Volunteering. You don’t need a simple little website to tell you how good it is, how it warms the soul, and how happy it can make those in society around you. And hey, if you do, here are some great ones: http://www.volunteermatch.org/ and http://www.idealist.org/. Go forth and explore!
We all know how it feels, sure, but where do we start? As photographers, our schedules are busy, awkward, and rushed; sometimes, we don’t get enough time to see our family, let alone put in some non-existent hours for local charities. Even so, from a small business perspective, it’s a great opportunity: it gets your name circulating, flowing through mouths like water, and it can plump up an otherwise stagnant portfolio. Photos can wind up on business or association websites, with your credit right there where everyone can see it. If you have to look at it like a business move, consider it part of advertising. Hey, whatever gets you out there.
But there’s the more important side, of course: the personal aspect. With our default mode being “Complete and Utter Overdrive”, sometimes the deep breaths and warmth that comes from helping a cause you truly believe in is vital. It can recharge someone, create a new environment to work in, and allow you meet people (sometimes professionals, sometimes other artists) that you normally would not get a chance to.
On top of that, the simple smile on someone-in-need’s face can be the Zen at the end of a busy work week, a palate cleanser to the stress we normally feel. Give to the community and feel it give back in return.
Finding charities to donate to often come in the most unlikely of forms. Recently, mlive.com wrote an article about some volunteer work I did with a local hospital and my school photographing cancer patients and their families (http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/01/partnership_between_u-m_and_wa.html). To say it was one of the most moving experiences of my life is an understatement. “Awe-inspiring”, “humbling”, and “the sort of moment that had tears burning my eyes on the ride home” seems far more true and encompassing. It was a gift that was priceless and beyond any value, and all it cost me was my time, a few measly hours I would have spent otherwise asleep or editing.
There are other places for artistic people like us, however. Animal shelters often want us to come in and photograph homeless pets in hopes of raising chances for happy adoptions. Social groups want volunteers at rallies and functions, documenting events in hopes of getting the word out. The homeless could require photos for possible job applications and pursuance. The ill might want photos with their loved ones or pets (who are just as important as any of our loved ones, any pet owner will tell you).
There are no ends to what we can do when we give back. Our skill might be specialized, but that makes it all the more important and valuable. Go forth and help the world we all live in together!