In this webinar, Laura Huth-Rhoades will show you the difference great photos make in nonprofit communications and teach you easy, quick, and no-cost techniques for upping your nonprofit’s photo game.
Steven: Okay, Laura, my watch just struck 1:30 here on the East Coast. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?
Laura: Get the party started. I thought you’d never ask.
Steven: All right, let’s do it. Well, welcome, everyone. Good afternoon, I should say if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning if you’re out on the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Photography for Nonprofits: When Pictures Speak A Thousand DOLLARS.” And my name is Steven Shattuck. And I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session. And I’ll be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on today if you didn’t already get those.
So if you have to leave early, or maybe get interrupted or you just want to review the content later on, don’t worry, I’ll get that recording in your hands today, I promise. Most importantly, though, as you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. I know a lot of you have already done that. That’s awesome. If you haven’t, go ahead and introduce yourself to the room. We always like knowing who we’re talking to here. But also send us your questions. Send questions and comments throughout the hour. We’re going to try to save some time for Q&A. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. We would love to answer your questions along the way. You can also do that on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed for questions and comments.
And one last bit of housekeeping, if you have any trouble with the audio through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually but better quality, since it doesn’t rely on, you know, computers or internet speed or browser versions or anything like that. So if you have any trouble, try to dial in by phone if you can, if that’ll be comfortable for you. There is a phone number in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about a half hour or so ago. And also when you’re registered, you’ll find a phone number there that you can use.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars just about every week, almost every Thursday throughout the year. Bring on a great guest speaker, always educational, informative, and sometimes fun with some shenanigans, which we like. We love doing these webinars.
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Don’t do that now. Wait at least an hour until the presentation concludes today because you are in for a treat. I’ve been excited for this one for a while. Welcoming a good friend of the program, good friend of Bloomerang. Laura Huth-Rhoades is joining us from beautiful Southwestern Michigan. Laura, how are you doing? Thanks so much for being. You’re doing okay?
Laura: Yeah. I’m doing great except for my chest cold. So for those who entered late, I apologize in advance for an occasional cough, which I will try to mute.
Steven: Yes. Well, we appreciate you being here. You’re a trooper for still doing this even though you’re feeling under the weather. It’s going to be a great session. I just want to brag on you real quick, Laura. If you folks don’t know Laura, check her out, follow her on Twitter, follow her @DoGoodConsulting. Does a lot of awesome work. I can vouch for her trainings, for her abilities as a nonprofit communicator. She’s actually been a customer of mine in addition to being just a good buddy and a friend of Bloomerang and an awesome consultant. She’s been doing this a long time. I always liked having guests who have actually worked as EDs, as fundraisers, as communicators. And you’re going to see all that knowledge and wisdom come out over the next hour or so.
She does a lot of in-person training. So if you see her name on a conference schedule, definitely go to that session. And if you liked this session, I think she would also do in-person trainings for you, which, again, I can vouch for. She has done a lot of volunteer work. She was formerly the co-chair of the Central Illinois Nonprofit Training Institute. It’s kind of how I got to know Laura. But she’s now in Southwestern Michigan. So if you’re nearby, say hi to her if you see her. Just a great gal, good buddy of mine, and, Laura, I don’t want to take any time away from you, because she’s got a lot of great advice for us on photography. So the floor is yours. Take it away, my friend. Tell us all about taking those photos for thousands of dollars. Go for it.
Laura: Great. Thank you, Steven. Thank you for that introduction as well. I have been a proud Bloomerang user now for years and years across several different organizations that I’ve either done consulting work for or volunteered for or worked for, and it is definitely my go-to database for nonprofit database and that Donor Management needs. So I am pleased to be able to provide this webinar today talking about a subject that I think is sort of overlooked or under-looked I suppose in the nonprofit world. And that is the communication tool that is our photographs that the work that we do. And the power that those photos can hold in engaging the public, the audiences that we want to have engaged in our work.
Photos are often the very first thing that we can use to grab people’s attention. And we need to be able to give these photos the time that they need in order to grab the attention of those audiences so that we can get them to do what they want to do. So I have developed this training as both a webinar and an in-person training, as Steven mentioned, to help organizations transform the act of simply taking photos into creating photos that can transform your organization. So let’s get started here. And I am going to advance the slide, I think. Is it advancing, Steven?
Steven: I’m still seeing . . . oh, there you go. There you go.
Laura: Okay, there we go. Okay. So there’s me in the upper right with a bad perm, many, many years ago. And that’s my camera bag attached to my hip pretty much. When I was younger, I had a Canon 81 and I was an avid photographer of nature. And that was where I existed. I was very inspired by the photography of Ansel Adams, who is a famous black and white nature photographer.
And when I got to college, and that’s me in the next photo there, I got inspired in an art history class through the work of Dorothea Lange. And these black and white photos are Depression era photos that she took to share the faces of people who were going through the Depression at that time. And what that class taught me was that my camera could be a powerful tool for social change, and not just an opportunity for me to take nice photos that my parents wanted to hang on their living wall.
And so what I did was I took that interest in taking pictures of the world around me that and the humans that were impacted by things going on in the world and parlayed that into my nonprofit work. And today I offer training on a variety of communication subjects and photography is one of them. So let’s dive in and take a look at what we can be doing to transform our photos.
