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Do Your Photos Tell a Good Story?

Posted by on November 8th, 2010
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Design, Storytelling    Tags: , , , , , ,

Guest Blogger George Draper shares thoughts on how nonprofit organizations can take and benefit from better photography.

Communicating the important work of your organization is essential.  So why do so many nonprofits use boring photos that tell the wrong story — or no story at all?

Clear, well-crafted photographs capture the attention of your audience and bring life to your website, fundraising appeals, annual reports, and even grant proposals.  Create photos that show who you are, what you do and why your work is vital. By supporting your message with pictures you create powerful, credible communication that connects your viewers emotionally to your mission and impact.

(Above, a math lesson is conveyed quickly and effectively. The photographer’s intent is to capture a natural, believable interaction.)

Creating effective, meaningful photographs is more than simply taking snap shots. Thought, skill and a critical  eye are fundamental. Here are some considerations that may help you create photographs that better convey your story.

  1. Begin by visualizing a series of pictures. Use your brand promise to drive decisions on what images will best convey the impact of your work.
  2. Write down possible picture concepts that best show who you are, what you do and why your work is crucial. Then refine and edit your imagery. The result becomes a visual blueprint to guide and direct your photographers, whether they are staff, volunteers or a professional.
  3. Create a plan for capturing the images. Who will take the photographs, where and when? Do you need signed releases to use the photos you take of people? Be sure to get them during the shoot to save time and effort later.
  4. Prepare a budget and identify funding sources. Expenses might include a professional photographer, editor (include staff training), and costs of getting to and from photo shoot locations.
  5. Assign a photographer or several who are experienced in recording people and activities in low light environments. The goal is to convey authenticity and reveal that “human” element with warmth, energy and involvement. Before you assign a staff member, a student photographer, a volunteer, or a professional, review their portfolio and make sure they can handle your assignment.
  6. Since you may not have the financial resources to hire a professional, most images may be shot by staff and volunteer photographers with limited experience.  Consider strengthening their skills with photographic training as well as guidance in how to capture those images specific to your shot list. Training sessions might include shot planning, equipment purchase, camera operation, lighting, composition and digital editing.
  7. Select and digitally edit your best images. After you transfer them to the computer choose the best shots and edit them with Photoshop Elements, Aperture or some other editing program. It is helpful to
    have a current computer with a good screen. Adjusting each image for cropping, exposure, contrast, highlight/shadow detail, colorcast and sharpening will make all the difference. Be sure to back up your photographs onto  a CD, DVD and/or external hard-drive.

With your prepared shot list, plan of action, assigned photographer(s) and editing capabilities you are well on your way to creating powerful images to tell an irresistible story about your work and why the public should support it.

Contact George for photography and training services at georgedraperphotography.com.


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

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