I received the following question from one of my readers:

I have a question for you. I got hired to photograph an annual report for a nonprofit company called [Redacted]. I got the gig through an organization called Taproot Foundation which is an organization whose goal is to link up creative professional with non-profits and such to work on pro-bono projects. This is going to be my first annual report shoot and I am very excited about it. I think that this may be a career path that I would like to pursue. Do you have any idea how to go about looking for work shooting annual reports? I haven’t the slightest idea where to start. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

I noticed a few weeks back that Michael Edwards published images from an Annual Review shoot on his blog tellmewherethisis.com, so I put the question to him.


Here’s what he had to say about it:

I can tell you that my experience shooting the Annual Review for Highbridge Capitol Management was very rewarding. I was able to participate from the very beginning, working closely with the designers, writers, and the marketing department. Together we came up with a visual concept that would illustrate what the firm is all about. This is unusual for me, as I’m often hired for editorial work based on my photographic style. With this project, I actually adjusted my style to suit their needs, so it was fresh for me and I think the results were pleasantly different from other annuals.

The client is absolutely thrilled with the final product and has been showing it off to others in their industry. So hopefully I will be shooting the next one, and perhaps pick up some new clients along the way.

This is the interesting part. I actually first came in touch with Highbridge through an editorial assignment for Institutional Investor Magazine. The budgets are tight there, but they have given me interesting assignments, so I always try to make it work. Once I was up at Highbridge, I got to know the folks there and they got to know me. Since hedge funds don’t typically produce annuals, they did not have a lot of experience with photographers. This gave me an opportunity to let them know what I could do for them, and the timing worked out perfectly.

As for advice to your readers questions, I would say a few things. First off, you have to look for opportunities wherever you can. Six magazines that I shot for regularly closed last year. The industry is going through some painful changes right now and one has to be resourceful. Also, once I had the job, it was great to push things in a new direction…”off brand” if you will. I put away the lights and took a new approach that I had been shooting a lot of personal work with, but had not fully realized with my commercial work. This kept the shoot very new and exciting for both me and the client. Word of mouth will be your best friend in this realm, so if you nail one annual, chances are you will have an opportunity to do another.

Recommended Posts


  1. Thanks, I just signed up at Taproot Foundation
    As a photographer who spend most of my time shooting non-essentials (plastics and other landfill items), I really need the type of karma cleaning that non-profits offer. This type of work just makes me feel better, offers a wider range of opportunities

  2. … get your website/book ready and start reaching out to the public affairs offices of companies you are interested in working for. Do your research; a lot of companies are doing web only annual reports, so any talents you might have that lend themselves to web work, play them up.

    Usually, annual reports will have a few lines of credits towards the back. Find the names of the publishers/editors, and take it from there. Additionally, more and more design outfits are marketing themselves to companies as “one stop shops” providing everything from concept, writing, photo, design and printing. Market yourselves to those places as well.

    Be prepared to give the company a buy out option as companies often use AR photos for other collateral.

    signed, someone who has hired photographers for annual reports.

  3. I just got a note from a photographer who was considering doing work for Taproot until he found that they state “ALL work executed on the project for the client belongs to the client”

    Not sure if they are saying the client owns the photography or just the final product. Worth investigating.

    • @A Photo Editor,
      You retain the copyright, but you grant Taproot and the client a perpetual, royalty-free license. The term “sublicense” in the agreement can be a problem though.

      The agreement states:

      As part of my volunteer services, I hereby grant to the Foundation, its affiliates and successors a perpetual, non-exclusive, assignable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use, modify, reproduce, display, perform, distribute, sublicense and make derivative works of my Work Product for purposes of the client project for which it was created, as well as for any other nonprofit client or project of the Foundation, its affiliates or successors.

      • @Ken, That is a really wide license for volunteering your services. The ability to sublicense is really just too much. They got the work for free and now they can sell it … how is that good for both parties? Does the website try to claim rights to the photos as well?