Before we get started, I’ve got a question for the group. So use your little chat area on your screen here to tell me what your biggest photo struggle is. Is it that you can’t remember? You’re so busy to remember to take photos of your work? If you don’t know how to work some of the settings. It could be any variety of these things. So I think this is where we get to have people weigh in here. Am I doing this correctly, Steven?
Steven: Yeah, you are. Folks, you can just click your answer. Yeah.
Laura: So Elizabeth says getting good photo content from others in the group. Julie weighed in, said the same thing. Alyssa is saying knowing how to use the photos. Asked about confidentiality. We’re going to talk about that a bit. And Miriam also mentioned confidentiality things. So John says his biggest challenge is finding higher end lenses. And what the good news is today for those on the webinar is that we’re going to be talking exclusively about how to use your phone as your camera to do this work. So we don’t need any sort of expensive equipment. In fact, you don’t even need to download anything onto your phone in order to do what you’re going to learn in class today.
So we have a lot of how to get others engaged in how to take these good photos to taking what people learn today in the webinar and translating that to other people that they work with. We’ll give another couple of seconds for people to weigh in here. Steven, it looks like Emily might need a little bit of help with some audio.
Steven: Yeah, I can help with that. No problem.
Laura: Okay, so I’m going to skip to the results here and see what we’ve got. Yeah, so it looks like we’ve got a big group of folks that say, “I can’t get good photos from others.” So hopefully some of the slides today will help you understand how you can take better photos and then maybe share some of the slides and some information with your colleagues. We get the second ranking is, “I forget to take photos over work things going on things. You know, time is crazy. Stopping taking these good photos.” Hopefully we’ll learn today why taking a few more seconds out of your day to take good photos can result in huge payoff for you.
And then we’ve got another group of people that says, “I can’t get photos from my colleagues at all, let alone good photos from colleagues.” So the idea of taking what you learn today and sharing it with other people in your organization is certainly how what are the big takeaways that I am hearing from this group, and hopefully, from not only the slides but from some of the follow-up materials that I’ll be sending and that Steven will be sending. We can help address those things. So let’s start to dig in and really understand why photos work so well in helping elevate your organization’s visibility. Well, first of all, by nature, humans are visual first and we’re verbal second.
Good visuals. And this is good visuals, not just any visuals, but good visuals have the impact of making people feel first, right, an emotional trigger and then think second. And that’s really important. When it comes to this important action of first getting people to feel something, then to know or understand something and then to do something, the action you want from them, which is either like attend an event, join your cause, donate, etc.
Visuals are more persuasive than just words alone. So if you’re writing something always be thinking of what sort of great visual could accompany what you’re writing. And then visuals help our brains understand and retain information better. Our brains process visual 60,000 times faster than text, right? So it’s incredibly important that we meet people where they’re at, where their brains are at, and give them these great visuals.
Also when you hear something, three days later, you’ll remember about 10%. But if you will affix a picture to what is being said, and this is something like in your newsletter on a website and in an email and a social media post. You affix a picture to that and that memory increases to 65% of what people remember. And that’s really important to think about. Not just printing things or posting things all with words just to say you’ve got that done and off of your to-do list, but actually making it count and making it matter.
So in short, great visuals are like extra credit. They have super charging powers to really boost your nonprofits marketing and communications. So let’s dig in and take a look at why photos like the ones on top are so much better than the ones on the bottom.
And these are photos from actual work and clients that I have worked with. The one in the lower left was the front page photo on a website of a client, complete with the date stamp on there. And that certainly didn’t demonstrate what the work of this organization did. The top one is what we replaced it with a couple there and a series of photos that slid through of these people who were touched by this organization.
And then on the right side, you see two different ways of demonstrating the work of Habitat for Humanity. We’ve got the woman at the top, her name is [Bevin 00:14:12] standing in front of the home that is being built by volunteers and her for her family. And then we have another volunteer take pictures of another house being built in the photos that we got. And you can tell which ones just from these slides early pictures here really would grab the attention of Habitat’s audiences in the community.
So let’s start breaking this down. First, I want to urge everyone, I get it. And as Steven said, I’ve worked in the trenches in nonprofits before and I understand how busy life is. But taking the time to do this and to do it right is going to pay off for you. So I’ve got a few questions for you. One is are you yourself drawn to looking at uninspiring photos? Think of yourself like scrolling through your newsfeed and social media. Where your eyes stop is what you’re interested in and, by and large, those are posts that have interesting or engaging imagery along with them oftentimes photos, oftentimes photos that include people.
If those are the types of images that invite you to read more and click a link, those are probably the types of images that encourage others to also do the same. And then I would ask would you ever publish a newsletter and electronic or print newsletter without editing or proofreading at first? No, I would hope not anyway. And photos really are no different. So once you take a photo, it’s really important that you stop and that you edit your photo, take a look, make sure it’s what you want, if not, take a new one, do color balancing and editing.
And we’re going to take a look at some of those techniques here next. This photo is one that I found last night of an organization back in Illinois not far from where I used to live. And, yes, John, that photo really is boring. That is a 50th anniversary banner for an organization. And this is a photo that they chose to announce that they were having this anniversary celebration.
