Need to get more shooting practice? Volunteer!

As any established photographer will tell you then best way to improve your skills is to always take pictures. You do this by take your camera with you everywhere and just shoot everything. However just taking random pictures of things isn’t always conducive to learning.

Sometimes you need a specific subject to focus on as I stated in a previous post on doing Weekly Assignments over at DPS. However this is only a once a week thing and it will not take all your free time to complete the assignment.

To fill up some of that time and give you experience with working for a client one option is to Volunteer.

So how do you volunteer your skills? There are several ways.

First you could do a Google Search for “volunteer photography work” which will give a huge list of links with information on volunteering your skills. If those results give you information overload and want to be more focused you can do look at your local community or work place.

My full time work has a whole department dedicated to something called the “Community Involvement Program”. Where I work they are very big on doing volunteer and charity work so much so they plan large events around things such and UNCF and United Way. Additionally they have a system in place where you can log your volunteer hours so that when you have your yearly reviews you can show how much you volunteer. There is even an event calendar where you can sign up to volunteer at events if you don’t know what you want to volunteer for.

This is how I volunteer my time and skill as a photographer. Different people will have an events scheduled and I go to them and photograph the event and share my pictures with our Community Involvement Office and the Organization the event was at. This way they can use the images for their own promotions and at the same time I get to shoot at different locations and in different environments as well as get my name out there and network.

You can also ask you local charity or not for profit establishments if they need any photography done for promotional items or just for record keeping purposes for their events.

I will warn you however, some places may say you can take photos for them but when you get there you are told you can’t! This happened to me for a charity event where a local Symphony was playing. I was not allowed to take any pictures because the Symphony brought their own “In House” photographer. When I asked why it was because the Symphony sells images of all it’s concerts it does for money so if I took pictures it would hurt their ability to do so. If something like that happens to you just shrug it off and find something else to shoot. There will be other opportunities out there for you.

Either way, I do highly suggest that you volunteer your time in taking photos for organizations that are out there. This way you can not only get practice in you also get your name out there and network with people.

Thanks for reading


Hunger Task Force


Hunger Task Force, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Photos of volunteers sorting donated food for the Hunger Task Force Eastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

Third volunteer photo shoot and honestly I didn’t have the nervousness I had with the previous two.

I felt pretty comfortable moving around the group of volunteers as they worked taking pictures and even felt comfortable trying to get some more creative shots when aiming my lens down the conveyor line.

I am a bit upset at how one of the two group shots turned out where the left side was a lot darker than I wanted even when trying to bounce my flash in that direction to balance the light levels. I did my best in post process to make the image better.

In the end though I am very pleased with how all the shots turned out when using my flash in almost every shot. I must give credit to whom ever pointed me to Neil van Niekerk‘s site because I used Neil’s Black Foamy Thing Idea on my flash to help bounce and direct the light but not blind people that I was close to in the tighter quarters of the work area.

Executive Portraits


Executive Portraits , a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Pictures of company executives that won awards for volunteer work or are being spotlighted for the volunteer work they do.

Being the second time I’ve done any photo work for my employer I was still a bit nervous again. Mainly because these people are at the top of the “food chain” where I work and the last thing I want to do is take a really bad picture of them.

The hardest thing to deal with was trying to deal with all the wood paneling casting a harsh yellow light from all angles.

I didn’t use any flash here and I wish I had to lighten up the shadows from the over head florescent lights in all the pictures.

Ronald McDonald House (2013.01.15)

Ronald McDonald House, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Photos of volunteers making spaghetti dinner at the Milwaukee Ronald McDonald House by Children Hospital.

This was my first “On Site” volunteer photography work for my work’s Community Involvement Volunteer Program. The photo are to be used for “Success Stories” about the volunteers in company for news letters.

I was still getting use to bouncing on camera flash and it didn’t help the ceilings on the second floor of the building where this dinner was. Also the areas was tight with two little kitchens that had shiny tile that reflected everything in them.

As you can tell form the quality of the photos I was a bit nervous taking them and honestly I think they are bad even though they are still usable for what they are intended for.

Not sure why I was so nervous but it was probably because these where complete strangers and it felt like I was working a real photo job. Also there was not much activity to shoot too so I stood around a bit trying to figure out what I could shoot for “Action shots”.

Anyways this was my first Volunteer Photo work and you will see in a later post of another Volunteer job I did the pictures are improved and I can say I was not nervous working around the people to get shots like I was here!

Thanks for reading