        • @Brian Schneider, I agree. Just pointing out the terms as an fyi as they were in ’08. May be different today for better or worse, don’t know.

          Working for non-profits is certainly a different animal…would make for an interesting topic of discussion.

  4. hmmmm another ‘desperate’ photographer doing pro bono for not for profits.

    One thing I have never understood is how not for profits actually work.

    Are they run by magical unicorns that do it for the love? Do employees of not for profits get real money or is it monopoly money? Do they work in rented offices or do they just meet in local parks except on the days it rains?

    Do not for profits marketing materials get printed on high gloss 300gsm board or is it magical paper from the magic tree in the great free printing forest?

    Where is that damn unicorn gone I need to ride off into the sunset.

    • @Dan,
      Thank You, I can’t tell you the countless telephone conversations I’ve had over the years from non-profit reps wanting to use images without the fee. “Well, we’re a non-profit.”
      “Well we’re not.”
      Bless them for their goodwill but someone is making a salary and so should the photographer.

      • @Gary Miller,

        No worries mate. A lot of the time I am out on my own on this blog. I’m convinced a lot of photographers are ‘weak as piss’ which is why we are where we are.

        Anyway enjoy this:


        (I think Rob may have posted this himself in the past)

        • @Dan,
          A wonderful view for everyone, it could not be any more to the point.
          It speaks on many levels of our industry.

          Now that the economy is taking a tiny swing upward, everyone will soon forget the lessons learned.

  5. – Most annual reports are handled by design firms around the country. San Francisco is a hotbed for such firms. So you want to look through Communication Arts’ Design Annual, Print’s Regional Design Annual, Graphis’ Design Annual and HOW Magazine for the names of design firms associated with annual reports that appear in these annuals.

    – If you want to approach companies directly, I would suggest perusing this year’s Fortune 500 listings online. There you will find the addresses and phone numbers of all 500 companies. As well as their CEOs. However, you want to reach the director of marketing for each company. A simple phone call can yield that info.

    – Finally, you’ll want a kick-ass promo piece to send to these design firms and directors of marketing. Whether it’s a printed promo or something more multimedia based burned to a DVD, make sure it shows off your capabilities and deliverables. Remember, you’re here to solve a problem. Make sure you let your prospective new clients know how you can do that and give them great work.

    • @Steven Rood, thanks for the concrete information. Now, to be even more specific for this business idiot, whom do I want to contact: creative director, art director…?

      Thanks again.

      • @Michael,

        The people you want to deal with at ad agencies are the art directors and art buyers. However, we’re talking annual reports and design firms. Which means you’ll be dealing with designers and design directors. Not sure if design firms have art buyers in house. The bigger ones might.

        Workbook.com is another good source for finding design firms. However, you’ll have to pay to access the staff listings. Do some research on who the hot design firms are, then research who the hot designers are at those shops and then send your promos to them.

  6. Does one get “hired” to shoot a pro-bono job? (Isn’t that called “volunteering”…? Or maybe “volunteer work”…?)

  7. Annual report commissions for photographers used to be a great market. It too has changed. Lots of stock images are now used, many reports are online only now, and less imagery is commissioned. The graphic design business of annual reports is down as well.

  8. I just got the first comps back from an annual report project that I shot for a nonprofit client. They were an existing client that I’ve done a variety of editorial work for. As for how to break in… just build up a network of nonprofit clients…? Can’t really help you there. They’ve hired me for all sorts of work. This is just an extension of that.

    It was pretty fun. The concept was thought up by client and their graphic designers. I was just brought in to execute it. Lots of portraits and a few location shots from the org’s public audience.

    As for pay, nonprofits pay less because they typically have less to pay. I’m not saying that anyone should work for free, but don’t expect the same pay from a poorer client. Employees at nonprofits usually make 30-50% less than they would in similar private sector positions. They tend to expect the same of their contractors. Think of it as charity… or don’t take the job.