And you can see really that instead of it being an announcement of their 50th anniversary celebration, it’s a picture of pavement, a yellow fire hydrant, and some grass and a telephone pole and guy-wire. And then there’s this pole barn building in the back and a truck with a banner on it. And it just doesn’t communicate what this organization needed to communicate. And if the individual who’d taken this picture had taken the time to cross the street and probably stood over by that fire hydrant, knelt down a little bit perhaps and gotten a slightly different angle, the photo would have turned out a whole lot different and probably a whole lot better in matching the image to the text of this post in order to really communicate to their public that their 50th anniversary was coming.
And, yes, John, I also agree that having a person in there in the picture would also have been a good idea as well. So there’s a lot of different things in this photo that could have been different. This photo certainly should have never been used to promote this event for this organization. There was a lot of other ways that they could have done that.
So let’s not make the same mistake. And let’s take a look at what we can be doing differently. So after one of my classes, this was a photo that one of my students had sent me and said that she understood exactly what it meant to kind of check yourself before you just take whatever picture and put it online. This woman’s story was they had just moved to a snow climate, a northern climate and this is their kids first snow. And this was their first snowman ever.
And she thought it was real cute and she wanted to snap the photo and put it online. And it ended up having the social media thread hijacked with a bunch of comments about . . . if you guys can look in the background of the left photo, you can imagine some of the comments that people weighed in with instead. And what she wanted to do was celebrate her kids for snowman and the newsfeed ended up filled with a bunch of jokes about potty time, essentially. And so it’s really important that you take the picture that you really want, that you take the time to look at what you take in and then in this case, all I did was crop it out a bit. And she would be able to put the picture up that she would want up there instead.
All right, so let’s take a look at. There were several people who talked about the idea of anonymity and how to deal with working with clients in sensitive situations. And I have worked for a number of organizations in a staff level and a consulting level that have had to have anonymity and confidentiality issues addressed. In this particular case, these photos that you’re looking at here are ones from when I worked at an organization called Prairie Center. And it was an organization that worked with people who were working towards recovery from addiction from alcohol or drug addiction.
And what we chose to do, you’re going to see some slides in the future where we actually show some of the people who are in recovery who agreed to share their story. We also had several people that were willing to share their stories but did not want their images shared. And so these are some of the techniques we came up with, in order to fix powerful photos to the stories of individuals whose names had been changed in order to have a nice image, powerful image connected to their stories.
So let’s see. Natasha is asking, “What are your thoughts on stage photos? I work for a medical nonprofit. And if we say something in a doctor’s office . . . ” You see that as an example right here in the upper left. This is in one of the counselors offices and it was staged. She agreed to have her photo taken. And so this was not during a counseling session rather but it was afterwards and she agreed to allow us to take this photo of her. And the other one in the lower right was an odd same situation as well.
Steven, we’ve got somebody weighing in here saying that the presentation is still on the snowman slide. But I’m seeing mine is on the correct slide.
Steven: You are okay, Laura. You’re good to go. I’ll help with that person.
Laura: Okay. There’s a bunch of people that say that the snowman ones and others that say the correct one. So I’m not sure what’s going on but Steven is working on it.
Steven: You’re okay. Keep on talking.
Laura: Okay. All right. So, the bottom line is don’t let the need for confidentiality and anonymity shut you down. Get creative and get clever. Don’t always think that you need to take a picture of an individual in whole in order to have a powerful image that goes along with any sort of story or texts that you’re sharing. There are ways to get around that by taking . . . stock photography is definitely an option. Although I like to take more authentic photos. And right here you can see for those of you who can actually see the slides, this is a way of taking real people and using their real photos without giving up any of their confidentiality.
One thing I will note too is that be cautious of things like tattoos or rings or other identifying items so that those items won’t be photographed either to give that person’s identity away.
All right. So let’s take a look at the next slide here. Hopefully, this comes up for people. This is on photo releases. So I want to give a little background on where you’re allowed to take photos without getting photo releases signed from everyone. And that’s public places that have no expectation of privacy. So if you’re holding an event out in a public place, like a park, so it could be at a run or something that’s out in the public, you can photo what’s happening at will without leaving to get a bunch of sign ups.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable with that, you can always wear events or public places. You can post a small general notice. It could be a simple flyer or a small poster that you hang up that just gives that disclosure that photos will be taken at this event.
For any sort of nonpublic events, it’s always a good idea to get waivers for minors. And then if you make waivers a part of your regular intake process, on the front end, you don’t have to try to chase waivers down later. So at several of the organizations that I’ve worked at, we implemented some new policies and procedures that when volunteers or even clients in non-confidential situations like at Habitat. When they were entering the program, we would have them sign a waiver on the frontend so that we knew that we’re good to go later.
On the right there, you’ll see a small sign, a museum. It’s a public museum. So it’s in part funded by government funds. And so it’s open to the public. And they have chosen to make sure that families that come to this museum know that photos are happening here. And if you prefer to stay out of the limelight, they’ll make accommodations but the family needs to go and talk to them about that. So that’s an idea for how you can handle that situation if that’s what your organization is part in handling.
