This is one of my favorite topics: photographers doing good works by donating photography services to charities and other non-profit organizations. Donating your photography will help you develop business skills, give you access to people and places for portfolio development and allow you to meet the most amazing network of new friends. Here is Isaac Howard’s story…
Maria Piscopo: What non-profit or charity do you work with at this time?
Isaac Howard: I have worked with many different non-profits including local, regional, and international. Most recently I have been working with Hope in Haiti (HIH) and Global Training Network (GTN). Both organizations are faith-based groups that support education.
MP: How do the organizations you work with best use your photos for their cause to make a difference?
IH: Both HIH and GTN use the images on their websites, direct mailings, newsletters and point of contact. All usages are to help expand awareness to their purpose and to raise financial support. I found the hardest part of doing this type of photography is capturing the purpose of the team. You can and do take a lot of pretty pictures, always looking for that great shot. But you have to remember you are there for the purpose of the team and trying to show what their work is about, not yours. When I first started doing this type of work I used film. I was tasked with showing each person on the team doing their job. The end result was a set of 140 slides of the trip with a set given to each member. The goal was for them to take the images back to their church or civic group to show them in the community to increase project awareness and this aspect was very effective.
MP: How do you feel rewarded for your donation of photography?
IH: It is hard to describe the feeling you get when people explain to you how your images made them feel…happy or sad or both? Because it is great to know that you have had a small part in doing something good for others. In all of my travels this volunteer work has built up an amazing body of images I could promote for fine art or editorial projects but currently I try to keep the business of business and my charity work separate.
MP: What challenges and opportunities do you encounter?
IH: One of the first challenges that I encounter can be easily resolved with a little conversation…it is the issue of expectations. What are they looking for in the photography and what are they going to use it for? The groups I have worked with always try to be too nice and not express their opinions. But just like working for a paying client, there needs to be a good line of communication. Another challenge is travel. Most of the time I am very limited to what I can take. At times this includes my bedding, netting, extra food, clothes, and with the room I have left I pack my camera equipment. All of this has to be carried on the plane and then transported to the site. Then there is the issue of electricity, it is just not available everywhere we travel. It’s not like in the old days where a good OM-1 just needed one battery and you could get by without it. Finally, working in different cultures and languages is always a challenge, but I have found that with a smile and my camera I rarely have a problem. Also, I am often asked why I do these jobs and work with people in other countries, why not just stay in the US? There are two simple answers; first until you go, see, smell, and feel other worlds it is hard to understand the “why”. Second, I do this type of work in the US. Find a non-profit that you believe in and do the work out of a giving heart and not what you will get in return.