Using Photography for Good: How to Volunteer with Photography

Everyone in this world has a talent. Granted our talents differ from person to person, nonetheless, we each have a gift. Some people are lucky enough to earn a living from their talent; doing exactly what they love. For others, they simply embrace their talent as a hobby. No matter how you use your gift, I believe there’s always a way to give back to your community with the special talents you’re given. There are many ways our gifts can be used to uplift our communities and the people in them. For those of you who have the gift of photography, here are eight ways to get you started on the path of giving back.


1.     Animal shelters.

Many animals need loving forever homes, and nothing makes a potential family fall in love with an animal like a cute, professional portrait. Shelters are often overwhelmed with animal intake. Employees and volunteers spend their days providing well needed care to the animals. Most often, they cannot stop to take  high-quality photos for every animal they come across. Additionally, not every shelter already have staff or volunteers with the skills needed to take these photographs. Now, that’s where you come in. Volunteer to take portraits of the animals for a few hours and give the shelter your high-quality photos to use on the animal’s profile. This will help get those pets adopted.

Consider bringing along a friend or two to be “animal wranglers” to help speed up the process by bringing you a steady stream of animals to photograph. Cute toys, bows, or bandanas can also help the pet look more welcoming and ready to take home. To start volunteering, contact your local shelters to see if they would like help taking professional, adorable photos to get more animals adopted!

Cute, professional photos can help animals get adopted faster.

Cute, professional photos can help animals get adopted faster.

1.     Discounted Sessions

Some photographers choose to give back by offering discounted sessions to different groups of people. This can include teachers, first responders, or the military, for example. They enrich our lives daily through their service,  so why not offer a little token of appreciation back to them? The discount doesn’t have to break the bank – ten percent off is a kind gift to those who serve us and our communities. Of course, you can set the discount at any rate you choose – some photographers do a dollar amount off or offer extra time in their session instead. Select groups of people who go above and beyond for us or those you know might not be able to afford a professional session otherwise but could do with it; like single parents for example.

2.     Schools

Small schools often do not have the budget to hire a photographer for school picture day – think preschools or schools with a few hundred kids or less. If you have a portable studio setup and a child in the school, you could volunteer to take the photos for free and deliver them as softcopies only. Additionally, you can decide to sell them as prints depending on the school and situation. Be careful though – this is a huge project even for small schools. Make sure you know your equipment and can take consistent, studio-quality photos of small, squirmy kids and then deliver them all afterwards. If you’re up for the challenge, I know the other parents would really appreciate having the opportunity to have professional quality photos of their little ones! Make sure to work it all out with the school ahead of time so they can advertise picture day and allow parents to opt-out if they wish.

3.     Charity Raffle Prizes

A professional portrait session can make a fantastic prize for a silent auction or raffle prize for charity. It should be pretty easy to find one going on for a cause you care about in your area. For example, the Humane Society in my town is hosting a silent auction and the proceeds go to the animal shelter. I am donating one portrait session as an item to be bid upon. This is not only a great way to give back to a cause you care about, but it’s also wonderful exposure for your photography business! You can have a little setup at the auction tables with sample portraits and your business cards, so that even the people who don’t win can become potential clients. It’s a win-win!

4.     Local Events

Local events happening in your community often won’t have professional photographers unless you volunteer to help. For example, you could volunteer to capture photos for a charity 5k run, local talent show or any other local event. These are great opportunities to give back because you often know the event is happening way in advance, and you can gain some exposure for your own business while helping local organizations. Don’t forget to bring your business cards!

Local events looking for social media photos or coverage can really appreciate your talents.

Local events looking for social media photos or coverage can really appreciate your talents.

5.     Stillborn photos

This volunteer opportunity is probably the most emotionally difficult one on the list, but it’s still greatly needed. There are several organizations that have professional photographers come in and take photos of a stillborn baby so that the parents can have high-quality photos to remember their child forever. One of the organizations is NILMDTS; there are several other organizations you can volunteer with based on where you live. You can also find out from the local hospital whether they know of any organizations if you struggle to find one in your area.

6.   A Blessing for Someone

Let’s face it – professional photography is a luxury service. I strongly believe that it shouldn’t have to be – everyone deserves high quality photos of themselves and their loved ones to honor their memories forever. However, understandably equipment are highly priced, and photographers need to earn a living. If you know of someone who would love a family portrait session, for example, but likely doesn’t have the budget for it, you can gift them the session as a blessing for them. Remember to treat your gifted sessions just the same as your paying clients, with the added bonus of feeling extra good about it.

7.     Startups or Non-profit portraits

Grassroots or non-profit organizations often need professional portraits for their sites, but they don’t have the budget for it. Similarly to the school volunteering, this is a fantastic way to help out an organization in need while also making business contacts. Choose an organization whose cause you feel passionately about and this won’t even feel like work.


This list is only a starting point for all the good you can do by volunteering with photography. If you are already giving back using your talent, please let us know how so that we can build on this list. I truly believe that you can use your talents for any subject you are passionate about. I know you can find a way to give back with your gift of photography!