Interested in becoming a volunteer photographer?
Find answers to frequently asked questions and sign up to receive our informational webinar below for in depth answers. Watching our Informational Webinar is a great way to learn more about this volunteer role, the time commitment, and the application process. We also have Volunteer Coordinators that are available via email to answer any additional questions.
NILMDTS accepts all types of photographers from expert level professionals to skilled enthusiasts. We welcome all genres of photographers but do request indoor posed portraiture image samples utilizing auxiliary lighting (off camera flash or continuous) for the application process as the majority of our sessions take place in poorly lit hospital rooms. If your portfolio does not include indoor posed portraiture images, we encourage the specific creation of submission images utilizing a willing model (no non-human models with the exception of a babydoll, please) to demonstrate your best posed portrait work. Check out our image guide for examples.
Simply put, you don’t know until you try. The number one thing we hear is that “I’m too emotional” but it is our belief that the majority of the time this just is not true. We do not want robotic volunteers. We are looking for people who are compassionate and sincere. It is absolutely normal to feel the weight of what you are doing but we find that most volunteer photographers get into “photographer mode” and are so focused on getting the perfect shots that the emotions may not come until after or during the editing process.
That said, it is OK to shed a tear or two with the family. They will not see that as unprofessional or weak but rather as a sign of compassion and truly caring for them and it will make the gift even more precious knowing someone was taking photos that cared enough to step into their worst nightmare to make something beautiful out of their love for their child.
So if you have the skills but think you cannot do it, we urge you to apply. You will go through our training to ensure you are prepared to walk into the first session and you will be supported 100% of the way by our caring staff and volunteers. If you take one session and realize it is not for you, there is no obligation to continue. You will have made a direct impact on that one family and countless other families indirectly due to the sharing that family will do of the photos you took and of the positive experience you were able to help create in those final moments.
Your commitment to volunteering with NILMDTS is completely up to you as well as the needs of your community. We ask families and medical staff to only call or text our volunteers between the hours of 7:00 am and 10:00 pm. It is entirely up to the volunteer if they can accept a session or not. If a dispatcher is in your area, we ask that all volunteer photographers respond with availability if they can or can not take the session. Prompt responsiveness is the main time commitment as we hope our volunteers will be able to respond to a session request within two (2) hours maximum.
We encourage photographers to talk with their local Area Coordinator (if any) or other volunteers in their area to find out the local session expectations. Even taking one session a year – as long as prompt responses even if unavailable – is helpful to the team to lessen the load for other volunteers.
Session length can vary greatly from session to session depending on the circumstances. On average we expect photographers to spend no more than 45 minutes with the family to allow them to spend their own quality time with their baby. We always recommend to set expectations with the medical staff and family regarding your time commitments that may effect timing of a session as this can proactively keep the workflow of the session moving along, especially in situations of removal of life support.
Per policy, NILMDTS images are to be gently retouched black and white or sepia tones only. There are various reasons for this policy which are detailed in our volunteer training. If a photographer does not have the time or skill to retouch the images to remove the potential evidence of trauma from birth, we have skilled volunteer Digital Retouch Artists to aid in any post production needs.
The $10 USD application fee is the last step of our application process for the Photographer and Digital Retouch Artist (DRA) applications. NILMDTS is a nonprofit and the application fee covers many volunteer benefits as well as the costs associated with having the technology to upload the images and the automation to have them entered into a database so that our application review team can evaluate and score the images submitted. Once an application is approved and accepted, the system then processes the application and the volunteer is given access to our training portal. Once the Volunteer Services Agreement and required training is completed, the volunteer is activated then, if a photographer, your contact information will appear on our Find a Photographer feature on our website.
Additionally, we implemented the fee because after completing an extensive amount of time and resources completing the entire application review and start-up technology process, we unfortunately find that a large number of applicants have only applied in order to obtain a free skills review of their work and never intend to volunteer with NILMDTS. This is not a good use of our agency resources and slows down the process for others, like yourself, who have the dedication to serve and are ready to begin volunteering with NILMDTS.
If the fee is ever a barrier to a truly dedicated potential volunteer, please email us as we have scholarships available upon request.
