By Allison Wheeler on | No Comments
Using your photography talent to make money is great. Giving back through photography has literally changed my life, and will change yours too!
The inspiration to share my gift of photography started when I first picked up a camera almost six years ago. I was going through postpartum depression after the birth of my third son and it was God bringing photography into my life that helped bring me back to myself.
I promised then I would use this gift to serve others since I felt that He was the one who led me there.
Since that time I have been fortunate enough to volunteer for a variety of important photography charity organizations. Volunteering to photograph events at my church and sons’ school is something I do often. I am also a volunteer with the Gold Hope Project, a non-profit organiziation providing free photography for families dealing with childhood cancer.
Once, I traveled to Ecuador and documented a team working for an orphanage in the middle of a rainforest. I have even photographed a spay and neuter event featuring the one and only Fabio! All great causes which filled me with a wonderful sense of purpose and provided photos to those who needed their stories told.
But the two causes I am MOST passionate about are: providing photos to families who have experienced the loss of a newborn and documenting families and children navigating their way through the foster care/adoption system.
And since I donate my photography services to these charities frequently, I often get asked questions by other photographers on how they can also get involved and help serve these families too.
I hope the information that follows will be helpful and inspires you to join with me in giving back through photography.
Providing bereavement photos to parents who lose their babies at birth is an emotionally draining experience. But with the help of God, I am able to step into these moments to comfort parents and capture the only moments they will have with their babies earthside. One thought that keeps me going is to think that if I were not there to provide this service and the photographs the only photos these parents would have of their little one might only be from their cell phone.
I do not work through any agency to do these photos. I was approached by a local, small-town hospital in my area to help create a program for their women’s center since they did not have anything like this in place. All nurses on duty have my number and can call me any time of day or night if I am needed.
I provide all the images to the family at no cost either via a private gallery, digital download or saved on a flash drive. And I never publicly share images from these sessions. I feel strongly that these images are meant for the sole purpose of preserving memories of a lost child and not for public viewing. Sharing is up to the family.
If you are interested in providing this service to families, I suggest reaching out to your local hospitals or OB/GYNs to search out opportunities. You can also volunteer with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a wonderful national non-profit organization of professional photographers who organize this free gift of photography for families.
My love for foster care and adoption started many years ago when I was a Child Welfare Worker for the State of Oklahoma. Most of my professional life, before photography, was spent doing social work in various settings.
A few months after picking up my camera, I knew I wanted to serve foster children and families with my photography. It so happened a friend was going through the process of adopting a child and asked if I would photograph their finalization hearing. I was thrilled! Of course, I said yes! Below are a couple images from the first hearing I photographed back in 2012.
After that first hearing, my information was passed around to many other families who were also adopting. I had the honor of voluntarily documenting several finalization hearings and providing volunteer photography and free photos to those families for over four years all while running my business.
Word of mouth truly helped me gain all those opportunities. If you are interested in adoption photography, seek out a family in your community who is adopting. After that, word of mouth should spread quickly through the local adoption community.
You can also sign up with Framing Forever, an amazing charity that matches volunteer photographers with lovely families who wish to celebrate and treasure their final adoption by capturing those special memories in a way they can remember forever.
For me, four years of providing this service paid off in unexpected ways. For the last two years, I have been working full time for a local attorney documenting all of his clients’ adoption days in the entire state of Oklahoma. Talk about a dream job - traveling the state taking photos of such joy-filled moments. It does not get much better!
Using my photography to serve others is at the absolute core of my business. It has filled my heart with so much joy and a wonderful sense of purpose. I feel so strongly about using my talents to give back to others.
Hopefully, this blog post will also inspire YOU to take the chance and use your own photography skills to give back - I guarantee it will fill your heart with joy too!
I look forward to hearing how you all choose to serve others with your gift of photography. Just leave me a comment below - I would love to hear from you. And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Allison Wheeler is a lover of lifestyle photography from Norman, Oklahoma. Her eyes were opened to photography by toying with Instagram in 2010. She got a camera soon after and learned to use it by documenting her life with her husband and three young sons. She now happily does the same for others, from births to weddings and almost everything in between. To see Allison's most recent work, visit her Facebook page. She often gets on Pinterest to avoid cleaning her house.