Many organizations that advance environmental and social progress are challenged by the demands of acquiring, publishing, and cataloging compelling images to help tell their stories. These burdens place significant costs, both direct and indirect, on the organizations in terms of staff time and on the organizations’ abilities to respond quickly and effectively.
In order to better understand these challenges, I recently conducted a survey for Blue Earth Alliance on these issues. My report on that survey is now available for downloading on the Blue Earth website.
I won't go into the details of the report here, but it won't surprise anyone to learn that it's the small and mid-size organizations that have the most problems with their use of photography. Smaller organizations have less staff available to handle their images, and in general the staff in those organizations have less training about photography, design, and publishing.
What was interesting to me was that many organizations don't have trouble finding the photos they want—in fact, many said that a bigger problem is that are too many images. The organizations also said that they often work with professional-level photographers who donate their time and images because the photographers believe in the mission of the organization.
This puts a lot of photographers in a bind. Those who work on social, cultural, and environmental issues spend a lot of time and money to document a long list of problems around the world. They need and deserve to be compensated for their skills and expertise. At the same time, other photographers (or perhaps even some of the same ones) sometimes donate their images to organizations that work on the same important issues.
Nonprofits, mindful of their own budgetary restrictions, are left with this dilemma: why pay for professional-level photographs when there are great photographers who are willing to donate their images? It's a valid question, and there are no easy answers.
Blue Earth Alliance is exploring how to address this and other issues raised by the survey, and they'd like feedback from photographers and nonprofits alike. If you're interested in adding your thoughts to this issue please download and read the survey, then follow the links in the report to add your comments to discussion.