In addition to the immense pride and gratification of directly or indirectly providing bereaved families in your community the priceless gift of heirloom portraiture that they will forever treasure, volunteers of NILMDTS receive a number of benefits, which will help them not only with NILMDTS sessions, but also in their professional career.
Volunteers will receive support to provide their volunteer services – you are never alone.
- Headquarters Support – Caring support staff at NILMDTS are available Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm Mountain Time to help you with whatever situation you may come across. You may email or us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-283-3339.
- Training – Your private training account is stocked with dozens of the latest resources and documents you will need for your sessions, hospital outreach, recruiting, and a number of other events. These are updated on a regular basis so check back often!
- Monthly Session Preparation Calls – Volunteer Leadership holds monthly meetings for photographers to discuss how to best prepare for and unwind after a session.
- Private Volunteer Account – You are able to access your own private Volunteer Account area within the NILMDTS website. This is where Affiliated Photographers are required to log their sessions Consent Forms and able to keep track of their sessions.
- Grief Support Videos – As volunteers, we understand the sessions you take can be extremely emotional. In the Introduction to NILMDTS course you have access to various grief support videos.
- NILMDTS has a Marketplace Chaplain available for all staff and volunteers. You can call our nondenominational Chaplain for emotional support at any time you need to have a conversation.
- 24/7 Online Support – We have a closed/private Facebook group for all active volunteers. This is a safe place to ask questions, vent and build relationships with other volunteers. The group is facilitated by Volunteer Leadership so there is always someone in an official capacity who can help answer questions as well as other knowledgable volunteers.
- Online Training – NILMDTS provides role specific online training to ensure understanding and build skills. You may revisit the training as many times as you would like for a refresher.
- Professional Development Courses – You will further develop your skills for NILMDTS sessions and your professional career through these regular Live Editing/Retouching Courses on an array of topics or come with your own questions to get answered by experienced Digital Retouch Artists. These courses are open for all volunteers who may be interested in these topics no matter their role.
- Liability and Volunteer Insurance – NILMDTS holds insurance to help protect volunteers. You must be an active volunteer in compliance with our Volunteer Services Agreement to be covered. We also strongly encourage volunteers to have your own insurance, as this will provide extra protection for your NILMDTS volunteer work.
- Legal Services – Once in awhile, you may encounter a situation in which you may need legal advice. NILMDTS works with an attorney who can help advise you in the situation. Please call Headquarters with your concern.
Session Production Support
In order to produce the best quality product to our families, NILMDTS and its sponsors offers the following:
- Music – A large selection of music in which we have permission to use is available in the Forms & Documents if creating an optional slideshow.
- Retouching Assistance – If you are unable to retouch your images due to time or skill constraints, NILMDTS has volunteer Digital Retouch Artists to assist you.
- Digital Skin file to assist you with retouching work.
- ShootProof gallery delivery and data retention.
- Data recovery via Drive Savers
A number of NILMDTS sponsors offer generous discounts on products for photographers. Most of these products can be purchased for your professional career as well. Please see our updated list of discounts in the Additional Resources course.
Marketing and Promotion
- Official NILMDTS Name Badge & Lanyard – included in your welcome packet you will receive a NILMDTS badge and lanyard.
- Brochures – Marathon Printing provides brochures to all NILMDTS volunteers to promote services. Please contact Headquarters to order brochures.
- Marketing, Branding, and Logo Usage – NILMDTS provides a Marketing Guide as well as permission to use and access to NILMDTS logos and images for promotional use.
- Media Support – You will receive information on how to contact and respond to the media as well as Talking Points.
- Displays – NILMDTS can provide you, upon request, with a display for an event in which you are promoting NILMDTS. These are used at photography, medical and bereavement type conferences to recruit more volunteers to help more families. Additionally, the displays assist in educating the medical community about the services our volunteers provide.
NILMDTS never wants the $10 USD volunteer application fee to be the only barrier stopping a skilled and passionate individual from becoming a volunteer. We gladly provide financial hardship scholarships upon request.
