It is with a heavy heart and spirit that I am writing this post. For the past 7 years I have volunteered my photography services to animal rescue. I have met & lost some dear rescue friends during this time. I have photographed *thousands* of homeless animals. My goal was to get animals noticed through photography. Show their personality and soulful eyes. Good clear photos. Good clear photography.
Over 7 years of volunteering, nearly 500 hours a year; the time, cost and expenses of volunteering are enormous. As I have provided all camera equipment, backdrops, props, clothing, treats etc. The value of my volunteer time exceeds $50,000 this year. That figure is based on my retainer fee amount. Volunteering photography is not tax deductible, it is a service not a donation. Treats each year are approximately $300. All of these items add up, including gallery fees, website fees, utilities, insurance, cleaning items, equipment maintenance and repairs. I am taking a step back. I need to refresh my spirit and remember why I started volunteering 7 years ago. Because over time, you just feel used and not appreciated. My goal in stepping back is to decide how and when I will volunteer with animal rescue. Most definitely will be less volunteer time. I need to set new guidelines and requirements. I will be selective in rescue groups who are willing to approach our relationship as a mutually beneficial partnership. It is not a one-sided relationship. Without my clients and photography business, I cannot volunteer. I have already spoke with rescue groups about events, providing coupons for adoption packages, photography discounts and other ways I can continue giving back. Without the intense hours involved in adoption photos and editing. During the past 7 years of volunteering, I have lost my entire family, my 2 very good friends and the 2 best Goldendoodles ever. It has been tough but volunteering was my escape. I no longer need an escape; I need to rest and refresh my spirit. Figure out where I go from here. I am honoring all of my scheduled volunteer photo sessions for rescues through the end of the year. Then I will take a much-needed animal rescue break. I will continue with my client sessions and pet photography business. I hope rescues and fosters have purchased my book "Rescue Photography". It will most certainly help with adoption photos. It also gives some guidelines on the relationship with rescue groups and professional photographers. These requirements are essential for a partnering relationship. Some rescues never mention a photographer’s name or share photographer information. It is so important in our world of social media, for rescue groups to give out a shout to the businesses that are giving so much. Most business will offer their services to rescues at a discount. Photographers are free – we volunteer for you. We rely on word of mouth referrals. Photographers give countless hours behind a camera and behind a computer screen. In that book, I spoke about volunteer burnout. It is real. When you begin to feel like you are doing no good. That taking adoption photos is an unpaid job. Or that you are being used and not appreciated & certainly not valued, it's time to step back. This is where I am. I support and believe in the mission of all of the rescue groups I have worked with. Please respect my personal time as I step back and reevaluate my volunteer efforts.
Paws crossed, we will work together again one day.