Doing Your Portfolio Good


Neel from posed an interesting question to me in email a short time ago. He asked “What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to build their portfolio? What are some things to keep in mind?” This is actually a question I get very frequently. In fact, I’ve answered it here before, and I sent along some of my thoughts for Neel’s upcoming article.

But, as I was catching up today on some old magazines, I happened to read an article in the Dec/Jan Organic Gardening issue about hunger and malnutrition in America. Along with the article was a whole list of organizations trying to help this problem. Most of these are non-profit or governmental agencies… groups that don’t have a lot of money and rely on volunteers. The idea occurred to me that this is a great way for any food photographer to give back, and particularly, an interesting idea for those new to shooting food to develop their work.

I hear (and preach) not to give your work away for free all the time. I still stand by that, even for new photographers. But as in all of life, there are times to break the rules, and building your portfolio by volunteering your photos to groups that help feed hungry people or educate people about healthful eating? That sounds like a win all around to me.

Here are the groups listed in the Organic Gardening article, but I encourage you to check into food banks and services such as the United Way in your area for even more opportunities.

  • Neel | Learn Food Photography

    Hey Lara,

    Thank you for this post. I got some more interesting responses from many food photographers and am sending this to many others.

    Should be publishing the post soon.


  • Prerna@IndianSimmer

    Being a budding photographer myself this is one question that I’ve been asking myself for the past few weeks since I’m working on my portfolio myself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts just in time for me! Heading over to Neel’s website to read more now :-)

  • Lauren

    This is a great idea! As an art director for a non-profit myself, I can say that this could be a great way to not only build your portfolio but to also establish a relationship that could more profitable, directly or through referral, down the road. It’s a win-win.

  • Denver Photographers

    Gardening is so much fun, it’s even more fun when you’re a photographer because you can really show off all your hard work.

  • Janet Foster

    this is a great post. My photography teacher said he did exactly this when he was just starting out and needed to build his portfolio. He said he met some great people doing this and was able to write off his “fee” as a charitable donation.

  • sarah, simply cooked

    Lara, thanks for posting this; it is a genius idea. I really respect the concept of giving back with our talents–your idea has already made me think of charity I would love to support.

  • Robert Moldaner


    This is great advice. I run a camera store where we service a lot of the local college kids taking photography classes. The few each semester who take it up as a serious hobby would find this idea useful. A way of “giving something back” and getting your work seen at the same time.

  • Aberdeen Photographers

    I also find giving away work for free can actually do you a favour in the long term. I have had a few leads off people I did some work for free.

  • Digital Camera Junkie

    This is a great idea Lara. Really thinking outside the box with something like this.

  • Kyle Dreier


    Very nice way to encourage giving back. In doing so one’s images in his/her food photography portfolio will have meaning and depth from their passion for the non-profit or cause. I think passion in one’s work helps differentiate them from the masses. You can’t fake passion. :)

    – Kyle