It’s the season of giving! As photographers, we pour our heart and soul into creating a work of art for our clients, family, and friends on a daily basis. We give our time, our energy, our talents. As the holidays roll around this year, I’d like to encourage everyone to consider donating some of their time and talent to families or organizations who could benefit from your services but could never otherwise afford them. Need a few ideas? This is my story…

I am a stay-at-home mom to four children ages 8, 6, 4, and 2, a wife to a pediatric anesthesiologist, a former NICU nurse, and most recently, a photographer.

I didn’t set out to become a photographer. In fact, I studied biology in college, then went to nursing school, worked as a nurse for a few years, and then decided for the sake of my family to stay home full time with my children. It was at this point, needing a creative outlet, that I picked up my old Pentax film SLR camera and reignited a passion I had left behind years earlier. I began photographing my own kids every day, expanded to include family members and friends, and then several years later, took the plunge into starting a photography business.

Since I have been blessed with so much in life, I wanted to find a way to give back to the people and organizations in my community with photography. I decided on a non-profit business plan, donating profits generated from sessions to a few select local organizations: The Nature Conservancy, Susan G Komen for the Cure, Second Harvest Heartland, and The March of Dimes. This works well for me because I get to “volunteer” in a capacity that I love, and a few of my favorite organizations reap the financial benefit.

After about a year in business, I decided I wanted to add service to my business plan, so I began my “Share the Good” program to donate custom photography sessions to families enduring a hardship and as a way to thank people for work they have done for their community. I tell all of my clients about this program and ask them to nominate someone they know (or even themselves, if applicable) for this service. Then, once a month, I go through the nominations and pick a family or individual to highlight. They get a free photo session in a location of their choosing, digital images, and a spotlight on my blog telling their story. I have gotten to know a lot of interesting and amazing people this way. They inspire me and remind me that I can do more. I can do better.

I have also been inspired by some of the women on this forum who provide their time and talent as photographers to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, which donates bereavement photography to families grieving the loss of a baby. I had experience working with infant loss as a nurse, so this seemed a good, albeit sad, fit for my abilities. I can’t say I enjoy these sessions, but I feel that it’s important work, and I do enjoy talking with my former nursing colleagues at the hospital and connecting with families during a difficult time in their lives.

This past fall, I began working with the Nature Conservancy to provide photographs of some of their local parks and preserves to use in publications, newsletters, and fundraising slide-shows. I love volunteering in this capacity. I travel to local natural areas, wander around for a few hours, enjoy the scenery, photograph the plants and animals, play around with different techniques, and get to be creative. I shoot whatever I feel like shooting, but I make sure to include shots of what the Conservancy is actually looking for. Then, when I return home, I edit the ones I like best and send them off the the Conservancy to use as they see fit. I keep the copyright on these images, but I have signed a release with the Conservancy allowing them to use the images for editorial or advertising purposes.

There are so many ways we can help others with what we do. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, you don’t have to own your own business, you don’t have to own all the best, high-end equipment, and you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be you, follow your dreams, and give from your heart.