Magazine Article


Pro Bono Projects Can Be Profitable


Pro Bono Projects Can
Be Profitable
Enlightened Self-Interest Is Great
for the Bottom Line


Leadership California Annual Awards Dinner program, featuring Springmann's trademark informal, well-lit images, led to other paid and pro bono projects. Shot with Hasselblad 553ELX, Kodak T-Max 100, Dyna-Lites, Chimera softboxes. San Francisco Fire Department awareness brochure, featuring SFFD lieutenant Greg Stewart and his wife, Olivia (HBO executive), increased Springmann's community profile, helped him explore his new Hasselblad XPan, and expanded his portfolio. Shot with natural light, Fuji RDPII, Gitzo tripod.

Pro bono projects, from the Latin "done for the public good without financial compensation," are a source of great aesthetic and personal satisfaction, enabling the photographer to "give back" to the community, through the use of creative talent.
There's also a decided business advantage to such enlightened self-interest, such as: creating new business opportunities, expanding your portfolio, reinforcing business ties, experimenting with new equipment or techniques.
Before accepting a pro bono project, carefully evaluate it with the following criteria:

  1. It's a job, first and foremost. The opportunity should enable you to create work that reflects your future, not your past. Pro bono photography should push the creative envelope. Set specific and reasonable terms for the work.
  2. Establishes credentials. Bring your portfolio, not only to establish credentials and show the subject the direction of the finished project, but to introduce the "client" to your work.
  3. Presents networking opportunities. A profitable pro bono project gives you a chance to introduce your services to people and organizations you might not otherwise meet.
  4. Opens doors for future projects. An effective pro bono project can open doors to new business ventures.
  5. Sponsor pays out-of-pocket expenses. The client must be willing to pay your out-of-pocket expenses as part of their investment and equity in the project. Later, donate these back to the sponsoring organization.
  6. Increases your exposure. All publications and program materials should contain your website address as a photography credit. If the pictures, say, for an awards banquet program, will be displayed in a PowerPoint presentation, include your name in small, but readable type.
  7. Sponsor agrees to acknowledge you publicly. Pleasantly insist on two tickets to the event for which you are donating goods and services, seated close to the head table. Request the opportunity to set up an easel with an enlargement of the work-have a business card holder affixed at the bottom-at the room entrance. Ask to be introduced at the event.
  8. Sponsor values your contribution. Being treated poorly because you are donating time and talent is unacceptable. Give only where you are respected and valued.
  9. Leave a good impression. This one's for you-not your sponsor: At the conclusion of the pro bono project, send the subject(s) a simply framed and signed 8x10 print with your name, telephone number, copyright notice, and website address on the back. Include two business cards, samples of your other work, a note expressing restrained gratitude for the opportunity, and an invoice marked "services donated."

There's no question, pro bono can mean "great for the bottom line," as well as "for the common good."

Springmann will teach location and studio lighting at the Maine Workshops, Summer 2002. For more on Springmann, visit