  9. They still do annual reports?

    Cause compared to twenty years ago, most of the books look like Third-Grade Dittos.

    • @Frank, I remember when I was assisting 1996-2003, there where so many people who shot nothing but annuals, now can’t remember I heard people talking about shooting annuals. Back then it was a week long shoot and lots of fun now it’s some corp portraits and I-stock.

  10. While we’re at it, anybody know where to hunt stegosaurus?

  11. Is the US Department of Labor concerned about the growth of free (pro bono) workers taking away paid employment? How does insurance work in pro bono situations; does the non-profit cover the photographer?

  12. And in these situations…wouldn’t it be a nice touch for the photographer to retain some rights…since you are donating your services…sorta gratis-like.

  13. Non profit dies not mean no money. I have no idea how Taproot works, but I have shot for a few non profits, ie all the remaining money is reinvested into the company not dividends for shareholders, and they can and do pay for photography. Perhaps not what say a huge multi national would, but they have marketing budgets and if you have what they need and can produce the imagery they want, it can be a good deal.
    I have never done an annual report but got the extra work from relationships built while on separate editorial assignments. Contacts are contacts and reaching out after the initial assignment is over,and published, can lead to more work.

  14. Like we need to find another source to work for providing minimal or no money ?.. sorry, momentary lapse of memory, I’m in photography in 2010…

  15. It does not occur to corporate types that 500.00 less on my invoice is equivalent to 500.00 less on their paychecks at the end of the week.
    They piss and moan about our estimates and how much money we make but tell them your gonna take 500.00 less from their pay and see how they react.
    I have been in this biz over 20 years am in my mid career ( after 20 #$%^&*! years) and for what it’s worth I don’t see a future in this biz. I love photography it’s in my blood so to speak, ask me who I am and I will say a photographer before anything, but I see the end to the still image and the writing is on the wall. Amateur have always underbid us but how can we compete with a &*&(%) who has a corp life and a flicker account and gets an extra .50 per image and a check at the end of the month for 25.00.
    Sorry I am ranting but shit! Don’t mean to sound bitter I feel like the guy at the store in front of you who has a problem on line and everyone looks at him like he is an as())hole.
    Bottom line everyone should get paid . Volunteer cleaning up a dirty park or something, not your art !

  16. I’m a director at http://www.addison.co.uk based in London and we use photographers for our clients annual reports almost on a weekly basis.

    My suggestion –

    If a client pays up to $50,000 for images in their report on a year by year basis but they never have a shot of that event one of their operating companies had in Brazil – my reccomendation is to offer your services to a few companies at say $20,000 a year and you’ll shoot every event they do and as long as they pick up the flights / accomodation tab…i think it will be cheapper for them, images more relevent and you can build up a library and become invaluable to that company?

    I may just do that myself.

    Good luck.

  17. Another suggestion – offer to pitch for annual reports (or other creative business) with agencies as we are always looking for relevent images to suport our ideas / text and Getty often don’t have THE shot we’re looking for or its too staged or unreal. Gone are the days of scamps and artworkers sketching out a design, nowadays designers use a real image and when we’ve asked a photographer to pitch with us and we win, they are first up for the business. Oh dear sounds like a no win no fee ad…

    One post asked who you contact for business – i’m not sure how other agencies work but for us its a mixture of the suits looking at budget and the designers suggesting photographers they like. Go for the designers…find the local drinking hole near an agency that does annual reports and i’m sure you’ll quickly meet designers.

    The boss creative director usually doesn’t chose the photographer for each project but again, worth a try.

    Note – annual reports are cyclical and the best time to introduce yourself is July / August…as from October to June we’re in the thick of it.

    As to where your business is going in annual reports – yes, lots of us are now producing web versions and there we can use images and video – we just did http://www.wpp.com/annualreports/2009/index.html
    (yes, we’re owned by WPP as well) and its very useful having someone with a video camera at board shoots etc so we can use clips on line.

Comments are closed for this article!