Do you believe a picture is worth a thousand words? When it comes to telling stories, I do. Great photos can tell a compelling and memorable story.
In earlier posts, I’ve talked about storytelling and non-profit fundraising. Having the ability to tell your story in a way that engages supporters – and persuades them to support your cause with time, talent, influence and money – is essential to effective fundraising.
Sometimes a photo is the best way to tell a story. Think: website, social media, special events, blog, membership renewal brochure, and newsletter. Using photos to tell your story (and promote your cause) is something even the smallest or newest non-profit can do well.
The trick is finding the right photos (or creating your own photos) that tell the story you want told.
How do you tell your story with photos? Here are some of the things I look for in a well-executed, visual story (or a well-written story for that matter) about a charitable cause:
- showing others what we do
- explaining why we do what we do (the need or problem)
- showing what we’ve already accomplished toward meeting the need or fixing the problem
- conveying a sense of hope (the problem is being taken care of and the need is being addressed) while convincing our audience there is still a need
- describing who benefits from our work (e.g., program recipients, museum visitors, all 6th grade students in the metro area, etc.)
- conveying a sense of urgency (the need is now and the problem won’t wait)
Finding the right photo has never been easier thanks to microstock websites where you can find royalty-free, inexpensive digital images for all your marketing and fundraising communications. By definition, stock and editorial photos tell a story, and you can easily find the perfect image for your cause with a keyword search.
Most microstock sites are fee-based and have millions of images to choose from including photos, vector illustrations, and video. The photo quality is not always the highest at free sites, although I’ve found and used some remarkable photos from free sites.
Buy the best image your budget will allow. Especially if you have a presence on Pinterest. The photos on Pinterest are phenomenal, and you’ll have to pin exceptional photos to get noticed.
Free Microstock Sites
stock.xchng (sxc.hu) has nearly 400,000 royalty-free images
stockphotosforfree.com has more than 100,000 royalty-free images
Fee-Based Microstock Sites
These are some of the more popular sites where you can find some awesome photos. Prices will vary depending on the site …
Take Your Own Photos
Perhaps your marketing budget doesn’t allow for much of anything, let alone purchasing royalty-free photos. That’s when you have to do a little (no-cost) guerilla marketing … and take the photos yourself.
Digital cameras make us all look like professional photographers. You don’t need an expensive DSLR to take noteworthy photos. A point-and-shoot digital camera works just fine. I have both, and I rarely use the DSLR … the point-and-shoot is more convenient and easier to take along on photo shoots. Most smartphones have cameras that rival DSLR technology, so you probably already have what you need to take fantastic photos.
Remember, you want to take photos that tell your story and that are memorable. A memorable photo has …
- a subject matter your audience can relate to,
- good composition, and
- good lighting (exposure, or the amount of light going into the camera).
Professional photographers use three basic techniques to compose their shots …
- Rule of Thirds – Rather than setting your subject along the center line of your photo, divide the frame into thirds going vertically and horizontally. Imagine two lines that divide the frame into thirds from top to bottom and two more lines that divide the frame into thirds from left to right. Place your subject at or near one of the four intersections on your imaginary grid.
- Diagonal Lines – Use diagonal lines in your photos rather than lines that are parallel or perpendicular. Meaning … look for lines (a row of chairs, a sidewalk, road, stairwell, vegetable or flower garden rows, cages at the zoo, etc.) and have the lines go diagonally across the frame rather than straight up and down or on a straight line from side to side.
- Framing – Create a frame within the photo. Framing adds interest and should be used to eliminate a gray, lifeless sky on a cloudy day. For example, use a tree limb, vines or arbor to create a frame, or place your subject inside an open doorway.
Here are a couple of tips for getting optimum exposure in your photos …
- If possible, take your photos outdoors in natural light.
- The best natural light is about 1/2 hour before and after sunrise and sunset.
- You can get some great shots on an overcast or rainy day because there’s no harsh sunlight.
- Experiment with switching to black and white on cloudy days.
- If you have to shoot photos outdoors on a bright, sunny day, put your subjects in a shady area and use the shade setting on your camera.
- For night shots, take the photo before the sky goes completely dark and there’s still some color in the sky.
One last word about using photos to tell your story … if you have people in your photos, have the subjects sign a model release. Develop a simple release that states how you intend to use the photo (on your website, in your newsletter, etc.) and that you have the subjects’ permission to do so. Have the subjects sign and date the release and keep all releases on file.