Pre-conference:Volunteer Support/Equipment and Accreditations

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

Chapter support for photographers with equipment & event accreditation

- “best practice” or isolated case?

by Raimund Liebert (WMAT)

Wikimedia Österreich supports Wikimedia Commons photographers with equipment and event accreditations. This is different from individual projects such as Wiki Loves Monuments. It is less complex and we do it throughout the year.


We demand from all photographers that we support to use the template {{Supported by Wikimedia}} in the file descriptions on Commons. It says, „The making of this document was supported by Wikimedia Österreich“.

The main reason why we demand this is not advertising (“look how helpful we are“). The main reason is CatScan. It makes it easy for us to measure the impact of our support.

Equipment rental


  • photographic equipment (63 different items)
  • lent for free to volunteers for images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons
  • country-specific insurance

One part of our support is equipment rental to volunteers. We currently own 63 different items of photographic equipment, including three cameras, lenses, flashlights etc.. We keep it in our office. It is insured for Austria all the time and in case it goes somewhere else we have to call our insurance company and make an arrangement for other countries. For example, we brought a special lense from Austria to London to give it to a German who wants to make photographies of islands in Finland with it. We had to explain this to our insurance company.


  • more good and useful pictures for Wikimedia Commons
  • economic efficiency
  • sustainability of contributors

Our goal is to have more good and useful pictures on Wikimedia Commons. Photographic equipment is rather expensive. When it comes to special-purpose equipment, it is much more efficient to use it for as many volunteers as possible. I also believe that regular equipment rental is a way to keep editors. It is a sort of social binding which works on another level than just the Commons community.


  • communication of purpose and outcome
  • usage plan
  • pick-up / sending

When somebody wants to use our equipment, he or she has to tell us what for. In case it is the first time we also want to see previous works. When the volunteers bring back the equipment we ask them for links to Commons where we can find the images. To tell the truth, this would not be necessary because it is not so difficult to find them by myself. We have an equipment usage plan which is public in our members wiki, but in most cases the volunteers do not look there, they just ask when the could have something and for how long. They can come to our office and pick it up or we send it to them.



  • organizing event accreditations and photo permissions
  • proposed by the chapter or the volunteers
  • mostly national

Besides equipment rentals we organize event accreditations, for example for football games, and photo permissions, for example for museums. We propose events to the volunteers but they also come to us and ask us for help. So it works both ways. Almost all of these events are in Austria.


  • more good and useful pictures for Wikimedia Commons
  • a “traditional“ organization behind
  • long-term partnerships with institutions

Why do we organize accreditations for volunteers, why don’t we let them do it on their own? We want more good and useful pictures for Wikimedia Commons and it’s much easier to ask for a press accreditation as a organization, not as an individual sort-of-freelancer. Another thing is that for organizations the Wikipedia contact person stays the same. So they know that they can rely on us and we can build up trust.


  • contact institutions by e-mail (and phone)
  • mention Wikipedia, free licenses and volunteering
  • let them know about the results

We contact the institutions by e-mail. Sometimes it is necessary to chase them on the phone as well. We learned that it is important to mention three things: 1. The images are for Wikipedia articles, not only for Wikimedia Commons. Everyone knows Wikipedia, only a few people Wikimedia Commons. 2. Mention free licences, but don’t explain it too much in your first e-mail because you want an accreditation and not to advertise free licences. Nevertheless it is important to point out that the images might be used outside Wikipedia as well. 3. Make it clear that the photographers are un-paid volunteers because this implies that they don’t have press cards.

We show the results to the institutions even if they don’t ask for it. We send them links to Commons categories and to the Wikipedia articles illustrated with the images.


Finally I would like to mention some challenges concerning equipment and accreditations. One problem is the proper evaluations for our activities in this field as a whole. Let me give you two examples. The usage of images: Four weeks ago some photographers made pictures of hundreds of traditional Austrian ceramics. Now you don’t have hundreds of Wikipedia articles about traditional Austrian ceramics where these images could be embedded. But still I regard this as a valuable project. Second example: the so-called quality images on Commons. We have one very active photographer who dislikes the way pictures are promoted as quality images on Commons. That’s why she doesn’t like to nominate her own images. We have to respect this. As a result we could support even more quality images but just in theory. Producing work for others: As a rule of thumb: the more images a photographer is uploading, the less acurate are the file names, file descriptions and categories. This means work for other users who are not involved from the beginning. We support one volunteer and produce work for other volunteers without asking. Sometimes we support experienced photographers who are unexperienced uploaders and sometimes experienced uploaders who are unexperienced photographers. In both cases we have to be careful because it takes lots of time to help these volunteers to get better.

Is is best practice or or an isolated case what we do? We are in the lucky position that we have a community in Austria which is really interested in photography. I am not sure whether the same volunteer involvement would work with e.g. content liberation in Austria.