It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words – getting images that reflect your values and work are essential in illustrating the impact you make. Taking time to get this right is very worthwhile, particularly as they can be used in many ways, from press releases and social media to reporting your work or to support fundraising activities.
The Narrative Project offers suggestions of how to take and use images for your communications channels – we’ve summarised them here. The Hub Cymru Africa photo guidance downloadable sheet has this guidance in PDF form.
What kind of pictures work best?
These themes were tested to explore which visual ideas make people more likely to support development, from most likely to least likely to gain support.
THEME #1: POTENTIAL Photographs showing that development programmes help people reach their human potential were found to be persuasive with members of the Engaged Public. This type of image also supports the idea that development helps people achieve independence over the long term.
THEME #2: PROGRESS “Before and after” images showing tangible changes in local communities make it clear that development programmes make a real difference in the world.
THEME #3: EMPOWER Images showing that people in developing countries share our goals—such as earning an education or providing for their family—create human connections and convey the idea that development helps people build the foundations of independence.
THEME #4: PITY While images that invoke pity create emotional reactions in some people, they do not advance the idea that people in developing countries are active partners in development.
THEME #5: HOPE Images of people that do not show the context in which they live were least effective at building support for development. People feel good seeing pictures of happy children, but it doesn’t have the same impact as photos with the themes of potential of progress.
What are the basic principles of taking photos?
Rule of Thirds
The most important elements are placed on or around the lines and points of intersection. Imagine that your image is divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines. Try to position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect. Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.
Placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the ‘weight’ of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.
When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey ‘through’ the scene.
Symmetry and Patterns
We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made, and they can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected.
Before photographing your subject, take time to think about where you will shoot it from. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.
How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? Look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject.
Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to convey the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background.
The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world.
By cropping in tightly on the eye, the viewer’s attention is focused fully on it. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background ‘noise’, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.
Editing your images
Sometimes, you take a good picture but need to crop it or brighten it a little just to bring it to life. There are many different online picture editors and software out there that can help to elevate your images. Online editors such as Pixlr Express are useful, as are editing apps for your phone such as Snapseed.
If you would like to discuss any specific communications needs or arrange for some tailored communications support, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org