Archivi categoria: goodcause

I Never Shoot Photos for Free, But This is Why I Did

One of the often recurring discussions among professional photographers is whether or not we should ever work for free. I’ve been known to rail against those who do and against clients who request free pictures… so why did I recently waive my own rule?

A little background first: I describe myself as a corporate communications photographer working for businesses and organisations needing creative, high quality images for websites, brochures, press releases and so on.

However, between corporate assignments I will often seek out personal projects which interest me. These allow me to stretch myself creatively (I prefer not to experiment on paying clients) as well as try out new techniques (ditto).

Just before Christmas I was thinking about what my next personal project should be. In the back of my mind I was thinking I’d love to do something with a purpose beyond just trying out stuff or photographing random things. I wanted it to have some kind of purpose — perhaps an outcome which could help someone else or tell an important story.

Then I spotted a plea for help on Twitter from a local youth drop-in center which is at threat of closure due to funding running out in March this year. Something about that tweet made me pause and think that this could be the perfect project.

I got in touch with the center manager and suggested I could take portraits of the young people who benefit from the service and we arranged a meeting the following day.

What interested me was that this center, called Routes, is set up as a youth cafe where people, generally under 25, can go for help with issues ranging from homelessness to unemployment, mental issues, sexual health and drug abuse. The service is free, non-judgemental and is attractive to anyone who fears authority won’t give them the support they need.

With the center manager, Sarah, I developed the idea of using the portraits with case studies to support grant fund applications, press releases, social media and so on. Then Sarah suggested an exhibition, which really interested me as I’d never had my work exhibited before.

With time running out for the center’s funding, we had to work fast, so early in January I set to work shooting the portraits. Within 5 weeks a set of 20 portraits was shot, edited, captioned, printed, framed and hung on the walls of a busy local cafe which often hosts art and photography exhibitions.

I put in a lot of work and donated a valuable licence to use the images, all for free, much against my natural inclination, but there are some crucial differences here.

For a start Routes didn’t approach me and ask that I work to their brief, their deadline and hand over rights well beyond what might be reasonable. It was my idea to approach them, I had full creative control, could pretty much dictate how and when I would shoot and the licence to use the images is restricted to Routes’ own use alongside the case studies.

I have to admit, the project ballooned well beyond what I’d initially imagined. The editing took longer than I’d expected, I’ve written press releases, taken a press release photo, done a lot of social media work, dealt with the printers, framers, graphic designer, cafe owner and spent much of last Sunday hanging the pictures in the cafe.

However, at no time have I felt exploited nor have I regretted any of this effort. It was fantastically inspiring to work with the young people, it’s been invigorating to work on a project which was entirely within my control and to have it result in images which potentially could save a valuable local service.

It’s still possible the service will have to close, but Sarah is working tirelessly to find other ways of winning the funding needed and the photos will bring the personal stories to those who control the purse strings as well as to a much wider audience, so fingers crossed they’ll do the trick.

What I’ve gained from all this, quite apart from the joy of working with the young people who posed for me and finding out just what’s involved in mounting even a small, local exhibition, is the opportunity to raise my profile in the area and even internationally.

The questions is, would I “work for free” again? As long as I got to control the creative aspects, timing, and perhaps the most critical aspect, image usage, if it’s a worthwhile project I would certainly think about it.

The problem for most clients asking for cheap or free work is they still want all the control and they want image rights beyond what’s reasonable. To me, those are clients like any other and while I’ll happily work with them, it’ll be on standard terms and at my rates.


Click here to see the series and read the stories behind the Faces of Routes.


About the author: Tim Gander is a freelance corporate communications photographer based in Frome, Somerset. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can see more of his work on his website or find him on Instagram or Facebook.

Aerial Photos of Wildfire Victims Lying in Their Burned Down Homes

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In November 2016, wildfires broke out near Great Smoky Mountains National Park and devastated the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, claiming 14 lives and over 2,000 homes and businesses. Nashville-based photographer Jeremy Cowart recently decided to use his camera to help bring healing and awareness to the area’s victims.

