Most of the time when you hear talk about photography you hear it called an art, or a craft, but I wonder why so few people ever see it for what it really is, “a gift.” The gift of a talent to see, and then to be able to capture that vision with a camera. There are those who use their gifts to give back something whenever and wherever they can, and there are those who just take what they are given as if it were owed to them.
I realize that many photographers have never given back simply because they have no idea of how to go about it, no matter how much they would like to. That could be because they just do not know very much about the business end of photography if they are not in it as a business. However, for the person who would like to use their photo gift to help others, they do have to learn about how it may be needed.
When it comes to a business, or charity, basically they both use photography about the same way, and that is to advertise their reason for being. A product is promoted just about the same as something that a group gives away, by getting that item in front of the public. Ever since photography began it has been pictures that do that the best. Since we are talking about “giving” here, we need to know a few things before we can even take that first gift shot, and the very first thing depends on you. What are your interests, besides photography? What all can you do that would help others?
Maybe it would be easier to just give a few personal examples of how I have used my “gifts.” My main interests in life have always been woodworking, (building things) crafts, (creating things) and travel. The first group that will come to most people’s minds would be Habitat for Humanity, and they also use pictures all the time of the houses they build & restore.
When I used to live in Calif. I supported a group that helped the poorest areas on the Indian reservations of the southwest. These kind of groups use images of all of the places that they deliver food, clothing, and medicines to. By going these delivery trips I got to do some nice traveling for myself and while there I’d also take shots of everything they did on a trip. If they delivered food I shoot the people receiving the food boxes. If it was a building/repair trip I’d also take along my tools and do some of that work when I was not shooting others doing the fix-up work.
There are MANY such groups all over the world that need help. I know of two that take donated photo and computer equipment. One is an Indian reservation school and one helps NY inner city kids learn about another way of life. Finding groups to help is easy. To find the best one that matches your interest just takes a bit of checking around. Your city phone book is a great place to start. Then call and ask what they do. If any of it matches your skills then all you need to do next is tell them what you can offer them and ask if they can use it. If nothing else maybe they can just use your photography. If they put out a newsletter they will need images for sure, and you get yourself published at the same time. (Just make sure you get a credit line. You want to make sure that other people know where the images came from. You don’t have to give everything away)
There are charity groups around that help out in just about any way you can think of besides handyman/women work, or just mowing an elder persons lawn. Maybe you would rather work around animals that you don’t have to answer to all the time. Is there a zoo in your hometown, or close by? I have worked with four major zoos across the country, and still do. I exchange my pictures for free and I get unlimited access to the zoo. I can shoot anytime I want to and can even arrange to set up special shots inside areas not open to the public. I get great images and the zoo gets free use of any of the images they want to use for ads, and postcard sales, etc. This one is a win-win for everyone, but the main objective is to give back without expecting anything in return. That’s what separates us from those other people we don’t want to be like, if you know what I mean.
A gift is not much good unless you can use it, and so much the better if you can use it for something that helps others!