Picture perfect: 10 tips for taking great photos

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High quality photographs can help nonprofit organizations bring their stories to life in a way that engages supporters, builds relationships and improves lives. But sourcing great photos can be challenging. Few nonprofits have professional photographers on staff or dedicated budgets for hiring freelancers. Photography is one of the areas where program staff, volunteers and interns can step up, use their creativity and really enhance the organization's communications materials.

Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

1. Connect with your communications contact before your event or photo opportunity to make sure you know the ground rules and policies on photography. This will also be an opportunity to gather any ideas or photography resources your communications contact can share with you.

2. Set your digital camera to take the highest resolution photos that it can. This will use a little more memory but it will allow you to have crisp images in print applications as well as in your digital materials. You can downsize high resolution images later, but if you start with a low resolution image that's what you're stuck with and it could look grainy in print.

3. Pay careful attention to the light. To avoid shadows and dark spots, don't arrange the subject of your photo with the main lighting source behind them. Instead try to have light shining directly onto and illuminating your subject. Try to arrange adequate lighting for your photo so you can avoid using a flash indoors, as it may make your photo look unnatural. If you must use the flash, be aware that its range on most point and shoot cameras is about eight feet.

4. People are drawn to people. If you are photographing a new building, piece of equipment or other object, try to include people in your photograph to make it more eye-catching.

5. Take close-up photos of people's faces to create more visual interest and a greater sense of personal connection. Show the facial expressions and emotion of the people you are photographing to help create the overall tone and emotion for your communications piece.

6. When photographing people, be sure to get permission first. Record the permission with your organization's photo release form.

7. Consider taking the picture from an unusual angle when photographing objects to emphasize a particular aspect of the object and to create greater visual interest.

8. Close-up shots are often best when photographing individual objects. However, since people tend to like symmetry and repetition, try placing several of the same or similar objects in a group, then focus your photo on the group of objects. For example, at an information table try fanning out multiple copies of the same publication on the table and taking a photo. Or you might want to try several rows with a different publication in each row. At a candlelight vigil, a whole row of votive candles might capture more interest than a close-up of a single candle. Of course, if you can include a person with the objects your photograph will have even more appeal.

9. Try not to put the subject of your photograph in the exact centre of the shot. To add visual interest, have your subject a bit to the left or right of the centre point. Be sure to put the subject in either the foreground or the background.

10. Shaky hands make blurry pictures. Stabilize your camera while you are taking photos, especially indoors, to get clear pictures. Balance the camera on a ledge, chair or any other available furniture.

This article originally appeared at Karen Luttrell Communications and is reprinted with permission.

Karen Luttrell helps nonprofits grow and succeed with marketing, communications, and writing services. Her background includes 15 years of experience, an Honours BA in Linguistics, and membership in the International Association of Business Communicators and the Professional Writers Association of Canada. She welcomes nonprofit communications questions at karen@luttrellcommunications.com.

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