No giant checks, please
I’m a word guy, but give me a good photo and I’ll gladly cut my text to the bone to give that photo space in a newsletter or annual report. Why? Because a photo can deliver news, emotion and human connection to my audience’s mind at the speed of light. My words, set in 11-point type, march into a reader’s head at a comparative snail’s pace.
Still, I did say “good photo.” One hundred and fifty well-chosen words make a better use of page space than the giant check handoff photo, the shot of bored-looking people around a conference table, or the glassy smiles of people holding plaques over their bellies. These visual clichés may be easy to shoot, but they lack emotion or meaning for anyone not in them.
So how can you get great images?
Well, the best photographers take the best photos. A well-organized day of professional shooting can result in 100 to 200 good-to-great photos of your key programs and people in action, enough to ensure that you have at least a few good images for anything you print in a year. The Genesis Center invested in a day of work from Ilene Perlman and loved the results, showcased in their 2009 Annual Report.
If you can’t hire a pro, your best alternative is brute force: take a lot of photos all the time. Enlist your staff, your volunteers, even your program participants as photographers. Remember that every photo should be a story and that stories are about people. Are you proud of your new building? Show us the pride, not the bricks, by putting beaming people out front. Make the photo about their feelings.
Grassroots International makes grants to organizations in rural areas from the Middle East to Mexico. They rely on their traveling staff to diligently take photos and upload them to the Grassroots International Flickr account. They get enough good-to-great photos that we have trouble choosing which ones to leave out of the Grassroots International Annual Report.
Even total amateurs will get a great shot now and then, but you can get luckier by copying the professionals: get up close, shoot from a variety of angles, and avoid harsh flash lighting. Mix posed photos with action shots. Be sure to get releases from your subjects. And, did I say take lots of shots? You can find motivation and more tips in this recent article from Michelle Gienow in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Need inspiration? Check out 120 of 2010’s best news photos at Boston.com.