Giving Back Spells Success for Seattle Photographer & Her Community

Giving Back Spells Success for Seattle Photographer & Her Community


Portrait and commercial photographers often are approached by nonprofits seeking pro bono photography services for their organizations. When approached they may reply no straight away. Or they may ask themselves, “How would I make spending time on a pro bono project worthwhile for my business? How would I time manage a pro bono job? Is it ever wise to accept pro bono work?” Well, sometimes giving back spells success.

Seattle portrait photographer Oriana von Specht, of Purple Squid Photography, was all in favor of focusing her energies on things that matter to her. Her challenge was finding a way to make it viable. “Problem solved when I decided to use my commercial work to support my nonprofit pro bono projects,” she says.

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350 Seattle drew protestors in support of the Glasgow Climate Talks: “Stop the Money Pipeline.” October 2021

“Combining photography with helping my community and the planet is the sweet spot for me. While planning and executing these projects, I meet generous, community-minded people who share my values. Often, they have day jobs that require professional images. Or, alternatively, they put me in touch with like-minded associates for paid gigs.

“Giving back also gives me something to highlight in marketing materials other than myself and my studio capabilities. My involvement with these groups gives prospects added insight into who I am and what’s important to me.”

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Arts & Humanities Bainbridge covers the island’s arts and culture online at “Stargazer” public art sculpture by Timm Duffy dons a face mask at the start of the Covid pandemic. March 2020
Who to Support?

Once she decided to give pro bono a chance, Oriana developed a process for determining which environmental and community nonprofits to support. Specifically, she:

1. Checks out the organization on websites such as to see if its donations indeed go to the cause they say they support
2. Asks herself “how close to my heart” is the cause
3. Decides if the project would offer a creative challenge, requiring artistic skills not called upon in her paid assignments
4. Determines if the project would put her in contact with generous, like-minded individuals
5. Finds out if the work would give her an opportunity to interact with people she wouldn’t meet otherwise and learn about their life stories; e.g., homeless youth or immigrants.

Memorable Projects

Oriana has worked with nonprofits since 2018. However, she was quick to identify two project standouts.

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Bainbridge Schools Foundation—which bridges gaps in state/federal funding—held a car parade for seniors who had to forgo graduation celebrations due to Covid. June 2020.
350 Seattle

Her involvement with 350 Seattle—a group that advocates for preserving a livable planet—involved supporting the Glasgow Climate Change Conference protests in October 2021.

“I took images during their demonstrations and chose the most powerful shots while walking alongside demonstrators. I sent them to group coordinators within minutes.” In real time, the coordinators posted select images on all major social media platforms to generate enthusiasm and motivate people to help protect our planet.

League of Women Voters of Washington

Oriana covered a ceremony honoring Karen Verrill, a civics educator who led the new Washington civics education textbook effort. She took headshots of the League of Women Voters of Washington’s leaders. Those images appeared in organization communications, including its website and newsletters.

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League of Women Voters of Washington tree planting tribute to Karen Verrill (second from left), Olympia, Washington. October 2022

“What I loved about this project was meeting the accomplished women, many now in their eighties, hearing their stories and learning about the dogged grit it takes to consistently make a difference. Many were so vibrant and beautiful that I felt this is how I want to be when I grow up.”

Giving Back Spells Success: Just Do It!

With multiple pro bono projects under her belt, Oriana acknowledges the personal, business and community benefits she’s derived from supporting causes she feels passionate about.

Staff of Island Volunteer Caregivers, Bainbridge Island, Washington, poses with executive director Joanne Maher (fourth from left). February 2022

“Offering photo coverage to these organizations helps my community. Those images can convey messages more dramatically and communicate more effectively the human side of pressing issues. Pro bono support boosts my personal growth by exposing critical issues. It also puts me in touch with people whose life stories I wouldn’t hear about otherwise. Finally, it benefits my business by connecting me with professionals who have values in sync with mine.”

Oriana’s pro bono bottom line: “Do It! It’s enriching on so many levels. You’ll meet lovely people who appreciate you and with whom you’ll enjoy working. You’ll get to experiment and try new things with a forgiving audience. Best of all, you’ll feel amazing doing what you love while supporting what you believe in!”

Leadership Kitsap Foundation’s Art & Culture Day, April 2022. The group promotes informed, committed civic volunteerism.

For more information about Oriana von Specht and images by her Purple Squid Photography studio, click here.

Photo credits: Photos by Oriana von Specht, personal brand photographer, Seattle, Washington