Okay, so let’s start digging in to how we take better photos using the phones that we got in our hands. So right here, you’ve got a selection of four different photos. And there are different techniques in editing and composition that you can use in order to take better photos.
And the bottom there, you can see kind of a classic way of taking photos of an event like a training, right, the photographer who’s been assigned or been asked to take photos sneaks in the back of the room, takes out the camera or their phones, and snap a picture and captures a moment in time. In this case, the individual is pointing the camera right at a sunny window and ends up getting a bunch of the ceiling structure in there. None of the content of the slides, no faces other than the speakers, which you can’t even really see because he or she is too far away.
And on the right bottom, you see something that could have been a much more powerful photo, except for the individual not really composing the picture properly and not taking the time to step into it, in order to get the detail that’s needed. And in the end, what I end up seeing is a door, a coat on a chair, and as I think that’s like a Slurpee or a 7-Eleven cup on a slightly messy desk. And I think it’s a check that they’re being given from an organization.
Now on the top, instead you see some more compelling photos. And what’s happened in those photos there is that in the upper left photo with the children, you have an individual that got down, I don’t know, on their knees, but at least they knelt down a bit to get at the child’s level, the children’s level, and perhaps even compose those pictures a bit by moving those colorful sponges more into the picture. And then created a different angle by shooting that from off to the side a bit rather than just as a straight on to show a room full of activity and not just a child engaged in that activity. And it tells a much different picture than simply as a child looking up at a camera from an adult angle.
On the right upper, you see a woman who I think you can tell is a part of a larger community event. So you can see that there’s other people that are behind her. And she’s got food on a plate there. And that’s not the focus here but we definitely wanted to capture it in the photo. So the photo is of this women very clearly but it puts her in context of this community event with other people there. So it brings the focus on her while still allowing the residual story about this event to be told.
So let’s start digging into this idea of editing photos and photo composition and the things that are underneath each of those. So let’s start dissecting some of these photos. So right here, simply, this is one of the easiest things that you can do on your phone and know that you have color corrected and gotten a slightly better image. Most phones and if your phone is fairly new and within the next or last probably five years, you’ll have a color balance option. And I wish I could tell you where it was in all your phones. But I’m sure that with all the number of people on this call, there’s that many different ways for you to find the color balance option.
This photo here of a guy that I know named Ron was taken by a professional photographer, a friend of mine. So even professional photographers using professional photo equipment still color balance their photos. So if they’re doing it on their more expensive equipment, we certainly need to be doing it on our camera phones as well.
So here you can see a nice good photo of Ron taking some notes in class. And then the photographer, Isaac, color balanced it before he delivered it to me. And it does make a dramatic difference in understanding that picture and really having that picture’s content come across and speak to you. So for every photo that you take that you’re going to be using to communicate something in the organization, take a moment and use that color balance function. And you’ll start to see colors or photos rather that pop a lot more.
All right, next up, we have the idea of color period. There are now opportunities to take color photos and to run them through a filter. And you can see right away what a black and white would look like. When I started doing photos back when I was 12, we had to choose the film we were using and you either had to commit to black and white or a color, not you couldn’t go back and forth between both. But here you can see some of the dramatic difference that color or not color can bring to how the subject matter is being communicated in your photos here.
So we’ve got . . . this bottom one is a gentleman named Gary who went through the Prairie Center program and is now in recovery and was hopeful to share his story so that he could help other people who might be suffering from addiction. And I took this photo of him in a diner where we had met and the black and white that came across. I think hopefully everyone else at least would agree that that black and white photo of Gary, it’s much more powerful than the color one. The color one is not bad but the black and white one really pops. And I think that that it worked really well is his was one of the first stories that we had used to reach out to the public with a campaign of people in recovery, reaching out to those with addictions and they’re urging them to get the help that they needed.
So think about whether or not you need color, whether or not black and white would work and play around with some of those filters that you’ve got on your phone. Because sometimes those filters can add a real element of drama and flare that can grab the attention of audiences in a way that just your simple click and go photo cannot.
All right, let’s take a look at some other ways of composing photos that can have a big difference. Now here we’ve got and this is probably something that if you’re a community-driven organization, that you’ve been out to different community events and you’ve done tabling events.
And here we’ve got Justice for our Neighbors at an event like this. And somebody that came along and took a picture of the two women that were running this booth. And she centered the two way in this photo and ended up getting a large blue background what I think it’s a purse or a jacket off in the corner there and really kind of lost the focus of what the photo is. She basically took a photo to take a photo, but she really didn’t capture the essence of these two women and the work that they’re doing for this organization. So just a simple crop could clean this photo up a bit. And really have you connect to the people that are in the image, right? So that’s a big dramatic difference here.
But there were a couple of other things that could have been staged slightly differently in this photo if she had just taken another five seconds in order to help the two women use those plastic cups in the background there can maybe prop up a couple of their brochures, so that you could put the brochures on the table. I would have also turned the name tag of that one woman so that you could see her name tag or have her take it off because right now it’s kind of distracting. And I probably would have stepped to my left as the photographer a bit and had the woman who’s wearing the cross necklace on her head hide the car in the background so that your focus really was on the two women and their table. And I certainly would have tried to get that fire hydrant pole thing out of the photo as well.
