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Why Hire a Professional Photographer for Your Nonprofit Marketing? (Part 2)

by: Allison Sanka on

Please join me in welcoming our guest author, Naomi Liz for the second of our two-part series on photography for nonprofit fundraising and planned giving marketing campaigns. Naomi is a writer and photographer whose work focuses on nonprofit, humanitarian, travel, and nature projects. Passionate about helping non-profits communicate stories of hope and transformation through genuine, compelling photographs, we couldn't imagine a better person than Naomi to give advice about how to choose a photographer for your nonprofit organization's marketing campaigns and materials. We hope you enjoy this guest post on photography for planned giving marketing direct mail, marketing campaigns and donor stories.


Photograph by Roman Boed, va Flickr

Hiring a Professional Photographer for Your Nonprofit Marketing

In the last article, I shared about the importance of using compelling photographs for nonprofit fundraising, what elements make a great photograph, and how to get great photos for your nonprofit. For those of you who are considering outsourcing this task, today I want to dive a little deeper with some tips on how to hire a professional photographer for your nonprofit marketing. 

Why should we hire a professional photographer for our organization’s marketing materials?

It ensures quality. 
  • Experienced photographers not only know the fundamentals and mechanics of photography, they know how to capture great storytelling images in a variety of settings—indoor, outdoor, events, candids, details. 
It helps you communicate your nonprofit’s story instead of sharing snapshots.
  • Think about the most compelling narrative you’ve heard or read. Whether it was a fictional short story, a memoir, an anecdote from a public speaker, or a documentary, it’s likely that not every detail was included, and the story may not have been told in a linear way. The author or speaker very carefully crafted their words. From subtle descriptions of people to engaging details about the setting, the storyteller knew what he wanted you to feel and how he wanted to draw you into the story. An engaging story is not the same as a simple transcript of events, just as an excellent photograph is not simply a visual representation of a person or place. 
  • A skilled photographer shoots deliberately—she knows what the subject is, how she wants her viewers to feel, and where she wants their eyes to be drawn. She feels the story and shoots intentionally to capture the subject in a way that will engage her audience.
It keeps the photography from becoming an afterthought or a last-minute scramble.
  • Hired photographers will work within an assigned deadline, which ensures your marketing doesn’t get pushed to the back burner when other priorities arise in your organization. Additionally, investing money into your visual media—as with web design and marketing materials—ensures that it remains a priority.
It helps you stay focused on your own strengths. 
  • Outsourcing tasks that aren’t your area of expertise helps you focus on what you do best, rather than spending your time and energy on something you don’t excel in. Someone who is an expert in this area will get it done better and faster, and this takes the stress off your shoulders.

What should we look for in a professional photographer?

A photographer that connects with your mission and cares about helping you tell your story. 
  • Do they take time to get to know more about your organization and understand your goals—both for the project that they’re working on and for the bigger picture?
A photographer who has some level of experience.
  • There are a lot of excellent aspiring photographers, and working with a less veteran photographer may be a way to hire a professional if your budget is tight. However, if you are going to be paying them to capture photos for your marketing materials, they should have at least some level of experience and a portfolio they can share with you.
  • Remember that not all experience is equal. Someone that only photographs portraits may not have the expertise to capture an event and tell a cohesive story. Someone who shoots landscapes may have the technical knowledge to handle lighting, but might not have experience working with kids who never stand still. Someone who shoots outdoor family portraits may know how to handle groups of people, but they may not have experience dealing with indoor lighting, which is much more challenging.
  • Look at their portfolio with your project idea in mind. Is it head shots? Is it candid photos at an indoor event? Is it an overview of your organization, capturing a variety of shots? The photographer you choose should have a good variety of images in different settings. Make sure that their portfolio isn’t just outdoor portraits and head shots if you need them to work indoors. 
Someone who offers the type of photography that you’re looking for. 
  • A photographer specializing in family portraits or weddings might not take on corporate or nonprofit clients. 
  • Look at their portfolios as well as their pricing or “work with me” page to see what type of photography clients they work with. Depending on what you are looking for, the galleries or pricing could be labeled nonprofit, commercial, or head shots .It’s not as clear cut as searching for “wedding photography,” so you may have to dig around or even just reach out and ask.
  • Think outside the box! There may be photographers in your area that specialize in nonprofit photography, as well as organizations that focus on nonprofit storytelling (such as Silent Images which focuses on humanitarian organizations). Instead of Googling “city name” and “photographer,” try “nonprofit photographer in city name” or “nonprofit photography in state name.” 
Working with a professional photographer to help meet your nonprofit marketing needs offers many benefits! I hope these few tips help with some of your questions about working with a professional photographer. What other questions do you have? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Naomi Liz is a writer and photographer whose work focuses on nonprofit, travel, and nature projects. She enjoys exploring the great outdoors, drinking great coffee, and chasing her elusive goal of becoming fluent in Spanish. Naomi is a Maine native, has traveled extensively in Latin America, and now calls southeastern Pennsylvania home. Follow Naomi on her Blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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