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Why Every Nonprofit Should Invest in Professional Photography

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Are your nonprofit organization’s communications looking a little — hate to say it — amateurish?

There are so many tiny details that can chip away at the professionalism and credibility of your materials. Typos, bad formatting and too much copy are just a few. But there’s a simple, affordable step you can take that will immediately give your messaging a makeover: professional photography.

Too many small nonprofits are reluctant to hire a photographer, thinking that it’s an indulgence. And why would they hire a photographer when their executive director, or board member, or 18-year-old intern takes “such great photos?!” Hear me now: it’s worth it to spend a few hundred dollars to hire a professional photographer. And don’t just hire any photographer. Look for someone with relevant experience who has a solid portfolio of work with nonprofits and social programs.

Before you do that, however, think about what images you’ll need over the next year. With all of your online and offline fundraising and communications projects in mind, make a very detailed shot list. What programs will you be highlighting? Who do you need photos of? What will they be doing? Do you need candids or posed shots? Does your annual report format require that you have great vertical photos? For email, website and social media headers, you’ll need great horizontal shots. Make your shot list really specific.

Then, schedule an entire morning or day when the photographer can visit all of your programs and photograph as many aspects of your mission as possible. Think about weather. Think about lighting. Encourage staff to wear solid colors. Bring people in and stage things, if need be. Make sure to have photo releases signed ahead of time. Take the time and work with your photographer to get the shots.

It’s worth the few hours and it’s definitely worth the money you’ll spend. This is because if the shoot is a resounding success, you won’t have to worry about taking photos for another year or two. (Except, of course, for the photos you’ll share along with program news updates throughout the year.) Within weeks, you’ll be equipped with a cache of great, high-resolution photos that you can roll out all year long.

Even if you change nothing else, with high-resolution, bright, balanced, professional photos, your communications will have a whole new lease on life. And you will be a hero. Your graphic designer will thank you. Your printer will thank you. Most importantly, your donors will thank you.

Two parting thoughts:

1. Be sure that the terms of the photographer’s contract grant your organization full rights to all of the images to own and use as you please once the files are handed over to you.

2. Consider printing and framing any images of clients that come out particularly well and give them to the clients as a small token of appreciation for their participation in the photo shoot.

Does your organization invest in professional photography? What has been your experience? Let me know in the comments below!

As part of Bloomerang’s Content Donation Program, $100 was donated to The Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition.

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