Why professional photography is a worthwhile investment for your organization

In an age of AI-generated visuals, generic stock photos and the ease of smartphone access, professional photography can be an important asset for any organization, especially nonprofits. Visual storytelling reinforces your organization’s mission and values in a way that words alone can’t, which is why we’re big advocates of professional photography when budget allows. 


A local, authentic message 

Similar to typos and poor design, overused stock or low-resolution photos can diminish the effectiveness of an organization’s marketing materials. 

On the flip side, higher quality, custom images can reveal the heart of your organization — helping potential donors, volunteers and future employees see the real impact of your work in the community, the people you served and your team’s culture. Strong visuals are what get visitors to spend more time on a website, cut through the visual noise on social media and generate clicks in an email newsletter. 

With a cache of professional images in your back pocket, you can maintain visual consistency across all your communications channels, strengthen your brand’s identity and build trust.

Photoshoot with Wild Child Daycare for Step Up to Quality. Photos courtesy of Brandy Ingwersen Photography.


A worthwhile investment 

For nonprofits that need to make every dollar count, professional photography may not be a priority in the annual budget. 

Even with little to no budget, allocating a few hundred dollars to mission-centered photography can go a long way when it comes to telling the world about your work and connecting with the local community. By starting small and slowly repurposing images across your brand’s marketing platforms, your content will soon feel more fresh and impactful.

Photoshoot with Community Alliance. Photos courtesy of A Better Exposure.  


Tips for getting started 

When considering hiring a professional photographer, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Find a dedicated nonprofit photographer if possible. It’s one thing to capture beautiful photos, but a photographer with nonprofit experience can help ensure your organization’s passion, impact and needs shine through every photo. A local photographer with a strong portfolio of work featuring community programs is often best suited for capturing the essence of an organization. We also recommend hiring a photographer who reflects the people you serve when possible. Their perspective will bring added value, sensitivity and authenticity to how and what they choose to capture. 

Create a detailed shot list. Think about what images you’ll need over the next year — for social media, website pages, email newsletters, fundraising campaigns, annual reports and more. What locations or programs would you like to highlight? Where will they be featured, and how will they be used? 

Encourage staff to wear solid colors and/or branded clothing from your organization if applicable. Branded clothing is a surefire way to ensure your photography isn’t mistaken for stock. Be sure to also have a policy in place for what to do with photos when staff members leave the organization.

If featuring volunteers and/or clients, have plenty of photo releases on hand. Have volunteers sign releases in advance to save time on the shoot day. 

Review the photographer’s contract carefully. Make sure your organization is paying for full rights and access to all of the final photos for use on future materials. 


A time and place for stock photography

Of course, there will always be a time and place for stock photography, especially when nonprofits need to honor the confidentiality and privacy of the clients they serve.  

A tasteful pairing of mindful stock photography, captivating typography, graphics or illustrations can still capture the essence of a brand. Stock photography providers like Creative Flame, Nappy and Stocksy offer photo libraries that are more genuine, diverse and inclusive than typical stock options. 

Ultimately, professional photography is an investment in your organization’s image. With a library of impactful, high-resolution photos that you can roll out all year long, you can connect on a deeper level with audiences and foster the support needed to continue doing meaningful work.