For his project Voices of Gatlinburg, Cowart and his crew spent a week shooting aerial drone portraits of affected families lying on a white mattress amidst the dark rubble of their burned-down homes.

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If you’d like to help out the victims in these portraits with a financial donation, you can find a list of addresses and crowdfunding links on this page. You can also read the individual stories on the Voices of Gatlinburg website.


Image credits: Photographs by Jeremy Cowart and used with permission

What Do You Do when Someone Steals Your Photo for ‘A Good Cause’?

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In about one week, we will mark the anniversary of the most traumatic and violent piece of French history in the last decades. On the 13th of November, 2015, several coordinated terrorist attacks took place in Paris, less than a year after the attacks against the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Today, Paris still feels different. Much like the 9/11 attacks did in the US, these have left Paris with an air of danger, and the attacks are clearly in the heads of every Parisian.

On that day, news of the attacks spread very quickly, and soon, artists and other celebrities began to express themselves on the topic. One of the first was David Beckham, who posted his message alongside this picture on Instagram and Facebook:


A Look at One Woman’s Mission to #GivePhotos to the Impoverished

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Given the utter ubiquity of photography in the USA, most Americans probably don’t view photography as special. But in impoverished areas around the world, personal photos can be rare. On visits to her birthplace of Kolkata, India, Bipasha Shom frequently took portraits of people she met, and she was struck by how many people lacked access to a camera and had no family photos of her own.

Shom hatched an idea to use instant film to bring photography to these people, and she successfully pitched Fujifilm out of the blue. With donated Instax Wide cameras and film in hand, she recently traveled with her husband Chris Manley (Director of Photography for AMC’s Mad Men) and friend/photographer Julie Black Nicholas to Kolkata and began delivering the gift of photography while sharing the photos through Instagram @givephotos.

Although she enjoys taking photos, Shom is not a professional photographer. Yet, her love for photography and her realization of its cultural and personal value led her to pursue this passion project. It’s a good reminder that the value of photography isn’t derived by the pedigree of the photographer. We all own photography. And to the individual who preciously tucks the instant photo into a wallet – grabbing a fleeting glance until the photo is faded and wrinkled – the value is immeasurable.

I interviewed Shom via email.

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What is your connection to Kolkata? How often do you go to India?

My parents left Kolkata when I was two years old to settle in the United States. We were the only ones from our family living in the U.S. so we would travel back to India every four years or so to visit relatives. I grew up speaking Bengali at home.

A photo posted by GivePhotos (@givephotos) on

What prompted you to tackle the project now?

My brother was getting married in Kolkata and my children had quite a bit of time off for winter vacation. Also, my husband had a break from his hectic work schedule and could help document the project. A good friend of mine and talented photographer, Julie Black, agreed to accompany us. I had just quit a very stressful job producing a live news radio show. But, it was on that show that we interviewed the director of the film “Siddharth” about a man who was trying to track down his missing son without having any photos of the boy. The idea of giving photos to people was brewing inside me for quite some time and I realized that this would be the perfect opportunity to do it.

A photo posted by GivePhotos (@givephotos) on

A photo posted by GivePhotos (@givephotos) on


What was involved with pitching Fujifilm on the project?

I googled and found an email for an executive at Fujifilm and wrote to him about the project. He forwarded the idea to their marketing department who then contacted me asking for more details. I wrote out a proposal fully explaining the idea and how we would execute it. All our communications were through email and they agreed to give me 1,000 prints and 4 cameras. There were very few stipulations although I did need to sign a contract which asked me to credit Fujifilm for their donation when discussing the project. Fujifilm has been completely hands off about the project – we have had complete editorial control. We discussed editing together a video piece about the project which they may promote via their social media.

A photo posted by GivePhotos (@givephotos) on

How would you suggest photographers pitch companies for sponsorship to optimize their success?

I think it ultimately comes down to having a good fit between your idea and the company’s goals. We didn’t have any personal contacts at Fujifilm and only approached them through email. My husband did however, have a friend who had personal contacts at Samsung. We had always wanted to document the project on video and so we also sent the proposal to Samsung and they donated 2 of their NX1 4k bodies and lenses.