So Cynthia reminds us also use your flash. It makes everyone look healthier. Use that with caution. If you’re shooting somebody straight on, that can also have some unintended consequences. My advice there would be to take several photos, always take several photos, take some with flash on, some with a flash off and then choose the best one. And flashing can also help with fill in light, especially when you’re doing photos that are straight on.
All right, let’s take another look at some composition here. Here’s another example of a booth event. And this was taken by a woman who took one of my classes at a regional training. This is for an organization called the North Michigan Community Service Agency.
And what was happening prior to taking the class was that they would get these photos straight on of the booths, right? It would be the person would show up to the event, they would step around from the booth and take a picture of an empty booth before the event started, send it to her and then she would post it. And what they decided to do after class was to have whoever was at the booth event take a photo of the individual the staffer in action when somebody who agreed to be in the photo came by the booth and have this more action shot taken.
And what Francis, the woman who took the class decided to also teach her staff was how to use the blurred background function. And you can see what a dramatic difference that simple change makes. Now, not all cameras have the blurred background function but some of the newer cameras do. You still push on the camera where you want it to focus. That’s another way of achieving the same look. What you can do is blur that background out and draw the attention to the real focus what you would like to communicate there.
Now in this photo here, I would have done a few other things in staging this. I would have taken the job fair sign on the table and move it down the table to the right. And I would have cropped that blue fire thing out of the background and brought the picture in a little bit tighter.
But overall, I think the lower left photo, I think for those of you who may have had a similar gym experience to me in elementary schools, that just screens elementary school gymnasium to me. But the upper photo makes me feel like I’m actually like almost in a movement situation in this photo. I feel like I’m almost like walking by this booth and experiencing it. And when you’re thinking about people scrolling past photos like this in your newsfeed or on a on a webpage, this is the type of photo that’s going to make people stop not one of just an empty booth with an empty metal folding chair there. Those are boring. This is far more exciting. This blurred background function can be used in really any type of situation.
Take another look at another way that organization in Northeast Michigan organization is using this. So you can see on the left side, it’s a photo of a park with people milling around. And on the right side, it really is the women who are at this table enjoying this event and your focus really is on them.
So here’s a photo that I had found online that I think really could have been a great opportunity to communicate a couple of really powerful messages about the YMCA. So on the left, here, you see two individuals holding signs. And you see a bunch of distractions that are getting in the way of us actually reading those messages. When you crop this photo in and that’s one of the only things that I did to this photo, I color balanced it. The photo is taken. There’s nothing I can do to retake it. But if I inherited this as a staff member and I had to use it, I would instantly color balance it and I would certainly crop it. Because once you do that, you can see the messages in their signs. And they are powerful.
Why I give? Because someone gave me. Powerful. If this is a fundraising campaign, he’s giving because someone wants gave for him powerful stuff. Why I give? Because every child deserves a chance. On the left, you cannot read that. And the point of that photo is basically useless. It’s gone.
Now, what are some of the other things that could have been done? If you imagine yourself stepping back in time to right before this photo was taken, what are some of the things that you would do different as a photographer to capture a better shot that you could work with?
Well, one would be to step in and get a better photo from the get-go, right? Don’t use the crop function on the camera, use your feet as the cropping function. Get the picture you want. I will also make sure that that poster, which I believe probably says something like, “We can do so much more together,” is part of that photo, because with him standing in front of it, it kind of loses that powerful message. And I would have also used the blurred background because the background there with the clock in the janitor’s closet sign is very distracting. And that would have allowed the focus to be on these two individuals and their signs.
So small little changes like that can have big and powerful impact. And if you think about this particular slide, those sorts of changes that I just mentioned would not have taken more than 10 additional seconds of your time for you to get a much, much more powerful photo. And if you think about this being a fundraising campaign related photo, that 10 seconds of time can make a dramatic difference in how your campaign is communicated to the public and the results that you achieve.
All right, some other things to consider. First is the photo that you’re taking a one and done type of photo like of those booths that I showed you before, right. You’re unlikely to use that as a long-term communications piece for your organization. Or is this more of a living tool? You see these photos here or Kass and of Jeff, we knew that those were going to be long-term, long time, ongoing living tools for the organizations that I took those for. As such, we took the time to take several photos, we played around with blurred background, non-blurred background. I use the rule of thirds in some cases so I could drop in these quotes on here, like you see. And we took the time to create the scene in a way to create as much dramatic impact as possible and help tell the story.
And if you look at even Jeff’s quote here down in the lower right, “Prairie Center is the bridge to getting health and finding another path.” The idea of Jeff shadow behind him and now who he is today, really in a visual helps to transmit that idea of a bridge from where he was to where he is today.
So I mentioned a rule of thirds here in a second. And that is we are drawn to photos that allow for just the right amount of head room, right, so that there’s not too much blank area above someone’s head, but also putting the subject matter off into one third segment of your photos. So if you think of your photo in one third segment, putting somebody off to the side of it can create great dramatic interest for viewers.
