Visual Storytelling: Photography Tips for Nonprofits
Nonprofits are incredible organizations that support a variety of different causes and hope to make an impact in the world. These organizations tell meaningful stories to inspire others to support their cause. In addition, photos have the power to tell stories as well. Visual storytelling (using photos to tell a story) is a powerful way for nonprofits to increase engagement with their audience.
However, taking great photos can sometimes seem like a daunting task. But, don’t worry! Read on to learn some amazing photography tips that make your nonprofit organization a photography pro in no time!
Why is Visual Storytelling important?
There’s a lot of competition for your audience’s attention, and compelling images help you stand out in a noisy online world. Images amplify your story and help you reach more people. Photographs compel people to read further and inspire them to take action.
- People are exposed to an average of 5,000 marketing messages and brands every day.
- The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text.
- Images convey more information and are more likely to be remembered than text (“picture superiority effect”).
- 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
10 Non-tech photography tips for beginners
First, ask yourself one important question: what do I want people to feel? This is the foundation for all the subsequent photography tips. A powerful photograph shows and elicits emotion. What do you want your viewer to feel when they see this image? Surprised? Happy? Nostalgic? Curious?
Look at the facial expressions, actions, and interactions of your subjects. Remember to no just document what it looks like, but what it feels like. Therefore, reflect on how you feel about your work. Remember, you can have a technically “perfect” photo but not impact your viewers.
- Tip #1 Look for moments
Capture something that shows emotion-surprise, humor, joy. Feel what is happening.
- Tip #2 Show relationships
A strong photograph of people shows connections or relationships. But, this doesn’t always mean there are multiple people in the photograph. Relationships can be shown through: a subject interacting with the camera or photographer; a subject interacting with other people in the photo; or a subject shown in her own environment.
- Tip #3 Include faces (when you can)
People are relational, and they connect better to photos of other people. Consider this compelling fact: “One of the first things we focus in on when we are born is the faces of our family. This isn’t just because they are always around in those first few weeks. The brain has a specific circuit for recognizing faces called the fusiform gyrus, or the fusiform face area.”
- Tip #4 Take a series of 3-5 photos
Truly become a visual storyteller with a series of images.
- The wide shot – An entire street view, beach, or wherever else you are. Like authors setting the scene this communicates the big picture.
- The medium shot – Brings the viewer closer into the scene.
- The detail shot – Without the above few photos, they tend to lack context. Still, the detail shots can bring a lot of depth to the story you’re telling. Slows both you and the viewer down to notice.
- Tip #5 Remember the rule of thirds
Keep this tip in mind when taking a photo. This will help the composition of your photo to stay balanced.
- Tip #6 Eliminate distractions
Don’t include too much and be careful of distracting things in the background. Capturing a photograph is about selecting what you do and don’t want to include in your story. So, remember not every detail has to be included!
- Tip #7 Experiment with angles
Most of the time, we shoot from our normal eye-level vantage point because it’s easy. However, that produces obvious and boring photos. Instead, experiment with different perspectives.
For example, If you’re in a crowded market, shoot from a low angle to capture the feet of passersby, which shows how crowded it is. Or, shoot from just above everyone’s heads–a sea of heads and faces helps convey how busy and noisy things are. Shoot from directly above something. Get eye level with kids. Shoot from below a flower to make it look giant.
- Tip #8 Get closer on details and portraits
Getting close to a detail that’s often overlooked can be really interesting. Things that most people would pass by in everyday life can bring your travel story to life, especially when paired with photos of the entire scene. Shooting travel portraits close up can show the relationship between you and the subject, and that human connection really draws people into your photo.
Bonus tip: If you have a background that is far away from where your subject is, and you either zoom in or move closer (“zooming” with your feet), you’ll get a blurrier background.
- Tip #9 Look for easy light
Light is at the core of an amazing photograph. Without good light, your photos will suffer. Really understanding how to use light and how your camera sees it is an important element of photography- but sometimes it can be difficult.
For beginners, we recommend looking for light that’s easy- soft or indirect, natural (sunlight), and plentiful.
Here are a few places you can find “easy light”:
-Open shade of a building or large tree
-The “golden hour” (the first couple hours after sunrise and the last couple hours before sunset)
-A room with lots of big windows
Bonus tips: Avoid extremes- If you’re in the shade, watch out for patchy bright spots in the background or on your subject because they can be distracting in your photo. Recompose your shot to eliminate the bright spots.
- Tip #10 Your camera is just a tool, and the “best” one is the one you have
Use whatever tool you have available to you. All cameras work the same, and good light and composition will help you the most – no matter what tool you’re using!
Social Media for Nonprofits
Social media is a great way to promote your organization and its cause. Of course, visual storytelling and photography plays a large role in that! Here are some tips when using photos on social media:
- Less is more! Fewer high-quality images have a greater impact than any images that are mediocre or poor. Mediocre photos dilute the overall impact.
- Tell slices of your story and non-profit organization’s work. You don’t have to say it all in every photo.
- Use simple, bite-sized captions that work with your photo to tell a story.
Now that we have shared the importance of visual storytelling and some photography tips, you should feel more confident in taking photos to tell a story.