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Guest Post: Visualizing Your Story - Part 2

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How Nonprofits Can Work with Photographers to Enhance Their Message

Guest post by Billy Howard | (Continued from Part 1)


Photographers are like cats: hard to herd, and independent, but usually friendly. Based on my intimate knowledge of the breed, here are some thoughts that might help in your journey:

When you have no budget

You have absolutely no budget. Don’t fib. While you’re a nonprofit, photographers are not, and we all get asked to do pro-bono work . . . a lot. We are trained professionals running small businesses that have overhead, health insurance, rent, expensive equipment, computers and software that constantly needs updating, so there is a limit to our largess. If you have a project where you would feel comfortable asking a lawyer, accountant, advertiser or caterer to offer their services for free, then ask a photographer but if you would feel squeamish asking any other business for free services, come up with a photo budget.

Most photographers have several pro-bono projects at any given time. They are usually projects that involve people and organizations that already have an established relationship with the photographer, so asking someone, who is unfamiliar with you or your organization for pro-bono work, will typically not be successful, no matter how good your mission is. 

And a small word of advice: offering a trade out for a small photo credit is considered unprofessional.

Finding a photographer

Now that you have found some money in your budget for photography, how do you find a good photographer? If there are other non-profits in your area that use good photography, ask them whom they use. You can also find out what kind of budget they worked with and what their experience was working with the photographer. 

If you don’t have anyone to ask there are several ways to find good photographers in your area: one is to look through local magazines and newspapers at the bylines for photographs and contact the publication for contact information. There are also professional photography organizations that can link you to photographers in your area. One that I recommend is ASMP—The American Society of Media Photographers. The first link at the top of their page is “Find a Photographer” where they list photographers and their websites. You can look through these and find a photographer whose style appeals to you for your project. Another good resource is the NPPA—The National Press Photographers Association, which has a link on their home page to Find a Visual Journalist.

Visualizing Your Story - Part 3 >


b2ap3_thumbnail_Billy_mug_cropped.jpgAbout the photo:

Some of my favorite clients are independent schools and colleges where I document the life of schools, entering classrooms, laboratories and dorms and documenting the educational system in bloom. I always leave with great hope for our future. This is a photograph of George that I took at the Lovett School pool. It has always been one of my favorites.

About the author:

Billy Howard has traveled the world documenting people and places for a diverse range of clients including nonprofits. He is the author of Epitaphs for the Living: Words and Images in the Time of AIDS and many other books. He is a 2011-2012 Rosalynn Carter Fellow in Mental Health Journalism. Find out more at

All photos courtesy Billy Howard.

For me, fundraising and communications go together like peanut butter and jelly – delicious & filling!

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