Nonprofit 411: How To Get The Photos You Need

By Leise Jones, Leise Jones Photography 

leiseWhen it comes time to update the website or make some new marketing materials, the question about photos inevitably comes up.  Photos and videos are the kings and queens of the internet, so you definitely need both on your website.  But you’re probably thinking, “I know that I need photos, but WHAT photos do I need?” The right photos will communicate your message, tell the organization’s story, and be authentic. What follows are some tips to help you know what KINDS of photos are right for you and what CONTENT each photo should contain.

First you need to ask, what KIND of photo do I need?  There are four basic kinds of photos and once you know what kind you need, you can begin to plan the content.

  1. Staff headshots.
  2. Environmental portraits of your clients, customers, or volunteers.
  3. Action shots that show happy clients, happy workers, and collaboration.
  4. Product Shots if you have something tangible that you sell, give, make, or offer.

Once you have narrowed down what KIND of photo you’re going to employ, then you can ask yourself what should the CONTENT be?  To get at this, there are three questions you need to ask yourself.

  1. What adjectives, feelings, or emotions do you want the photos to communicate?
  2. What kinds of people do you want to depict in those photos?
  3. What action do you want the viewer to take upon seeing the photos?

Let me give you an example of how this line of questioning can help you get to the perfect storytelling photo for your organization.  Think about a social service agency working on their annual report.  They have decided they want to feature action photos in their annual report rather than staff headshots, client profiles, or product shots.

Knowing what kind of photo they want, they ask themselves the three content questions.  Let’s assume these answers:

  1. Adjectives, emotions, feelings: happy kids, safe environment, effective services
  2. People: diverse set of kids and social workers who look happy, engaged, and friendly
  3. Actions: recruit donors and board members

If this were a real-life scenario, I would recommend to this client that we schedule a morning when I could be in one of the locations documenting the kids in the classrooms, interacting with teachers, and playing games.  We aren’t going to show children looking needy and sad – on the contrary we’re looking for engagement, enrichment, and joy.  Knowing the agency’s goals helps me determine what the content of the photos will be and therefore how to prioritize everyone’s time and budget.

To recap, when it comes time to develop a visual library for your organization, the first step is to decide what KINDS of photos you need – people, action, or products – and then determine what the CONTENT should be based on the emotions you want to elicit, the people you are speaking to, and the action you want them to take.

For more tips and ideas for getting great photos for your business, visit my blog and reach out if you have any questions!

Leise launched her business, Leise Jones Photography, in 2009 following a six-year career in the non-profit sector.  Now she helps non-profit organizations and small businesses tell their stories through compelling and authentic photographs.  She specializes in authenticity and making photos that reflect real life.  Check out her website to learn more: