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Give to Receive – 5 ways to use your talents to help others

Last month, Christina Dickerson did a list of 5 ways to use photography to reach your community. I didn’t even realise it until I was finishing my own list of 5 ways! So in addition, I submit to you 5 more ways  you can use your talents to give back to your community.

1.) Most obviously – you can take photos for friends and family which they will cherish and burn them a CD, no strings attached. If you’re a professional, or even a prosumer, you’ll know by now that at every party, for every wedding or occasion, you’ll be asked if you’ll be bringing your camera. Which is code for “we didn’t hire a wedding photographer because we thought you could take a few pix.” I try to keep my professional and personal life separate. When I first started in photography, I was at every event with my camera, emailing photos to my friends before the day was out and I think I had a hand in creating the expectation. When my life became more and more defined by my status as ‘the photographer’, I had to make a conscious effort to not bring my camera to every party or event. “What, no camera?” “No, I’m not working tonight” *wink wink* This has given me the opportunity to give friends the gift of my photography at times when I feel inspired to do so, not because it is expected.

2.) Offer to take photos where you see the need. Walking around London, I see it all the time – couples trying to cram their face together and stretch their arm to take a photo of themselves with Big Ben in the background or a family of five minus Dad who is taking the photo. I wouldn’t hand my camera over to just anyone, but I often just breeze by and ask if they want me to take their photo. I don’t act pompous and announce, “I’m a photographer, let a real professional handle this” but sometimes if it seems right or they hesitate, I’d just say, “I’m a photographer” and once in a blue moon, I’ll even give them a quick tip. “See this setting with the head? That’s great for taking pictures of people”. Something like that. Why let a family have a photo without Dad if you could take five seconds and snap it for them?
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3.) This next one is hard to talk about but really should be mentioned. Infant bereavement photography has been such a gift to many grieving parents the world over. One such group where you can volunteer your services is called Now I Lay me Down to Sleep and they get called into hospitals at a moment’s notice to help a family who is experiencing the loss of a newborn baby. The hospitals take photographs, but they can be horrific. NILMDTS strives to take tender, loving images which sometimes even includes retouching to give parents beautiful momentos of their baby with no signs of trauma or illness. Please visit NILMDTS’s testimonials page to see how this type of volunteering has changed lives.Click here to see photos taken by NILMDTS for my friend when her baby boy, Chase, passed away.

4. ) Teach someone. Teaching someone else about photography is so rewarding. Find a local home education group and offer to do a little workshop to teach the kids about photography or go into a school. If you have the resources or know how to write really convincing letters, you can get funds and donations for a cluster of cameras that can be used. Give the kids a camera and lend it for a weekend. It could be a simple as unlocking an interest or potential they never knew was there. Children aren’t often allowed to even handle a camera, much less take pictures of their very own.

help_portrait_logo5.) Help Portrait – is a worldwide movement all about gifting less-fortunate people with professional photography. How? 1. Find someone in need. 2. Take their portrait. 3. Print their portrait 4. Deliver their portrait to them. Simple as that. It’s not about advertising, not about notoriety. Just about using your talents to give people something they may have never had in their entire lives – a portrait. Even though this was pushed to take place on 12.12.09, many photographers have been doing it year-round and will continue to do so. I think they’re making it an annual event.

So as the Help-Portrait site says: Get off the couch, put down your laptop, pick up your camera and help change the world. What will you do today?

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Elizabeth Halford

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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