Photographers have a special skill that allows them to capture the world in ways others can't, and your images can make a big difference in a lot of ways. Here are 10 ways to do good with your camera.
A good photo can often be all the difference a cause needs, and with nonprofits and charities commonly running on shoestring budgets, they are often desperately in need of a photographer. Just to be clear: this is not the same as giving away your talent and services to those who can afford it. Rather, this list is about those deserving organizations and causes who can really use the help of a talented photographer.
1. Animal Shelters
Animal shelters are regularly overworked, understaffed, and underfunded. This means the adoptable animals are often only shown through a quick phone snap taken by the staff, showing them scared inside a cage or behind a fence. It has been shown that animals with nice images are adopted at higher rates, and it does not take much to make a vastly improved photo that shows just how wonderful a shelter dog or cat is. And what can be better than spending an afternoon taking photos of a bunch of cute dogs and cats to help them find their forever home?
Check out One Picture Saves a Life or give your local animal shelter a call for more.
2. Give a Child Cancer Patient a Portrait Session
The Gold Hope Project provides free portrait sessions to pediatric cancer patients. As they put it:
Many families with ill children are emotionally, physically and financially strapped; it is the heart of The Gold Hope Project to take at least one worry off their shoulders and gift them something magical — the smiles of their children frozen in time.
These portrait sessions are a fantastic way to give families a ray of light during a trying time. Find out more here.
3. Operation: Love Reunited
This charity helps connect the families of deployed or soon-to-be deployed military personnel with photographers. Photographers provide the families with a portrait session prior to or during deployment or upon homecoming. An album of prints gets sent to the deployed person as well. You can find out more here.
4. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
The loss of a newborn baby is an unspeakable tragedy for any parent. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep provides remembrance portraits of the few moments parents get to spend with their children, which are then retouched into black and white images, giving families an important memory. The organization needs both photographers and retouchers. You can learn more here.
A lot of organizations that mentor youths focus on building connections through commonly shared activities that the mentor is an expert in. Photography is a fantastic common experience and a wonderful way for children and teenagers to learn how to express themselves. And if you have an old, unused camera laying around, giving it to a child who can learn the joys of photography with it is a wonderful way to give it a second life. I recommend contacting local mentoring organizations and seeing what opportunities are available.
6. Help a Child Be Adopted
There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States alone, and on average, a child waits over three years before they find an adoptive family with whom to call home. Heart Gallery aims to bring awareness to the hundreds of thousands of children waiting to be adopted. Volunteer photographers take portraits of children within the foster care system to help them be placed with a permanent family. There are over 80 Heart Galleries across the country, so finding one near you is usually easy, and if there is not one, the organization encourages you to start your own. You can find out more about Heart Gallery here.
7. Create Portraits of a Child With a Life-Threatening Illness
The Tiny Sparrow Foundation uses a network of professional photographers to hold portrait sessions for children with life-threatening illnesses. Once you upload the images, the foundation creates an album that is then gifted to the family. You can find out more here.
8. Donate a Print
This can be a great way to make a difference if you do not have the time to donate your services but still want to use your skills to help a charity. Charities are always looking to raise funds, and a common way of doing this is by holding auctions of goods and services donated by local professionals. Photo prints tend to be quite popular in these auctions, as people are always looking for art to hang in their homes, and as such, they appeal to a wide audience. Try finding a favorite organization or two and asking if they could use a print for such a fundraiser.
People can't care about things they do not know exist, and photographers are some of the best people out there for documenting the existence of an issue or worthwhile cause in a meaningful and powerful way. If there is something you care about that is not getting enough attention, bring more awareness to it through your camera and a blog post, and recruit friends, family, and those who care about the cause to share the post far and wide to spread the word. No matter how general or specific the cause, you can bring meaningful attention to it with your photography skills.
10. Find a Cause or Charity You Care About and Get Involved
Most smaller charitable organizations run on very tight budgets and can't afford to pay for professional images, often resorting to simple cell phone photos taken by staff untrained as photographers. And yet, good images are crucial to their work. They often do not need much; just well-composed and lit shots taken by a knowledgeable photographer will normally be noticeably better and hugely appreciated by the organization. If you have a favorite cause or local charity, try reaching out to them and asking if they can use your skills.
Do you have any favorite charities you donate your photographic talents to? Share them in the comments!