You also want to think about your preposition and whether or not you want to fill the frame. Sometimes there is value in taking something really close up and not having extra space. Other times, like here with Kass’s photos, there’s an importance to having the composition we did so we could drop that quote in there. You want to think about whether you want background blur, what type of focus that you want in there. So think about those things. You want to think about whether you want color or not color, or you want to take both. So you have both at your fingertips, whether or not you need to have anonymity and how you’re going to deal with communicating what you want to communicate while maintaining that confidentiality. And then if you need any sort of other dramatic flair built in there.
So let’s take a look at what you really need in order to get good photos for your organization. I think that for many organizations a huge part of what you’re going to be able to accomplish is going to be with the phones that you and your colleagues have in your hands. So using some of these techniques here, you’ll be able to take much better photos by changing your angle, by changing whether you’re cropping with your feet versus your phone, whether you’re using any of the filters, including the black and white, but sometimes you need professional help. And sometimes that’s when you’re in some sort of extraordinary time crunch and no one else can help you with this. And you just need to call someone and have them capture something and capture it well.
Sometimes you need somebody with that experience, right? This might be for like a 50th gala event and you just don’t want to leave it to anyone else. And you want to make absolutely certain that you’ve got the great photos that you need from there. And sometimes you need an excellent shot and you need it now. And that’s when you might need to call a professional.
You can do it yourself when you’ve got a lack of a budget and you may have the time to be able to do this. And this is where I can help is with the help of a coach, being able to work with you more one on one to achieve the goals that you want to achieve in communicating your message, your mission, through visuals, and giving you the training and the coaching that you need in order to take the best photos you can using the devices that in your hand and helping to bring the team forward in taking similar photos as well.
Then there’s stock and free photo options. And here’s a few options listed here. This is by no means an exhaustive list and it’s certainly not one that an endorsement for me. Just some ideas, especially if you’re a nonprofit organization, you’re going to have a lot more access free photography than a for profit entity. So take advantage of that if you need to do stock photos, but don’t think that just because confidentiality or anonymity is an issue that you need to run straight to stock. Think about some of the creative options that were talked about here today and see if you can start communicating what you do using some of those more creative approaches.
So Billy Brown has weigh in with a couple of good suggestions here. One of the tips is hold your phone more at your chest to take a picture than at eye level. And that’s kind of the same thing. It’s like bending your knees to get down at the level of children is, you know, getting down on their level of people on this list or working with animal rescues or people with disabilities that might confined them to a wheelchair, getting down on their level can make a dramatic difference in how those photos are communicated and captured. And then Billy also mentioned propping your arm on something to make sure that your photos are taken still, right, to try to get your arm propped and so you’re not shaking, you’re going to end up with a better quality photo. I do know they make little tripod for phones too. And those are not very expensive if that’s something that you want to invest in.
So for dressing your photos off and doing some of the cropping and the filtering, your phone has a lot of options. If you’ve got one of these more modern newer phones. But sometimes running them through a program that you can have as an app on your phone or even something on your computer, once you send your pictures to yourself can help you get with some additional flair for your photo.
And here are some options here. I love Canva as a graphic design tool. It’s low cost, free graphic design tool for clients I work with. They also have some photo editing options in there as well.
I see I’ve got . . . Oh, Sarah says Popjinx, P-O-P-J-I-N-X should be on this list as well. Thanks, Sarah. And then let’s see. We’ve got somebody, Page asked editing software companies that offer worthwhile nonprofit discounts. I would say if you have not checked out TechSoup, T-E-C-H-S-O-U-P, definitely check out TechSoup. They do magnificent work for nonprofits in giving software either free or very low cost of all types, from accounting software to database management software to photo editing software and everything in between. Techsoup.org. Great organization. I’ll send that out in email after the webinar as well.
So there are some free options here. There’s some purchase options here. Play around with them. I think it’s a really, really great investment of time. And I advise this to anyone who takes any of my webinars or trainings in person, one of the things that you can do following this workshop, if you’re thinking that this is something you want to implement for your organization is sit down with your phone and learn more about its functions. Sit down for an hour and really understand what works in here, what options you’ve got, how they work, experiment by taking a few of the photos one way a few the other way, and really get yourself comfortable because you don’t want to be learning about it on the fly and making people stand there and getting awkward. It will be a very, very good investment of an hour of your time to be able to learn that.
And then also, if you can look your phone up and look up any sort of YouTube, little YouTube videos to learn differently about your phone, that would be another way to learn about your phone and its capabilities specifically. Okay, so I’ve got a couple closing slides. I’m going to send these to the group after the webinar as well. So you’ll get this as a little handout that you can print out. And this is something you can share with your staff as well to help remind them of 10 key ways they can take better photos for your organization right now. So the first one is moving towards your subject. You and your feet should always lead as the zoom. Don’t rely on the crop function on your phone or your computer because the minute you start cropping something, your photo quality declines.
So use your feet and zoom in. Get the image that you really want. I will say one thing here, and that is if you think that you’re going to want to drop or superimpose a logo or a quote or anything into this photo, keep that in mind that you cannot add portions of your photo there that were never taken. So if you think you’re going to want both a close up and a wider frame one, a close up for some purpose like in a newsletter and then one with a with a quote dropped into it for social media, take both photos. They’ll both be good quality but the minute you start cropping it on your phone or the computer, the closer up one is going to decline in quality.
