductory Classes: Never underestimate how much an aspiring photographer will appreciate the instruction of someone who is seasoned and experienced in their field. This is an easy and rewarding way to offer your talents, and sharing the wealth with others who are eager to learn from you.

3. DIY: Showcase a topic you’re passionate about

If there is a pertinent issue that you are passionate about – whether it be the environment, social injustice or education – it is likely that you already have an audience who shares your sentiments. Take a series of photos representing the issue and cast it in the light it deserves. Event registration sites like Eventbrite and Guestlist allow you to create and register your event locally, and without cost if your event is free. And finding a space doesn’t have to be as difficult or expensive as you might think – investigate using a library or community center event room, or even ask a local cafe to hang your photos on their walls which their business can benefit from as well. Now all you have to do is raise awareness about your event, which will then raise awareness about the issue you choose to showcase.

4. Donate Proceeds

An obvious way of giving back is simply donating the proceeds of your print sales – whether the photo is relevant to the cause or not. It may be a good idea to team up with an already-planned event intended to raise awareness about an issue so that you know you’ll have a captive market interested in supporting a good cause.  Check out what events are going on in your community and if there’s a way to get on board too.

5. Photographer’s Giving Back Award

The Photographer’s Giving Back Award is an annual award that donates $5,000 directly to the person or people depicted in the award-winning photographs. Last year’s winner, Alex Masi, took extraordinary photos of an 8-year-old girl named Poonam, from Bhopal, India. The photo that won was a shot of the young girl sitting in the rain with her head tilted upwards to the sky, and the money awarded changed her life. She is now in her third year of school and aspiring to be a teacher. Masi’s goal was to show what it is like to grow up in Bhopal, and plans to return many times to tell Poonam’s coming-of-age story through breathtaking photographs.

There are so many great ways to give back through photography. If one of the ideas above strikes your interest, we encourage you to reach out directly and volunteer!

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There are 21 comments for this article
  1. Jennifer Barrios at 4:37 pm

    Happy to read this and learn about other photographers who are also giving back. My husband and I launched our site last year and would love more information/suggestions regarding how to network and increase awareness of our site and the causes we support.

  2. Shayne at 6:15 pm

    Love this! I just shot a Make-A-Wish event on 1/12 and it was a truly amazing experience. Have already told the volunteer I met that I’d be more than willing to help out again. In the grand scheme of things it only took about an hour of my day, yet the feeling I got afterwards was truly inspiring.

  3. Stephanie McFarland at 6:26 pm

    I volunteer at my local animal shelter. It has been the most rewarding act i have ever did. Great picture of the animal get them adopted out quicker. Food for thought!

  4. Erin Wilson at 7:19 am

    If you make photographs of your local area, consider donating prints to your local historical museum. Communities change, businesses come and go, and most often there is no photographic record. It’s also a great way to make sure your work will be preserved for the long-term!

  5. André Lamerant at 7:53 am


    With a friend of mine, photographer and lawyer, we started last month a charity web site in France named “Photographes pour la Vie” (Photographers for life) in order to sell Art Prints donated by photographers we know and appreciate , all the earnings being transferred to the Ligue contre le Cancer.
    Please have a look, comment, and moreover buzz the address:

    Thanks and regards.

    Andre Lamerant

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  7. Greg Labuscagne at 2:17 pm

    I have recently done shoots for the Jacob Zuma Foundation and am now doing photography for my church. Very rewarding work!

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  9. Catherine dee Auvil at 8:00 pm

    Great article! I want to add a program for photographers to take portraits of foster children to improve their chances of adoption:
    I’m trying to start one in my area and also do some “family” type photos in their group home, scan any photos the kids have, and then help them set up an online back-up for all their personal photos. Foster kids need photos of themselves growing up and holidays! It really means a lot when they are adults to have those. So volunteer if you have time.

  10. Dale Springhetti at 1:13 pm

    One of my favorite articles you’ve published! May I add to the above said list to visit orphanages and help document their children for records, marketing and to provide photos to the child as a long-term gift.

  11. Jen Smith at 11:09 am

    Love these suggestions. Another would be to donate your images for good causes using http://www.photofoundation.org

    You can submit images and instantly see the donation value of those accepted. We have commercial buyers too so if any of your photos sell to them, you get a nice kick back.

    We think it’s a great way for photographers to give back

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