Yes. We carry General Liability, Directors & Officers, and Worker’s Compensation policies. Each photographer active in the program must sign a “Volunteer Services Agreement” which outlines expectations for their duties, code of conduct, and policies they must adhere to as a representative of NILMDTS.
Learn More about Skills Criteria and Apply
When you apply to join us, you will submit portrait images that showcase your best work and convey your ability to use controlled light and focus, as well as strong posing techniques. Here is a little more information about these areas:
Unfortunately a hospital setting doesn’t generally offer the natural light needed to create the beautiful and timeless images that we want to gift to our families; therefore it is important that our photographers demonstrate the strong skills using portable or auxiliary lighting.
We seek photographers who can capture images with incredible focus. The subjects of our images are small but full of detail and we want to make sure that our families’ eyes are drawn into the image creating a strong connection. When selecting images to submit, please select those that show your precision with focus.
Posing is a key element to the photos we create. Our photographers have a good sense of the rules of posing and always work to take photos with their subjects in the most flattering positions. It is best to avoid submitting candid or snaps shots, but instead choose those photos that show your influence, as a photographer as it relates to posing.
Sign up to receive our free Informational Webinar
Watching our free Informational Webinar is a great way to learn more about this volunteer role, the time commitment, and the application process. We also have Volunteer Coordinators who are available to answer questions via email.
Understand Your Impact
You will find fulfillment by lending your talent to a parent suffering the loss of a baby. This service turns a hidden pain into a beautiful portrait; one that brings healing to a family, awareness to a community, and a sense of honor to you.
When the hospital approached us about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep I was unsure if I wanted images due to the great emotional pain I was in. The private portrait session was done with the utmost care, patience, sensitivity, and love. No one ever felt as though someone was there to just take ‘pictures’, but that you were there with us during the last moments while we held our daughter in our arms. The hospital staff and yourself has made this experience so much easier. We now know that in a blink of an eye the world you have built can come crashing down. Until now we have been like most couples, working way more than we should and focusing on things that we know now are not that important. We are closer as a family and have taken time to re-evaluate our lives. We now cherish every day. I strongly urge parents to take advantage of the service you provide. Working with you has helped to ease some of our pain and realize that we now have hope for the future.
Two women came to our hospital to take pictures of our daughter. You did a wonderful thing for us!! For some reason this morning I have been watching the slideshow repeatedly and am so impressed at how respectfully and beautifully your photographers did their job. I just cannot express how fortunate I feel to be able to look back on pictures of my daughter and not feel like the past is completely lost. Your company does an amazing thing. I have much respect for you and your volunteers. Thank you.
We almost heard about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep too late. When our daughter passed unexpectedly, we had no knowledge of this service in the hospital. It was only at the funeral home that we were able to capture the images that we will forever cherish. Had we known about the service earlier, we would have been able to capture her at her true essence by having portraits made at the hospital. We want parents to know how important this service is as soon as possible.
You have given to my son and his wife memories of a son that left this earth too soon. Audrey did a wonderful job capturing the love and peace surrounding Jacob. She was compassionate and very respectful of Jacob’s parents. While I would liked to have met her under different circumstances, I feel very fortunate that she came into our lives at such an important time. You should be very proud to have Audrey on your list of photographers. Thank you for creating Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Jacob’s images will be with us always because of it.
On Saturday March 17, 2012 around 10:45 am, we said hello and good-bye to our beloved son. It is shocking to know that he is physically no longer with us. Yet we are glad that your organization exists and was able to provide us a lifetime of memories through the baby pictures taken of him. We are so grateful and thank God that we have these pictures to forever treasure our baby angel. May God continue to bless you as you bless and help families through their difficult time.
My family and I haven’t personally thanked you for your services that you did for us. We met on September 10. It was your birthday, your nieces, and my son’s that day. You were so amazing, gentle, and so loving. With you we were able to capture moments, memories of our son that we can cherish forever. They are SO beautiful and I absolutely LOVE them. My husband and I, my family are in debt to you, we can not thank you enough. What you did for us, what you continue to do for others is more than amazing. Angels from above running around with cameras to bless all these families who are hurting. You help ease the pain by giving something back. It may seem small to some, but for us, and I’m going to take a leap and speak for other families; IT IS NOT SMALL. What you are able to give back is hope, faith, pieces of our son that we can have here on Earth. You touched our hearts in so many ways we will never forget. We feel so blessed to have had you be a part of our life, even with the unfortunate circumstance.