A photo posted by GivePhotos (@givephotos) on

What has been the most challenging aspect of the project? Have you encountered any unanticipated events or situations, good or bad?

There was one place we visited where people were living on the streets and no one wanted their picture taken. We realized that it was an area that was heavily trafficked by tourists and that many people living there were completely jaded by people who came and took their photos without giving anything in return. They were very suspicious of us. Most people we met however, were thrilled to get a picture. We didn’t initially tell people that they were getting a picture. We just asked if we could take the photo and 9 times out of 10 people agreed.

We would ask people if they had photos of themselves and sometimes people who we thought didn’t have photos would say yes. When we probed further we found that they were referring to their voter ID card photos which are standard 1″ by 1″ photos taken against a blue backdrop. One person said she had a photo album and we asked to see it. She brought out a flimsy 5″ x 7″ plastic book with sleeves that held about 15 pictures. This was her family’s entire photographic collection.

A photo posted by GivePhotos (@givephotos) on

We started out taking medium closeup size portraits of people but quickly realized that they would rather have wide shots or shots which included their surroundings or personal items. People also wanted group pictures – photos where they were standing next to their children, or siblings or friends.

When we first arrived at a place and started giving pictures there would be very few people. By the time we left there would be a huge crowd with people clamoring to have their photo taken. Usually the children were the most persistent asking for more than one picture. Sometimes mothers would run home and get their children dressed up in their best clothes and bring them out again to have them photographed.

The challenge now is in sharing the project. We’re gradually finding followers on Instagram who are interested in seeing the pictures. Managing the social media was the most difficult aspect of the project. We were hoping to update the Instagram in real time or at least day by day but we couldn’t get a wifi signal in some of places we visited. We spent about a week trying to set up a mobile hot spot to get access to the web. It was very frustrating.

Have you thought about the sustainability of the project? Or using it as a template for other poor areas of the world that might benefit from a similar project?

Yes! We would love to continue the project and travel to other countries. We realize that giving a photo is not like building a school or a hospital or feeding the hungry. But, I think a photo is something that feeds the soul. So many people we gave photos to said that they would have them framed and put on their wall. It’s hard to know how these images will impact people’s lives but I think we’ve brought some small amount of happiness.

A photo posted by GivePhotos (@givephotos) on

How are you measuring the success of the project?

Personally I think about the sheer joy on the faces of the people we’ve given images to and I feel a real sense of satisfaction. I think ultimately we’d like to see if we can continue the project in other countries with some funding. It would be great to partner with another non-profit or to have Fujifilm help us continue. We were able to get some press coverage in India where people have had a great response to the project. We did an interview with CNN India where they followed us with their cameraman as we gave away photos. I think it would be a great success if we could inspire other travelers to share their photographs whether it’s with an instant camera or a photo printer. The beauty of giving a photo is that it breaks the ice and suddenly you can engage with someone and learn something about their lives.


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

When I Grow Up: Cinematic Portraits of Fifth Graders in Their Future Careers

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After publishing a viral series of cinematic portraits of first responders in 2013, photographer Brandon Cawood is back again with another creative portrait project for a good cause.

For “When I Grow Up,” Cawood created cinematic portraits of 5th grade students acting out their future careers.

The project started with a simple class project that asked the students to research the careers of their choice. For extra credit, they could interview a local professional in the same career. A couple of the students wanted to become professional photographers, so they approached Cawood for an interview. Cawood was then asked to speak to the class, the students requested portraits, and that’s how the project was born.

Cawood spent 4 days working with the youth on the shoot, dressing them up and capturing portraits against a white background in the school auditorium. He then spent the summer shooting other images to use for each background.

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Here are the portraits that resulted:

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Here’s a behind-the-scenes video about the project:

The photos are being published as an 18-month calendar spanning January 2016 through June 2017. They cost $14 each, and all the money raised from the calendars will go toward the charity City of Refuge for tutoring programs and funds to further the education of impoverished youth. You can find out more about the “When I Grow Up” project on its website.

(via When I Grow Up via 500px ISO)


Image credits: Photographs by Brandon Cawood/When I Grow Up and used with permission