The way people take photos drives me crazy. Mostly because I have to sift through a lot of junk to find anything usable for the client’s website or marketing materials. And I’m perfectly okay with someone going click-crazy at the event as long as that someone thinks to EDIT what the public sees. I’m talking about removing the closeups of someone’s dog, the backs of people setting up and taking down the event, weird blurry photos, and all the stuff that just didn’t come out great.
Maybe it’s a Facebook-generation thing, and because do-it-yourself nonprofits are relying on younger staff and volunteers to take charge of photos, you are now seeing EVERYTHING uploaded. But those photos are just as important to your brand image and your storytelling as anything else you use in your materials. Here are some tips for the do-it-yourselfers:
Take photos with a purpose– even when things are happening fast. Take the time to focus, check the background so nothing weird is sticking into the photo. Don’t just run around taking random shots of anything and everything. Think about the story you want to tell. If I’m doing photos, I will even write up a list of the types of shots I want to get.
When you are doing photos of individuals, couples, or smaller groups, don’t get giant head shots or tiny far away shots – zoom in on a focal point. If the person you want to get is far away (i.e. running by in a marathon), you will need to take a high quality photo and then crop it to get a more close-up photo or use a camera that zooms in – a photo with a tiny runner in the middle of a big street is just lost.
Avoid taking photos of people drinking or eating – have them put their drinks down before posing for a photo and wait until their forks are down when taking candid shots – most people don’t want to be photographed stuffing their faces, and as for the drinking – if the photos are going on your nonprofit’s website, it’s best to avoid anything that looks like a wild party!
Think about your Facebook cover page when taking photos and get at least 2-3 that will look good cropped top and bottom (much longer in width than in height) – these are perfect for wide group shots or distance shots where you get the whole room.
Delete weird or inappropriate photos – Hopefully this will not be an issue (although I did have this happen with one client’s event photos) – but if someone is wearing a hoochie-mama outfit, don’t take their photo or try to minimize it by cropping it. Before randomly uploading all your photos, do a check to see what may need cropping first or deleting first. So feel free to delete any fuzzy or blurry photos, or anything else that does not belong on your website. My web program manager accidentally caught this lovely scene at a recent client auction event (below right) – and no, the woman was NOT up for auction.
Make sure you get lots of group shots – at least one broad overview of the event with the biggest crowd possible and lots of smaller groups of 3 or more people. If the room (or space) isn’t filled yet, wait until it is to get your broad overview shots. If the room or space is just NOT going to fill up, it may be appropriate to ask everyone to fill in seats (or tables) toward the front. This works well for the speaker or presenter and when you take group photos.
When you do the overview group shot, put yourself at an angle where at least 2 or more people have their faces toward the camera – at least a full sideview toward the camera. Backs of people’s heads are just the worst photos imaginable. If you are taking a photo of the speaker at the head of the room, zoom in so you get 3-4 rows of people (to show the room is full) and the backs of heads will be okay because the focal point of the photo is someone’s front – the speaker. In this example, it was not possible to showcase the focal point (the band) and the full room at the same time; get to where you need to go to get a good photo of whatever is your focal point.
Hunt down your important donors, board members, community leaders and get specific group and couples photos. Make a list of who you want to get on camera and keep it in your pocket – check them off as you go. Don’t forget your clients. Work to specifically get photos of them.
If you have booths or vendors, make sure you get photos of each of them (photos of the booths AFTER they are set up NOT while they are being set up) – they are your sponsors and supporters and they will appreciate extra exposure on your site in your photo galleries.
Keep the subject matter interesting – which means making it about the people when you can. Don’t take photos of the individual auction items or gift baskets – do an overall photo of the table and/or think about snapping a photo of the happy winner holding the auction item after the auction is over! In this example, it was impossible to get all the auction items on the wall in one good photo (plus people were in the way – left) so we found an angle at which we could get a nice idea of the number of items (lots of guitars) while obtaining a forward facing shot of a person viewing the items. While the lighting was not as good on this side of the room, the photo worked well.
Don’t have volunteers taking photos unless you give them your camera and you get it back before they go or they have instructions on how and when to use the photos. Obviously other people will be taking photos, but if someone is responsible for your overall event photos, they need to know what is okay and what is not i.e. what they can post on their personal Facebook pages, what photos should be deleted or not used, etc.
Name everyone you can in the photos. See…. Now maybe you’ll think twice about uploading 300 photos. Photos have a lot more meaning if the people in them have names. This is how you supplement your storytelling. You and everyone attending may know that that is Mary receiving an award for something really great but no one else looking at it has any idea. Plus if you upload your photos to a photo-sharing site like Flickr, the descriptions help you get noticed in the search engines and can actually draw traffic to your site.
Be selective about what photos to use. It’s about quality not quantity. Even if staff follow these photo taking tips, you are likely going to select only 25 – 50% of the photos to show the world. Think about the story you want to tell with the photos; you are likely to want to show that the event was a success (with crowd shots), that people had fun (smiling faces), what the event was about (clients, awards), who you are (branding in the background), what people did at the event (dinner, music, walk, auction) and that important people attended (individual and couple shots). In the examples, the story starts at the entrance to the event (right) and make sure you include photos of your brand or event title (i.e. a banner) – NOT by themselves – include people (left).
Make it an action shot (and make sure you can actually see the action). Instead of taking a photo of the water table being set up at a marathon, wait until the volunteer is actually handing out water to a runner – it’s a much more exciting photo! In this example, you can get rid of the photo of the BBQ from the front (left) – you can’t see anything. The 2nd one (right) is at a better angle and closer to catch both forward faces AND what is being grilled.
And last, but not least, if you are creating a photo gallery of the event, create a uniform naming process. I like to title the gallery the name of the event and the YEAR and then in the description write down the exact date the event took place and where.