I have never been one to have the right words to say when someone has gone through a loss. When I think of the loss that these families deal with, I realize there may be no words I can say to take that pain away; I can, however, pray that I will alleviate some of that pain and bring a little bit of joy by sharing my photography.
I am immensely honored to be invited into the lives of these families in their most difficult time and proud to be able to give them this precious gift. In return, volunteering with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep has touched my heart and changed my life in more ways than I can truly express.
I volunteer for NILMDTS because I believe in giving others of our talents and gifts. I know how precious the photographs of my own children are and how many times I’ve wanted to freeze time, just remembering every little moment, maybe even seconds.
I’ve never lost a child, so I can only imagine the magnitude of having only moments to form a lifetime of memories. That’s what I strive to give all of our NILMDTS clients. Knowing that I can provide them with joy during such a heartbreaking time is fulfilling to me and gives so much purpose to my photography that reaches beyond NILMDTS, infusing the importance of my art into all the photos I take, for all my clients.
I’ve been a NILMDTS photographer for a little over a year but it was one of those things I meant to do for a long time. Many years ago (before the organization existed) my nephew was born very prematurely and he passed away after just a few hours. The nurses at the hospital took some Polaroid pictures of them and their son and the treasured these few images.
Fast-forward to my career as a photographer; when I first heard of NILMDTS I thought like so many “I could never do that.” After awhile though my thinking evolved from “well, maybe I could” to “yes, I think I can and I will.” Even then it probably took me another year to actually go sign up. Part of what lead me to it was thinking about my little nephew and how much those hospital pictures meant to his parents and part it was a desire to use my skill for something good in the world. It is difficult at times but I’m so glad to be a volunteer.
I volunteer for NILMDTS as a way to give back, to show gratitude for my many blessings in my own life. I have seen how much my own daughter loves and treasures the pictures she has of her twin angel babies.
At this stage in my career, being mostly retired, I have the time to give service to others, and I feel richly compensated when I am able to do something for them at a time when they really need to know that someone cares about them. It is rewarding to me to occasionally follow them on social media, and over the years watch as they continue on with life and have additional children and seem to find happiness in their lives.
I have four beautiful daughters now, but before I had them, I had two miscarriages. It was years ago, but I remember the profound sadness and darkness of those years. I remember leaving the hospital and wishing that I had something (a lock of hair or a picture or a footprint… something concrete) left of those babies.
I know that the only thing harder than having children is not having them.
Even though the memories are sad, it is important for me to remember my experience. The love I felt was stronger than the sadness. There was still hope. Love wins.
I first heard of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep when my friend’s daughter was stillborn. She shared the pictures of her sweet daughter with me. I could see how much those pictures meant to her.
When I started photographing for NILMDTS, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the sadness. There is sadness and tragedy, but the bottom line is always LOVE. These little angels are loved. Their families want to remember, and the pictures we take can help fill an empty place in a sad heart. What a privilege it is to be part of that!
I am a NILMDTS volunteer photographer because of LOVE! I know how much I love my babies, and I honor them each time I help another family. Love wins when we lift others up. Love wins when we remember.
I believe every life should be celebrated. I started my personal photography business 7 years ago to capture the special moments in life, mainly maternity/newborns, and in the past year I realized that these moments of infant loss are just as important, if not more important to document. Being a NILMDTS volunteer hasn’t always been easy but it has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. It is a gift to be able to use my photography skills in this way, to serve these grieving families, and to experience giving back to my community. My mom lost a child 36 years ago shortly after birth and still looks at the photos they gave her…I know these families will treasure these photographs for years to come and it is my privilege to be able to serve in this way.
I can attest to the healing power of NILMDTS portraiture. I see my son every day because of an amazing volunteer photographer. Now, it is an honor to be able to capture the most important moments of undying love for other families.