It’s the beginning of summer (yay!) and many of you are gearing up for those summer and fall special events. Where does photo planning land on your to-do list? We live in a really visual world and when it comes to marketing and design, photos (and videos) rule that world. Everything is being simplified, from your messaging to your page layouts on your website – which means photos can literally make or break your design and your overall marketing and development campaign. Can you see why they might be pushed to the top of that to-do list?
Take it from someone who has sifted through literally thousands of amateur and professional photos – trying to find that holy grail piece that will fit perfectly into a campaign, getting the right shot can be challenging.
I’ve written some previous articles including:
Photos Rule in Content Marketing for Your Nonprofit
15 Tips for Great Nonprofit Event Photos
Take & Use High Quality Photos
Your phone very likely takes high resolution photos automatically – the problem often lies in how the photo is handled after it’s taken. If you are sending it to Dropbox or somewhere else online, you usually have an option to choose the size of the photo you want to send. Always choose the largest file size – which may mean that emailing the photo is not an option as many email service providers limit the size of files they will send or receive. Once the photos are off your phone or camera, leave the editing to someone who knows how to edit photos. This way the photos don’t get altered and saved as smaller files that may not work for the project you need to use the photos for. As a general rule of thumb, any photo with a file size of under 1 mb is not a full resolution photo and its uses will be very limited. Check out iPhone Camera Tips & Tricks.
Look Into Their Eyes
Avoid taking photos of people wearing sunglasses and hats. Not that you always have to literally avoid them – if it’s appropriate, ask them to remove items that block their eyes. It’s important that we see their eyes clearly for maximum impact. Looking cool and remote is probably not going to be part of the message you want to convey. Photos of the backs of people’s heads has the same effect.
Look at your background and foreground
Yes, photoshop is a great tool to fix problem areas, but most people don’t have the skill to easily remove a problematic background. It really only takes a second to scan the background – avoid any giant blank walls or anything that looks dirty (unless that is the look you are going for) or strange. It’s usually not a big deal to ask people to move to a different area for the photo. Check the foreground for objects blocking your shot or objects people are holding (ask them to put them down). Avoid chain link fences in the background unless the people being photographed are playing baseball (and it’s really obvious they are playing baseball). I have a client that sent me a whole bunch of photos of children playing outside at their facility but constantly surrounded by a really old and unattractive chain-link fence so it actually looked like they were somehow being corralled. Examples – 2 beautiful photos – 1) best background ever and 2) worst background ever – Photoshop will be required! If all else fails, just go outside where you will likely find greenery!
Think about the story you are telling
Events are easy because the story is what is happening at the event. Tell the story from the beginning with shots of the planning process, event day set up, each event activity in order and event cleanup. This gives you so much flexibility to do a “making of” sequential photo gallery or at the very least give you a wide variety of activities to choose from so it’s not all posed photos of the same thing. Think about telling the story of a specific person at the event and be sure to get photos of them throughout the evening.
In addition to telling the story through a series of photos, take photos that tell the story all by themselves. These are the “money shots.” You can just take a bunch of photos and hope you happen to catch a money shot or you can increase your chances of success by plotting out some ideas. If your event is a walkathon or marathon, then more than one photographer needs to be at that finish line or when the awards are handed out. If awards are handed out, don’t wait for the posed shot with the award perfectly in hand – even an iPhone can take photos in quick succession to capture a surprise reaction.
One client was taking photos of their staff/volunteers delivering meals to seniors – they got the general story photographed, people getting out of the car with coolers of food, people standing in groups, close-ups of the food, but not a single photo of a person handing the food over to a senior or even just holding the food so that a single photo could be used to tell the story. Setting up the photo (or improving your chances of getting that photo) to get the whole story within that one photo, helps you tell your story even more clearly.
Example of a photo that tells the whole story without text:
Think about everything you want the event to convey and make a list; i.e.
- we want to show the event is successful and well-attended (make sure you get larger crowd shots)
- we want to show that we have well-known contributors which lends credibility (make sure to get specific shots of those contributors)
- we want to show our commitment to our cause (think about what types of photos would show that)
- we want to show how happy our clients/consumers are (get laughing/smiling group shots of clients)
Once specific photo scenarios are outlined, turn it into a day-of-the-event checklist of photos needed.
Skip the Useless Shots AKA No one really cares about your auction items after the auction is over
Sure take a couple of artsy shots of some of the beautifully packaged items but no overall view of the whole table or people bending over the items. Of all the photos you can pick from to show what you do, your impact, or even what your event was about, the auction table offers no real value. Same with raffle prizes. After a client’s annual walkathon, they spend a fair amount of time giving out raffle and other prizes to clients as part of the event – and the photographer invariably takes a LOT of photos. Which should never be posted online or used in any way, because you never want a donor to look at them and think – is this where my money is going? It doesn’t matter if the prizes were all donated – no one looking at the photos will know that. Think about what value photos have in presenting your brand to the world. Example from a marathon event:
Get a Commemorative Photo of the Event
I love these kinds of photos, that sort of hodgepodge event mementos – they work really well as the start or finish of an event photo gallery to post on Facebook and your website. These can be creative and fun and add some visual interest to a gallery – breaking up all the people photos!
Types of Photos
Super zoomed in close-up
These can be stunningly beautiful photos. But keep in mind that their use is limited. Because the photo is so close-up, a lot of visual cues that are part of the photo’s story are missing i.e. where is the person, what are they doing, what are they wearing – which means the photo cannot stand on its own and tell your story.
These photos are great for showing and evoking emotion with an up-close stark reality and work well for annual report covers or materials that have enough supportive text and other photos/content to help tell your complete story. I don’t necessarily recommend super close-up photos on the main page of your site in the slideshow as people only have a few seconds to decide if they are staying or going. Having extra visual cues in the photo could help sway that decision. If you really capture something evocative in that close-up it could work as a slideshow photo.
In this example there are no visual cues because of the super close-up photo AND no immediate text cues – the text used is a very generic, overused message, “Changing Lives,” that does nothing to let people know what this site is all about.
Bottom line – closeup photos are big and need to be presented big – they generally won’t work on your Facebook timeline or as internal photos on your website but they can have powerful impact if paired with equally impactful text.
Portrait Vs. Landscape Photos
I personally don’t like portrait photos unless you are actually doing head-shots for your staff or board page. Horizontal/landscape photos have the ultimate flexibility as landscape photos are pretty much standard fare for use in website slideshows, website header images, and Facebook cover images. In Facebook posts, landscape photos are given preference with bigger all-the-way across-the-page placement while portrait photos are are given a smaller amount of space and end up far less noticeable in your feed (or with parts cut off at the top and bottom). Landscape photos also look better in photo galleries. So turn that phone on it’s side when you take photos!
For the example below – notice how this photo is landscape and not a super closeup and see how that opens up the possibilities :
- the full size photo would work great as a website main page slideshow graphic – especially with all the sky above which is perfect for adding text messaging
- it can be easily cropped to a good size for a Facebook header or a closer view for a website slideshow
- It can be easily cropped even shorter to create a narrow header for a website subpage
- AND it can be cropped to pull out a perfect portrait photo if needed.
If this was taken as a portrait photo to begin with, then only #4 would have been a possibility; if the photo was taken as a landscape but up-close photo, only #1 would have been a possibility.