Archive for October, 2012

How to take better photos for your blog and social media channels

It’s great to see real organizations posting regularly on Facebook and Twitter, writing blogs and being open and authentic in their communications.

Part of this is strategic – we’re moving away from the old days of a senior figure in the company or non-profit checking every communication that goes out of the place themselves and  hiring PR people or ad agencies to polish a message until it shone (even if it didn’t represent the truth of the organization). Now, your audience wants to know what’s it really like behind the scenes, and for its employees to show some of their own personality and that of the organization.

Not all images are the same

But after the strategic comes the practical – you’ve got the plan and now you have to implement it well. So let’s assume that your organisation is writing blog posts, tweeting up a storm and using Pinterest like nobody’s business. You’re taking lots of photos at events or of products, but the problem is that none of the images look very much like the ones you see on the charity: water or ONE sites.

Poor photography makes you look amateurish, and turns the most lavish party into a dull-looking event or an attractive product into an e-Bay advertisement. NYC event organiser Jeremy Norman speaking in a Photoshelter blog post on event photography made it clear: “We’re very big on creating moments in the events – different opportunities for exciting photographs. Because if you’re going to spend one, two, three hundred thousand on an event you definitely want to have memories that are well shot and well photographed.”

You might not spending that much on your events, but the chances are you still need some better photography to create more impact and reflect your organization more positively. And if your blog posts have a more news feel to them, or you case studies tell particular stories, then you also need good photojournalism-style photographs to accompany that content. Finally, if you’re a fundraising organization, photography can play a key role in engaging potential donors.

I can make a very good case for employing a professional (and I’d love it if you’d call me, especially if you want documentary-type work or multimedia), but if that’s not an option here are some key tips to help you get better social media and blogging photos on your own.

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“Everything we do, we film or photograph” – how Greenpeace uses photography

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The crew of the Greenpeace ship MY Arctic Sunrise construct a ‘heart’ with the flags of the 193 country members of the United Nations on an ice floe north of the Arctic Circle. © Daniel Beltra / Greenpeace

In a recent interview the magazine for pro photographers Photo District News spoke to John Novis, head of photography at Greenpeace International about the way his organisation uses photography to further their mission. (The article is here, sadly behind a paywall.)

For the past three years, Greenpeace has won World Press Photo competition prizes for news and nature stories they’ve commissioned – showing their commitment to quality photography, and also showing how the lines between journalism work for publications and for non-profits and NGOs are blurring.

Novis was very clear about the results Greenpeace get for their investment in quality photography (emphasis mine). ” We have always put a big budget in visuals. Everything we do, we film or photograph. We hire good freelancers, go to remote places and do good stories. . . It used to be basic direct action [coverage] on the hard news side. Now there’s much more documentation and stories in response to environmental news events.”

He’s also very keen on adding a multimedia element to the work the photographers are doing as the expectations change: “Everything is more Web based, so we’ve been doing a lot of work that combines photography, video and audio.”

One element of this is the Greenpeace Photos iPad app – a regularly-updated portfolio application that showcases the best of Greenpeace photography.

Like all NGOs and non-profits Greenpeace is trying to have the most impact for the least amount of money. If they’re investing so heavily in quality photography, it’s obviously because it works.

That old online forum cliché that ‘this thread  is useless without pics” has never been more true across the internet, especially for social media channels. Look for strong stories in the work you’re doing, and then tell them visually. Are there events, programs and projects that your organisation is engaged in that aren’t getting the photography they need?