Creating (finding) effective photos of poverty, abuse, illness and disability can be challenging. But they are the keys to bringing your mission to life for potential donors. Take some time to make a plan to “develop” some photos that will work for you.

Nothing says it like a wonderful photo to double the impact of your story! But there are a few caveats when choosing the photos you’ll use.

  • The photo should be in focus.
  • The photos on a page should vary in size and in prespective–not all headshots, not all long shots, but a nice mix.
  • The photo shouldn’t compete with the text; look like it’s overwhelming the text; tell a different story than the one in the text (a photo of your Harvest Fair isn’t compatible with a story on your latest initiative to protect abused women).
  • The photo should match the text in mood, unspoken message…
  • Stock photos, while beautifully composed, don’t always work. I can spot a stock photo a mile away; can’t you? (Picture that happy healthy couple biking around the retirement community.)
  • No empty rooms or stand-alone buildings – even if the new construction is what you’re showcasing! Viewers are drawn to photos with people in them.  Empty rooms look like furniture ads; buildings look like real-estate ads. Your message really is that these spaces will facilitate what happens with the people in them. Show the people!
  • Learn how to crop effectively!  In a 3” photo, the focus should occupy two-thirds of the frame. Showing everything isn’t what works; showing the most important thing is.
  • No talking heads; no “presenting the check” photos. If Donor A made a $10,000 gift for the new sound room; don’t show Donor A and your CEO standing in front of the door to the room. Let the CEO or the sound technician be demonstrating the headphones to the donor.  Three people in suits awkwardly facing the camera, no matter how important they are, makes a terrible ( read: boring) photo. Show three people conversing, casual, laughing – not everyone full face.

Spend an hour on the web looking for great photo ideas that might work for you.  Keep a collection of great photos for inspiration.  A photo is the first thing a reader looks at. Make it sing!

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