Nonprofit 411: Your Campaign in Pictures- Tips for Great Storytelling Photos

leiseBy Leise Jones, Leise Jones Photography

You know that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but if you haven’t yet put this cliché to work for your organization, you’re missing out on a big opportunity.  Through sharing images that support and communicate your campaign, you can get noticed by more donors, media outlets, members, and volunteers.

First, though, you need a solid understanding of your campaign, its mission, and audience.  Answer these five questions, and you’re on your way to communicating your campaign in pictures.

1. Who is your audience? The most important thing to consider before you make storytelling photographs is for whom you are making them.  Donors, members, volunteers?  What do they look like, what do they enjoy, what factors make them ideal for your campaign?

2. What action should your audience take?  Knowing the action steps you want viewers to take informs what the photos look like.  If your goal is to encourage volunteers to sign up, you may photograph volunteers in action looking positive, passionate, and dedicated.

3. What feelings and emotions should you communicate? Make a list of adjectives and words that support your campaign and that you’ll want the photos to communicate. An organization that provides meals to homeless people might list words like generous, inclusive, effective, caring, kind, compassionate, dedicated, understanding, and non-judgmental.

4. What characters will best communicate those words? The people who you incorporate into your photos should be chosen with care.  Ideally, your audience members will see themselves in the photographs and relate to the experience that the photo depicts.  An organization that helps veterans overcome trauma might show a veteran spending time with his family looking healthy, happy, and relaxed.

5. What location best depicts your brand? The location of your photo shoot provides the background to the images and gives the viewers lots of information.  An organization that aims to reduce urban violence might want a photo location that is urban but also that looks clean, safe, welcoming, friendly, and thriving.leise 2

Once you have these questions answered, you’re ready to hire a photographer.  You need a talented and experienced visual artist who has the technical skill to take your vision and make a set of compelling photographs.

Before you hire a photographer, get a sense of their style and experience by asking, “How would you approach a shoot like this?” Of course price is always a factor, but a photographer with strong technical skills who understands your campaign and your vision is going to be worth every penny.

A great place to look for photographers in your area is the American Society of Media Photographers, which offers a “Find a Photographer” feature on their website here.

Let’s use a short case study to put this information work.  The example organization aims “to measurably improve students’ academic achievement and their expectations of themselves by engaging students through academic debate.”

·      The organization wants a library of photographs for use on a website and print materials targeted to donors and foundations.

·      The adjectives that best describe their programs are: rigorous, fun, competitive, student-centered, intellectual, and inspiring.

·      The characters in the photos need to reflect the students that the organization serves.

·      The photos need to show students debating and learning in a classroom environment.

Given those criteria, we created a library of dynamic images that communicate the brand (a few of the photos are shown above and below).

leise 1

leise 3

Leise is an affiliate member who captures many of MNN’s events and is responsible for the staff headshots.