Free or Inexpensive Photography for a non-profit
March 25, 2013 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I am helping out with a young and growing non-profit and they need professional photography to update some of the picture content their new website. What is the best to find a good photographer who would be willing to donate their time for a good cause? Is it reasonable to try to find a way to get this work for free? If not, what should we be willing to spend?

Our sense is that the photographer would need to spend half a day or so with with program, taking pictures of tutoring, coaching and basketball playing. The program is based in Brooklyn, NY.
posted by beisny to Education (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could also contact local colleges with photography programs to see if any of their students would be willing to help out with it as part of building their portfolio or as a service project.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:05 AM on March 25, 2013

It's definitely reasonable to try to get it for free.

I would post an ad on VolunteerMatch, Idealist, and Craigslist looking for a volunteer. If there is a newsletter or Facebook/Twitter for the nonprofit, publicize it that way too. If none of those options work, try contacting some of the people who advertise on Craigslist as 'amateur' photographers. They could be interested in getting the experience to put in their portfolio (and offer to serve as a good reference for other customers).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:11 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, you can try to get it for free. But be aware that unless you have a connection to a professional photographer, you kinda get what you pay for. Some amateurs are very good, others aren't.

I shoot small gigs from the amateurish side (I have photojournalism credits and have done some headshots, etc.). I charge about $20 an hour including post-process (plus film costs, but that's not really an issue here). Given half a day, about $100 would be a fair price for someone on my level; you can easily pay more.

If you do have a connection to a photographer, you might be able to finagle them into an "in kind donation," which are helpful for independent businesspeople for their taxes. When the non-profit I work at gets in-kind professional donations, we err on the side of just a little above prevailing market rate. Which means that in LA, we'd probably write off the services at about $50 an hour.

(I totally get the tension between skint c3 budgets and trying to pay people for the professional skills they offer — try to pay something if you value the service.)

One last thing to remember: Get signed releases and a contract with your photographer governing usage rights. You just want first publication, non-exclusive, perpetual non-commercial reproduction rights. But it's been my experience that unless you know your photog well, doing stuff without contracts bites you in the ass too often to be worth it.
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you looked at the Taproot Foundation?
posted by theuninvitedguest at 11:18 AM on March 25, 2013

Perhaps someone has a DSLR and would be willing to contribute some time.

... and maybe they'll need some accounting done so they should check to see if anyone owns a calculator.

Okay, but seriously, professional photographers are expensive. On the other hand, asking anyone to work "for the exposure" or "a little something to put in your portfolio" is insulting. There was a great post on the blue recently about a new site that lets customers try to hire photographers based on what the customer is willing to pay. Since you and / or the non-profit are not in San Francisco, well, I don't know if similar service exists in your area.

Get together a budget, post on Craigslist, see what shots you can get for that amount. Please avoid using any language that makes it sound like the photographer should be delighted to do work for free because of [reason that only truly benefits you and not them].
posted by komara at 12:54 PM on March 25, 2013

It's a small nonprofit. There is nothing insulting about asking someone to help make the world a better place. It isn't working for nothing, it's working for good karma and a good cause. Any nonprofit that believes in its mission enough to ask people for donations should be able to ask people for volunteered time or in kind goods. It is a well established practice in the world of do gooders.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:50 PM on March 25, 2013

Recently in the blue.

For another perspective: Photographers are not non-profit organizations. They are professionals. Please treat them that way. Your organization may be a charity, but the website itself is not. Photographers cost $80-$125/hr. The principals of the non-profit should chip in some money out of their own pockets and pay for a photographer. That builds good karma with local professionals you may need in the future.
posted by deanc at 4:51 PM on March 25, 2013

you can contact your nearest art school and put up an ad there. a photo major will want the work for their portfolio. do ask to see their portfolio ahead of time to make sure they are talented.
posted by wildflower at 7:01 PM on March 25, 2013

We get almost all our photography donated by volunteers, amateur and professional. The very good amateurs can be really good - they may not be professionals because a professional photographer has additional skills (freelancing, business, client handling, etc) beyond the technical. For a half-day job with a professional, they will get everything done promptly, give you the CD, have the contracts etc - so much easier to work with. A talented amateur - ask to see their portfolio, and give them a day or two half-days and expect to have fewer usable shots at the end and to need more staff handling - can be great too.

If the org has a mailing list, send out an email to their current donor base saying what they need with as much detail as possible and ask for volunteers. You can gently turn people down by saying "Great photographs, we're so glad you offered but we already have a photographer who has volunteered" if their skills aren't what you're looking for.

One of our best volunteers does baby photography for a living. She was really good at getting family shots, and doing an on-site volunteer job with very different people from her usual clients was rewarding for her. They could try contacting several local portrait studios if their donor network doesn't have volunteers.

They don't need to offer exposure/portfolio etc - this is a straight up donation of in-kind skills and you have a flexible schedule. I would pay for something event photography which requires special skills and can't be re-shot, but photographers tend to be in my experience generous with time and skills for a cause they believe in, so their donor base should have someone willing to give.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:06 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone. I actually seem to have found on a great fashion photographer who is willing to do this kind of work for free. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will turn out well.
posted by beisny at 9:16 AM on March 27, 2013

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