In the past year, we’ve seen the photography community come together in powerful ways, from raising money for COVID-19 relief to calling for more inclusive hiring practices. Time and again, we’ve seen photographers travel the world to document the stories of not-for-profit organizations, raise funds, and advocate for the voiceless. Photographers have the potential to make a difference, on a local scale and an international one. From volunteering your time to donating your gear, here are just five ways you can help your community right now. 

Image courtesy The Photo Start Foundation

Donate your gear. The Photo Start Foundation teaches photography to children in distressed areas, fostering creativity and empowering them to tell their stories. “We teach our students to create, produce, distribute and commercialize their work,” the team tells us. “When students graduate all levels, they can choose to become certified trainers to help teach others and expand the program.” You can donate funds ($10 supports a student for a week), volunteer your time, or donate your gear. They accept cameras, laptops, tablets, grips, accessories, and more. 

Bobbi’s adoption photoshoot by Emma O’Brien. Bobbi is available for adoption at CLAW (Community Led Animal Welfare).

Volunteer to take pet adoption photos. Photography can save lives–literally. According to one study, shelter dogs with great quality portraits were typically adopted after around 14 days, when compared with 43 days for dogs with a poor photo. Photos with eye contact, non-blurry images, and portraits taken outdoors also had a positive effect. 

In our digital world, shelter page profile photos are often the first thing soon-to-be pet parents see, so it’s important that they make an impression. Animals who have a harder time finding homes, like pit bull type dogs, black animals, and senior animals are usually in need of a little more exposure and attention. 

Emma O’Brien, a leading South African-based pet photographer, regularly volunteers her time to local shelters including the Sandton SPCA and CLAW (Community Led Animal Welfare). Most local shelters and rescues welcome volunteers with photography skills to promote their pets online and through their channels, so reach out to one in your area. You might end up finding your new best friend in the process.

Participate in the Front Steps Project. Since it launched in March of last year, #TheFrontStepsProject has collectively raised $3,350,000 for local nonprofits and organizations, ranging from hospitals to animal shelters to food pantries. The project is the brainchild of Kristen Collins and Cara Soulia in Massachusetts, but it quickly spread around the world. 

Here’s how it works: amid social distancing regulations, photographers offer portrait sessions to local families. Sessions last five minutes, and the family stays on their front porch or steps, with the photographer in the driveway or street, maintaining a distance of at least ten feet. In lieu of paying the photographer, the families then donate to a local organization or nonprofit.  Learn more via their website.

Universal Experience I by Catherine Hyland, courtesy Prints for Refugees

Donate prints. Launched by the London-based photographer Mark Sherratt, Prints for Refugees is a fundraising initiative that directly supports Doctors of the World. Since its beginnings, they’ve had some extraordinary photographers donate prints. They are currently only accepting artists from the UK, but if you’d like to donate your work, feel free to email [email protected]

Keep an eye out for print sale opportunities throughout the year. We sometimes share new sales via the Feature Shoot website and Instagram, and many of them accept donations. You can also start your own with a few colleagues to support a cause or charitable organization close to your heart. 

Join the Artist Support Pledge. Last year, the British painter Matthew Burrows started The Artist Support Pledge to help creatives sell their work amid canceled fairs and gallery closures, and it’s still going strong. The initiative is open to all artists, including photographers, who can simply post their work for sale and tag #artistsupportpledge on Instagram, with a maximum price for a single work set at $200. 

People from around the world can browse submissions made using the hashtag and message the artist directly to buy work. Every time they reach $1,000 in sales, participating artists then commit to spending $200 on work by fellow artists. The world-renowned photographer Karen Knorr is one of many to have taken part in the initiative thus far; you can read more about her experience in The New York Times

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