How to Give Back Through Photography

7 Ways to Do Good With Your Photography Skills

Photography is a hugely impactful medium. People can connect to pictures instantly, so it’s an effective way of expressing yourself and sharing stories. Photography also has the potential to aid good causes. A single picture can make a great impact by raising awareness for charitable work, engaging people with important topics, or raising money. Whether you are a keen amateur or seasoned pro, there are ways you can give back through photography, either in your own community or abroad. This is an opportunity to not only practice and hone your talents but gain a sense of purpose through your art. Below are seven ways to give back through photography.
– By Liana Garcia 

1. SUPPORT A LOCAL CHARITY BY DOCUMENTING THEIR WORK

All charities rely on strong communication channels to their donor base, and images are an essential part of this. No charity can tell its story well without having strong visual media. As a photographer, you can make a real impact. Look for charities in your community that are doing important work, but that don’t have the necessary funds to hire professional photographers. Volunteering your time by documenting their work is a great way to help advance their cause. The charity will be able to use your pictures for social media, fundraising campaigns, and any other ways of raising awareness for their mission. It’s a great way to give back in a creative way to your own community.

2. CREATE YOUR OWN PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT ON A CAUSE YOU FEEL PASSIONATE ABOUT

Instead of aligning yourself with a specific charity, you could create a photography project for a general cause you feel passionate about. It could be anything; environmental issues, mental illness, animal welfare, education, or anything else that speaks to you. The main thing is that you pick a cause you feel genuinely passionate about, as that’s likely to keep you motivated and get the best results.

You could start off by doing some research to get a good understanding of the cause, the charities that work in the space, and the type of stories that need to be shared. Take your time to come up with a strong approach, and don’t rush with the actual shooting either. Once you have enough pictures that tell the right story, find the right platform to share them on. To ensure that your photography project will have tangible results, you could direct people to charities working to address the issue you’re highlighting, and encourage donations.

3. TEACH FREE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS TO PEOPLE WHO CAN’T AFFORD IT

Not everyone has the same opportunities. Some people might not be in the position to explore creative skills like photography, even though they might have interest and talent. So offering free photography workshops to people who can’t afford it is a great way of allowing others to enjoy the art form, and explore their skills.

There’s a variety of ways to approach this. You might choose to teach independently, and organise lessons yourself, or join an existing. You might focus on kids on or adults. Depending on who you’re teaching, you might want to design classes that are partly theoretical, and partly practical, with photo walks, portrait sessions, and other outings that might inspire some great work.

Teaching isn’t an easy task, but it can be a hugely rewarding experience. Each person you’ll teach will have a different motivation; some might just be looking for a creative outlet, and others might actually be interested in a career in photography. Either way, given free lessons is an opportunity to share your passion with keen students, and allow people to experience the magic of photography.

4. DONATE AN OLD CAMERA TO A GOOD CAUSE

As a keen photographer, you’re likely to have some old equipment lying around that you don’t use anymore. As techniques evolve and your skills develop, new equipment changes are sometimes necessary. (And fun!) But that old gear might still have some potential use; what is a useless camera to you could signify a great opportunity for someone else.

If you’re keen to put your old camera to good use, find a charity with a need for it. This might be a charity that just needs a good camera to document its projects, or it could be a photography-related charity. Some nonprofits, like Penda Trust, teach photography to kids in developing countries, and are in need of cameras for their workshops. You can be a part of these causes – and help spread your love of photography – simply by giving them your old camera.

5. DONATE PART OF YOUR PROFITS TO CHARITY

If you are a professional photographer and you have a comfortable income through your work, you could commit to donating to a charity of your choice on a regular basis. You might decide on a set monthly amount or donate a specific portion of your profits. Or, if you’d like to engage your audience in your philanthropy as well, you could sell specific prints for charity. Your clients will know (and appreciate) that if they buy that print from you, the profits will be used to do good. Plus, communicating this will also help raise awareness for the cause you’re supporting, and it might incite others to donate, too.

When choosing the charity to support, make sure it’s the right one for you. You might want to go with a cause you feel specifically passionate about, or you could keep it photography-related and donate to a photography charity. If you’re not sure which organisation to support, and simply want to do the most possible good with your donation, you can consult GiveWell to find the most effective charities.

6. VOLUNTEER AS A PHOTOGRAPHER IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Apart from volunteering your time as a photographer in your own community, you could consider joining a photography volunteer project abroad. You can make yourself particularly useful if you volunteer your time in developing countries; somewhere where the need for social development work is huge, but the resources scarce.

You could, for instance, join our Impact Photography Program in Cape Town, South Africa. As a photography volunteer on this program, you can develop and share an important narrative by documenting the work of small grassroots charities. These are charities without the right platform to raise awareness for their cause, and as a photographer, you can help bring it to light.

Working as a volunteer photographer abroad will not only give you the chance to photograph nonprofit projects, it’s also an opportunity to learn about foreign cultures and communities and the issues they face on a daily basis.

7. BECOME A PROFESSIONAL NONPROFIT PHOTOGRAPHER

You could take it one step further and considering becoming a professional nonprofit or humanitarian photographer. This might not be an easy journey; there’s a small market for paid work in the nonprofit sector. But if you’re good and committed, you might have found the most rewarding profession imaginable.

A good step would be to explore the field during an internship. This will give you a good understanding of how to approach humanitarian photography, a chance to develop your skills, and an opportunity to explore the potential of doing this for a living. An example is our nonprofit photography internship in Cape Town, South Africa, where you are guided by professional humanitarian photographer Anna Lusty.

Working as a nonprofit photographer is a great way to evolve in your crafts, by inspired by your work, turning your passion and solidarity into a profession.

GO AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS!

If you love photography, you are likely to feel a desire to use your photography skills to make a difference. A single photo can form a person’s opinion, evoke emotion, and make people come together. Using photography in a do-good way has the potential to impact others – and it can impact you as well. You get to see your craft come to life, educate yourself on many causes and experiences, and grow as a person. If you want to do something, and have the ability, then do it. Donate. Volunteer. Teach. Help change the world with the power of photography.

WAYS TO GIVE BACK THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY ABROAD

If you’re keen to venture abroad for a photography volunteer experience, here are some opportunities you might be interested in:

  • Impact Photography Program – Join the program and explore Cape Town. Learn about the importance of photography in nonprofits, document the work of grassroots charities, and get tutored by a professional.
  • Nonprofit Photography Internship – Become a photography intern and document the work of many charities in and around Cape Town. You’ll developing your skills, build a portfolio, and give back to important causes.
  • Wildlife Photography & Conservation Volunteer Project – Contribute to wildlife conservation in the Greater Kruger National Park. Photograph African wildlife and donate images to wildlife conservation organisations.

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