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May 26th, 2015

Top Five Nonprofit Photography Tips

Posted by liveBooks

Manuela Marin Salcedo is a research and development team member and content developer at Momenta Workshops. Her expertise is in visual communications and social media. In addition to her work for Momenta, Manuela is working on long-term, independent multimedia projects. Her work has been featured at LookBetween 2014, Fototazo, and Light Work. She was also chosen to participate in the 2014 New York Times Portfolio Review. 

Working with nonprofits provides the opportunity to produce important imagery that can spark global dialogue. The experience can be both rewarding and fulfilling for visual creators. However, many photographers fail to price appropriately (or even at all) for their services.

I have worked with the team at Momenta Workshops to put together a basic list of top tips to consider when beginning your exploration of the nonprofit photography marketplace.


The James House Organization provides community-based child and youth care development programs in Hout Bay, South Africa. Photo © Lukas Spieker/Momenta Workshops 2015.

1. Know if a nonprofit can afford you

Nonprofits who value good imagery will understand strong visuals have an immediate impact on their donors. Before meeting with a client, you’ll need to do your research and see if the group has the budget to afford you. Chances are if they have a staff of more than 10 people, a nice office, and big donations coming from corporations… they can afford you. So negotiate reasonably, and find a way to make their budget work for their needs.

2. Understand their visual needs

Congratulations! They’ve hired you. Now, you’ll want to be clear on their visual needs and desires before you go out on the shoot. What kinds of issues is this nonprofit grappling with? What images do they tend to use most often? Do they want single image or a photo story? These are all questions you’ll need answers to before you begin photographing.

3. Be clear about your deliverables

Before going into the field, you will also want to be clear about what they can expect from you in terms of deliverables. For example, there is no need to provide them with the RAW images, especially if they do not have the software to process them. So, be upfront if you’re only handing over jpegs. Additionally, be clear about how long they are allowed to use the imagery, and get it in writing. Then, set a reminder on your calendar on the day their use expires. This way, you can reach out to see if they’d like to renew their contract or even hire you to produce new imagery.

4. Be honest with your imagery

Though you are taking what may be considered promotional imagery for marketing purposes, remember nonprofits deal with issues rooted in reality, and their audience will appreciate the real moments you document. For example, anybody that has photographed a group of schoolchildren before knows that things are not fine and dandy at all times. Smiles can turn into frowns in an instant. But explain to the client that these situations provide the opportunity for a volunteer to hug or comfort the upset child, and you’ll want to capture that gesture.

5. Don’t forget to follow up

Follow through is key to making lasting clients. Ask the client what they liked and what they didn’t like from your shoot. Take criticism constructively, and work on that during the next shoot. Follow up with them in 1-2 months to see how the images are working for them and ask if they need more work done during the coming months, the holidays, special events, etc. Keeping in touch with clients will help put yourself above the rest of the pack and keep you valuable to them for their imagery needs!

If you’re interested in going into more detail about these topics, Momenta offers 10% off to all liveBooks members for our workshops, including the one-day The Business of Nonprofit Photography seminars as well as our longer Working with Nonprofits series with Leica Camera. Simply use the discount code LIVEBOOKS. You can learn more about our nonprofit business skills workshops here.


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