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Guest Post: Visualizing Your Story - Part 3

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How Nonprofits Can Work with Photographers to Enhance Their Message

Guest post by Billy Howard | (Continued from Part 2)


Budgeting for photography

Most photographers have a day rate to which they then add their expenses, but others will simply give you a project fee based on the scope of work you need done. Give them the details of your assignment and let them work out a budget for you. If it is higher than expected—and if you haven’t worked with a professional photographer before, it probably will be—stop and think about the overall budget and uses for what you are producing. Will it appear in magazines, brochures, and advertisements, direct mail, social media? Determine the budget for all the uses you have in mind, and then look at the photographer’s estimate. Chances are, it will be a fraction of what you are spending to get your message out. If you budget a lot to print and advertise your message, then going cheap on the very thing that will bring people into the page will diminish your efforts. Finally, if you have a set amount you can spend, let the photographer know that. They can either reject the job or maybe recommend a photographer with less experience and a lower rate, like one of their assistants.

Other options

If you simply can’t find money in your budget for photography, reach out to local photography schools (they are pretty ubiquitous these days) and see if the project you are working on would work as a project for an aspiring photographer. Offer a small stipend to give them a professional experience. Many photography students are both professional and talented and this is a way to establish a relationship that can grow with both your budget and their skills.

Working with a photographer

Now that you have found your photographer, how do you work with this strange breed of creative animal? First, I will assume you hired your photographer based on previous work they did that you liked. If you give them too many guidelines about how you want the images to look, you are taking away their creative freedom. Give them parameters, explain what you are looking for, and let them find ways to create images that bring your story to life. If you really have a good budget and have a graphic designer, let them work with the photographer to develop a visual approach. This is their job and most are good at it. 

Once you have the wonderful images that will captivate your readers, don’t use them as if they are postage stamps. I know every word you wrote is a precious treasure, but, back to my original point, people have short attention spans. Edit your text; make it tight and concise, and open up space to use your images well because they are the bait to bring people into your story. In addition, good images both enhance and add to your story, working collaboratively with the text to increase the level of knowledge your reader gains. 

Having just said that and looking at this word count, I will now add a picture and wish you great success with your marketing. When you post your next exciting entry complete with a fabulous photograph, send me the link—I’m sure I will love what you do, and I promise that I will spend more than a minute on your page.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Billy_mug_cropped.jpgAbout the photo:

I photographed Annie Maxwell for a project I worked on for the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta. As visual artists, my wife Laurie Shock and I wanted to produce an exhibit that would help people understand vision loss and partnered with CVI to produce the exhibit Blind/Sight: Conversations with the Visually Inspired. This is a portrait of Annie Maxwell, who was blind from birth and became an advocate for people with visual disorders. She is the only blind person to have received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leadership Award. 

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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