Building a Portfolio Through Good Works

July 01, 2016

If you’ve dreamed of chucking that job in the cubicle farm for the adventurous life of a professional photographer, there are two things you should know. The first is that most working photographers’ lives are far less glamorous than people think – just follow them around for a week. Second, that cubicle job may not fulfil your photographic passions, but it can provide important stability while you start your side venture.

One way to build a portfolio of work and client references is through volunteer projects. There are countless local and state organisations that are clamouring for attention for their causes, and they often need quality photography to use on their blogs, in their newsletters and to send along with media releases to local news outlets. If there is a specific cause or organisation that you support or would like to support, consider calling them and letting them know that you’re available to provide free photographic services. This strategy allows you to dedicate your talent to an important issue while adding a reference to your professional CV.

If you don’t have a specific organisation or cause in mind, you can use resources such as to help connect you with opportunities in your area. Opportunities are divided into categories, making it easy to find potential matches. Sending an email online is a great first step but it often helps to follow up with a phone call if you don’t hear back in several days’ time. A phone call can also help you learn more about the organisation’s needs and how you might be the ideal fit for their situation.

There are many working photographers who will implore you not to give away your talents, and in most instances, this advice is spot on. You will always come across those who will want you to work for free in exchange for ‘getting your name out’
and you must choose those situations with care. In this instance, however, you have multiple motivations. You are donating your talents to a worthy cause and the organisation will serve as a reference. In these situations, non-paid work may very well lead to paid work through introductions to local businesspeople and

community members. By using your talents to support a local cause, you can also build community ties and a business at the same time.

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