The next rule of thirds. And I mentioned this already that they add more visual interest. And they can also do that room for those text or quotes or logos when needed. But most of all that rule of thirds really helps to draw viewers into the photos than straight up straight on photos do.
Number three is build the scene. Ditch those distractions and compose your photo with the people in it objects that you really want in there. Take a few minutes to do that. You saw that in the YMCA photo and how just a few more seconds of time really could have helped build that scene into the most powerful visual communication from where it is now, which is a good photo but not one that communicates the message that they wanted.
Number four is one that I am religious about and that is clean your lens. You cannot imagine the amount of fingerprint goo and other things depending on where people work. My husband used to work at a feed mill and he would come home and take the world’s ickiest photos. And once he started to learn to clean his lens, he was like, “Oh, my camera is not broken on my phone, it was just this gunk that was on my phone the whole time.” So clean that lens. Get your shirt, carry something around. I mean, I use my shirt all the time to do it. But get rid of that haze, you’ll take instantly better photos.
Next is boosting the saturation and vibrancy for pop, and making sure your images stand out by bringing the best quality that you can. So when you get that that photo balance in there and really play around with some of those lighting levels and color saturation levels in there. And really create the best photo that you can before you end up saving it, sending it, and using it.
Next up is crop. Now I already mentioned in number one that you want to use your feet as crop. That said, you usually need to do a little extra cropping just to get the exact frame that you want. So make sure that you are looking at the picture and that any sort of remnant of, for example, an exit sign or, you know, the fire alarm thing is cropped out of that photo.
Seven is change your perspective. And somebody mentioned this earlier about taking a picture more from your chest area. I mentioned like getting down on your knees. This could be just a different angle. You could still be standing and taking the picture normal, but you’re standing off and taking an angle photo from the side. All of that makes your photo more interesting for anyone looking at it. It’s really important to make your photos not look like everyone else’s because that’s when people start looking at them.
Number eight is find your focus. Make sure that you are telling the camera where to focus and where you want the viewers’ eyes drawn. Don’t just take a picture of everything. Take a picture of the things you want. And if that means using background blur or just a selective focus function, use those functions.
Number nine is incredibly important. And that is never just take one photo. If you’re in a situation where you can take 10 or even 20 and then select from those photos the very best one, this is one of the most important things that you can do and that you can have your staff do as well.
Because especially when you’ve got a larger group, there’s a photo I showed you at the very beginning of a group of people that had a sign that said, “Thank you people for bikes.” One of the guys was looking away. He looks like he’s completely disinterested in what’s happening. Like he’s waiting to escape. And that is a powerfully bad message to share. Right? They took that one photo, and that was the photo they had and they had to use it. But when people see him in that photo now, and I think he would be horrified by this, he looks like he’s mad at having to be there. And that’s certainly not the message that he intended to send. And that could have been easily eliminated if they had taken a handful or more photos and then chosen the very best one.
And then finally, take time to edit. So that extra 10 seconds or 30 seconds will absolutely be worth it. Never just take a photo and post it like you would with a newsletter or E-newsletter. Make sure that you are stopping and editing and checking yourself and putting forward the very, very best foot, photo foot.
And I’ll leave you with a few quick don’ts. I want to leave time for questions here. Don’t flash subjects directly in their faces. And don’t pin people against the wall. What you end up here is with red eye. You end up with weird shadows at people’s faces. And then you get that halo effect in the back if you pin people against the wall.
I don’t want to see any more people pinned against the wall in photos. Pull them out by 5 or 10 feet and use that blur background function. And you will be taking a picture of a person, not a picture of a person up against the wall. So no more staff and board photos of people against the wall.
Use your feet to get the photo you want. Don’t be shy. Stand where you need to stand to get the picture you want. Don’t always stand in the same place every time. Take pictures with different angles and different approaches so that your viewer sees things different. Don’t backlight subjects. That’s always a bad thing when you can’t see what the actual picture is. You don’t have things sticking out of people’s heads or bodies like plants or clocks or exit signs.
Make sure that you have people move around or you change your angle. So those aren’t happening. Don’t take just that one picture. Don’t just settle for any shot. Don’t skip that edit and review. And then don’t just always think color is the way to go. So those are my tips for great photos using your phone. I will now open things up for questions. And I’ll have Steven kind of help out with that process because I think you’ve been monitoring some things in the background.
Steven: Yeah, absolutely. But first, thank you. Thank you, Laura, awesome tips. Man, this is chockfull of good advice. Lots of good stuff in here. Thank you so much, Laura. I really liked the black and white photo comparison. That really never struck me until you put that side by side to a color photo. So love the tips. I’m just going to kind of flash your info here, Laura, while we do some questions. Obviously, she’s a wealth of knowledge. So reach out to her.
Got a few questions here, Laura. Here’s one from Megan that was pretty interesting. So when you receive photos from maybe coworkers or volunteers, you know, photos you didn’t take basically and maybe they kind of suffer from some of the issues that you outlined today. How do you kind of navigate that politically? Should you edit it yourself and not tell them? Should you let them know, “Hey, we made some changes?” Do you need their approval? What’s kind of the bedside manner there when you receive photos? What do you think works the best?
