Thinking of supporting an NGO, Charity or just a good cause with photography? Here are some thoughts and tips to think about. We’ll be adding more as we grab some time. But to get you started:

If you are travelling to a location which might not be that safe, make sure you check the current recommendations with the Foreign Office just so you’re clued up on the situation over there (speak to us and we can put you in the right direction). Also, might seem silly to remind you, but check the news and do some research on the country and region you’re going to. We are nerds here, so we tend to buy at least three books and travel with at least one while away. Keeps you company if you’re finding it tough to sleep(!), it also picks up dirt and blobs from the country and becomes a friend when you come back, reminds you of memories you might forget – also a good conversation opener if travelling (although don’t take a book that might be politically insensitive or offensive to those you’re visiting).

Take a notebook, ask questions, write down names of things, ask people to write in your book. Once you’re back home, you’ll be amazed how much you’ve forgotten, it’s such an intense experience that your brain is whirling (as is your heart, be prepared for an emotional roller coaster too). Give us a call if you want to talk over anything before or after. Happy to help and listen and offer advice.

Stupid question, but are you immunised enough? If you’re going to a yellow fever area for instance make sure you’ve had the jabs, also make sure you get the immunisation certificate (some countries won’t let you in subsequently if you’ve been to a country known to have Yellow fever and you’ve forgotten your certificate!).

If you’re going somewhere you might fall over, get shot, or might need to patch someone up, have a look at our recommended site and grab some bits (run by lovely people who genuinely support and make a difference, protecting those that need it).

Take blow up globes if you’re going to a remote location, pencils or old school text books for children if you can. Find out what be of benefit to those you’re visiting and leave out the Jimmy Choos and replace them with something that will be loved and useful after you’re gone. Don’t take too many of one thing, otherwise customs will think you’re Arthur Daley and try and tax you! Again contact us, we can help advise how and what to pack.

Use your noddle. If you’re photographing children, families, anyone, make sure you have clearance and they are OK with you taking their photo. We don’t need to preach model release forms, but take some just in case. And don’t abuse the trust placed on you and try and flog the photos to National Geographic when you come back. Be sensitive. Be nice. In the UK and Europe, make sure parents, schools, groups have gained signed clearance from parents that their children can be photographed. Think. If working with sensitive groups (prisoners, victims) be creative with the camera, shoot over shoulder, details of hands, there are loads of ways to tell stories if you can’t show faces. We offer training if that helps.

I post “virtual postcards” on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook when I have wifi, and actually, it’s lovely if friends and followers haven’t heard from me a for a few days, I get messages asking us if I’m OK. So, a heads up, just be sensible and make sure you tell someone where you’re going, not in a nimby state type way, just to protect yourself and those you’re supporting, just drop someone a note or text. Appoint someone back home to manage stuff if it all goes pear-shaped (peace-of-mind while you’re away and you’ll have a champion back home who’ll share your story where they can too).

Once you’ve photographed for the cause, what are you or they going to do with the images? Are they using them on their website, are you hosting an exhibition, selling prints or gifts, creating a book for awareness (note, the you don’t make a lot of money on books, it’s more about awareness). Raffles (thank you Michael at London Portrait Group for organising yours!), auctions and gift purchase are all great ways to encourage revenue. Plan your marketing, ask your friends and business colleagues, it’s not just about wine consumption, its also about some pennies for those you’ve met (people, animals or trees!). Try and get as much sponsored as you can, ask for help, people like to help. Be passionate about what you’ve done and people will help if you’re genuine and mean it.

And, er, make sure you insure your kit… 😉

a low res copyright Vanessa Champion

A few extra tips from adventurer Lucy Shepherd. We asked her:

Was wondering if you have top five tips for what women should prepare on expedition that might of interest, of course likely similar to men, but maybe that’s the message! 

Similar to men for sure. If we’re talking women specific: what I’ve noticed that I take different to men.. Hmm,  well the obvious one would be keep aunt flow away!  Other items, well, I like to take a pocket mirror, I once went on a month long trip and forgot my mirror and my eye brows had gone out of control!!!
1. Get a general sense of the area and the names of the places you are heading for. At first everything will sound so foreign so it’s good to get a handle on where you’re heading and where everything is in correlation to a map. This should obviously happen automatically if you are planning the route yourself.
2. Get the kit you need but don’t take too much. 2 pairs of knickers will do. Wash one, wear one. Taking too much kit is never a good thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re the one on the expedition with a fold up chair, you will not care when you’re trying to drag it up the mountain.
3. Prepare your thoughts. Expeditions give a lot of time to think. Before you go, think about what you might want to give a lot of thoughts. You never know where your mind might take you.
4. Buy a diary! The insignificant actions and dramas on an expedition sound so exciting when you read them back 6 months later. You will rarely want to write after a long day but you will never regret writing things down.
5. Make sure your friends and family at home have a general idea of where you are going. I know when you go on an expedition, the idea is to be at one with nature etc. But despite this, try to check in with back home. They want to hear from you and it acts as a safety device. I like to take a GPS beacon/ tracker with me when I go to really hostile environments but if you’re going to less remote areas and you’ve got an iPhone with battery and signal, friends can go on ‘Find my iPhone’ (if you give them passwords), or ‘Find Friends’. I used this when I had to hitch hike in Spain and it made me feel at ease that someone close to me knew where I was.
Useful links from Médecins sans frontières website:
  • ReliefWeb provides information about humanitarian issues, including job opportunities.
  • World Service Enquiry provides information and advice about working or volunteering overseas.
  • BOND is a networking organisation providing courses, job vacancies etc.
  • RedR-IHE provides training courses related to humanitarian work.
  • CharityJob provides a comprehensive database of opportunities in the charitable sector.
  • MedAir is a non-governmental organisation with internationally recruited staff who are motivated by their Christian faith to care for people in need.
  • Global Health Jobs UK is a specialist job-board that connects employers to professionals seeking job opportunities in global health.