Pro Bono Photography, Karma and Me


Six months ago, if you had told me I’d be volunteering to do a full-day photo shoot and a half day of editing for free, I’d have laughed and called you crazy.

Things are different now. Call me a soft touch, but I’ve become a believer in pro bono karma.

A Really Low Bid

Near the end of last year, I received an e-mail asking for a bid to shoot photos for a prospective client’s marketing program. The prospect expected the shoot would require a full day.

I decided to look up the organization’s Web site to find out more before submitting an estimate. I learned it was a Kansas City women’s shelter called Hope House.

I sat and thought about what to do. A few minutes later, I informed Hope House that I would shoot the project for free.

Kansas City photographer Aaron Lindberg

Hope House is Missouri’s largest domestic violence shelter. It provides programs and services that include outreach therapy, court advocacy, a safe visitation center, on-call women’s advocates who work with area police departments, social workers and prevention programs in area schools.

After I took the assignment, I sat down with the folks at Hope House to learn more about what they do, and the 10,000 abuse victims they help every year. It was tough to hear some of the stories.

Aaron Lindberg Photography

We set up the shots for the assignment, but were careful to make them as realistic as possible. We shot scenarios of a sexual assault victim meeting with a nurse, a homeless person receiving an AIDS test, human trafficking in the forms of prostitution and child labor, and some shots inside a chapel. I’ve included a few of the images within this post. (You can view more on my blog.)

Giving Your Talent

Aaron Lindberg Photography

Ultimately, I chose to do the job not only to give to a local charity, but because I specifically liked the idea of contributing my professional skills to a worthy cause.

I probably could have gotten away with bidding my day rate, or giving them a modest price break. But it felt good to donate not only my time and energy — but also my talents — to the shelter.

And karma has already begun to pay me back. I recently booked a paying gig that grew out of my Hope House experience.


9 Responses to “Pro Bono Photography, Karma and Me”

  1. I find it so hard to believe that this all still continues today. How do these greedy and disturbed users and abusers look themselves in the mirror every day. And the scariest part is, they could be our co-workers and friends. Both the abused and the abusers.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. What a coincidence! I'm doing something like this tomorrow ... shooting the play "Birth" for a group of midwives and doulas that helped me when I was pregnant with my second child. They did so much for me, and would not take any money. I'm just thrilled to have something I can give back.

  3. Thanks to everyone for looking over this.

    - Deanna Taus, I cannot believe it either, it's a very sad subject and recreating it for the photo shoot was unnerving.
    - Michelle Posey, great to hear you are giving back to something so close to you.

  4. Aaron, thank you so much for sharing this story with everyone. As a Hope House staff member, I hear the worst about people every day. Our relationship with you proves that there are still some very fine, caring people in our crazy world. Thank you for everything you've done for us!

  5. Hurrah for you! And those at Hope House working so hard to help these women. This sort of thing spikes when times are tough, so you are needed and appreciated...

  6. I usually do about 2-3 pro bono projects a year. These generally revenues 6-8 paid jobs. By doing something for free is merely a way to promote yourself. And yes I also feel good by giving something back.

  7. Good story. You know I would feel odd telling everyone if i did something like this but in this case, I think its well worth it because its good to hear about and see good examples being set by others who are in a position to do so and to motivate others to try it for themselves. Certainly this is one organisation that I am sure needs every financial break it can get. So good on you.

    I always find generous people inspiring, so thanks for sharing your story.

  8. Dear Aaron,

    How are you? I hope you're doing well. First of all,congratulations and thank you for all the wonderful work you're involved with. The world needs more people like you.

    My name Faizan Siddiqi. I am the president and founder of Kids with Vision [www.kidswithvision.org], a 501(c)3 organization committed to promoting awareness about global avoidable childhood blindness(acb). We're mostly a student-driven initiative and our sole source of support comes from in-kind donations from the general public. I am writing this post to inquire about the possibility of qualifying for a Taproot service grant for help with editing hours of poignant footage from various parts in Asia that show prevalence of acb. I understand our objectives may fall outside of what is supported by the org, nonetheless, I can assure you of the incredible positive social and economic returns promised by such an endeavor.
    Please advice.

  9. This I would shoot pro bono, but I was asked to shoot a commercial shoot for a radio station for free.

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