Laura: Sure. Great question. I’ll give you some lived experience from when I was at Prairie Center. I had some staff members became interested in taking photos and sharing photos, and they weren’t always the best ones. So what I would do was I would crop and color it, balance them. And I would send them back to the individual and say, “I cleaned this up a bit. This is the photo I’m going to use. Thank you very much.” And then I would say if the opportunity presented itself, what I would do is try to talk with them about how they might be able to create even stronger photos in the future and give them just a few tips and show them some examples of things so that they could literally see because sometimes people just can’t see what a better photo looks like.
So give them an example of, you know, if you have a your boss was like on a panel and they’re going to take a picture of, you know, that person speaking on the panel is, you know, the photo you took is good but how could we make it great? And show them a couple pictures of what different photos in the future might look like. And handling that as positively as you can without any air of criticism, just in the spirit of wanting to create the best photo as possible for the organization, while appreciating the work that they’re doing and the willingness to participate.
Steven: Nice. Here’s one from Isabel. What do you do, Laura, and maybe your subject is spinning a little shy and maybe it’s hard to get them to smile or even smirk? Do you tell a joke? Do you say boo real loud. What do you do with those folks?
Laura: I always tell people when I encounter this, and this is not an uncommon issue, it’s a great question, Isabel. What I would tell people is we’re not going live with this. So let me take a few photos and show you what I am capturing. And then from there, we can make any adjustments that you’re more comfortable with. And so what I’ll do is I’ll take a few photos and then I’ll turn the camera around, and I will show that person the photos.
And not every time but, you know, 9 times out of 10, they’ll say, “Oh, you felt like you’re standing really close to me taking my picture but that’s not at all how it turned out.” They instantly get away a little bit more comfortable. Or what I will do is I will have them take a picture of me. I’ll show them and I’ll sit where I want for them to sit and have them take a picture of me so that they can see what it’s going to turn out without having that nervousness initially.
Now, that’s when you have the luxury of time. And I get that that’s not always a luxury that people have. So sometimes you can walk up to somebody and say, you know, “I’m taking some photos of this event. Do you mind if I take your photo?” If they say rather not, then I would say just move on. Let them see you taking pictures of other people at the event and then maybe come back to them later and say, “I want to show you a couple of the images I got and see if you’re more comfortable with having your photo taken now.” Sometimes they’ll say, “No, thanks.” Move on. Sometimes they will say, “Oh, those are, you know, interesting photos. Okay, I’ll let you do it.” So those would be a couple strategies that I might propose.
Steven: Yeah, don’t force it on someone that seems resistant. Maybe move on. That makes a lot of sense. Nice.
Laura: Exactly. One of the things you can do to bring people out initially is to post a really bad photo of them. So one of the things that I found at Prairie Center that helped was taking some really good photos and sharing them immediately so that people saw the type of photos that I was proposing initially. Because what they had been accustomed to previously were these like back against the wall, shadow behind their head, thing that made them look like they had a double chin. And then they got posted online, they were terrible photos. And they’re like, “No, I don’t want anyone taking my photo ever again,” because that’s what gets circulated. That’s what’s online. But if you start taking good photos, they can sell your own work for you.
Steven: Yeah, that makes sense. I love it. Well, it’s a little after 2:30. I want to be respectful of people’s time. I know we said we go an hour, and we didn’t get to all the questions. But, Laura, are you willing to answer some questions maybe by email or Twitter? Is that cool with you?
Steven: Yeah. Well, I’ll get those to you for sure. So you’ll hear from Laura. She’s also going to send you all some goodies. She’s got a couple of other interesting resource that she’s going to send to you all. But definitely follow her obviously a wealth of knowledge. This is a fun one, Laura. I knew this was going to be good and practical and very useful. But even those high expectations were exceeded. So thanks for doing this. This was really fun, Laura. Thank you.
Laura: Absolutely. It was my pleasure and I hope that this really helps to give people boost in their communications for their nonprofits and really helps to change the way that their audiences engage with their missions and their causes.
Steven: I love it. This was a good one. And thanks to all of you for hanging out for an hour or so. Always good to see a full room on Thursday afternoons. We’ve got another great webinar coming up. We actually have this one scheduled for a couple weeks ago. We rescheduled it to this date and time. So if you missed this webinar a couple weeks ago, you didn’t actually miss it. You got another chance to see it. My buddy, Rob Wu from CauseVox is going to join us. He’s got some digital fundraising ideas. Always timely with yearend coming up, Giving Tuesday. You’re going to get a lot of that kind of those tips from him.
Definitely join us next Thursday 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Almost same time, same place. We’d love to see you again on another Bloomerang webinar. If you’re busy, you can’t make it, we’ve got lots of other sessions on our webinar page you can register for totally free. It’s going to be just as good as this one, although this one set a high bar for sure. We’d love to see you again on another session.
So we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email for me. I’m going to get you all the slides and the recording. And definitely look out for an email from Laura with some more goodies and resources for you. So hope you have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good rest of your week. Have a safe weekend. Stay warm. Stay cool out there, wherever you are, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.
Laura: Thanks, everyone.