I recently posted an article to my Facebook page about photographers being asked to do free work and it got me thinking about my career and the free work I’ve done. Most photographers at some point or another end up doing work for free. The reasons vary from photographer to photographer, but the fact remains that we are constantly being asked to photograph things for free. Most photographers look down on this, especially when the client is clearly trying to manipulate the photographer into doing free work for their own personal gain. In some situations however, I’ve found that that is not the case.
A few years ago, I decided to team up with an organization known as the Taproot Foundation to work on a project as a volunteer photographer. If you’ve never heard of them before, they are an organization that connects nonprofits and social change organizations with passionate, skilled volunteers who share their expertise pro bono (pulled from their site). Taproot isn’t for everyone. A lot of people cringe at the idea of doing work for free. I’m definitely one of those people. Taproot however, made me rethink that in a lot of ways. I’ve learn over the course of my career that I love working with nonprofits. Most have and push really strong, important agendas that require major support. In learning this, I decided I should help whenever I could, if time and finances permitted.
Taproot teamed me up with a group of professionals to work on a project for the Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP). LAEP is a nonprofit who’s mission is to work as a collaborative partner in high-poverty communities to foster great schools that support the personal and academic success of children and youth from birth through high school. For me, their mission meant a lot and I jumped at the chance to be apart of the project. My team was assigned the task of helping LAEP produce a series of publications and images for the redesign of their website.
LAEP partners with elementary schools throughout LA to help foster school readiness in children ages 0 to 5 and their families. They do this by teaching parents that they should be their child’s first teacher. This helps to promote a healthy development of young children and builds parents’ capacity to prepare their children for success in school. The images below show LAEP trained teachers working with parents and their kids.
I would never recommend to any photographer to “work for free”. However, if time and finances permit, I would recommend looking into an organization like Taproot and volunteering to help a local nonprofit that may be in need of your services. In my opinion, it’s well worth it and could really make a difference for those the nonprofits support. It could also be a great way of giving back to the community.