May 23, 2013

10 tips for creating photos that tell stories

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Post stories

Get supporters involved by sharing your story through pictures

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, marketers.

John HaydonThe Internet is slowly but surely becoming one big picture book.

Instagram and Pinterest have grown at astronomical rates precicely because they allow people to easily create, curate and share pictures. And Facebook has placed more importance on pictures, with cover images, full screen viewing and newsfeed preferences.

Photos are huge but simply posting photos is not enough. You have to post stories!

A powerful story in a photo earns every one of those thousand words:

  • By making people take action.
  • By getting people angry.
  • By reenergizing volunteers.
  • By moving the needle.

Here are 10 tips for creating photos that tell stories:

1Show action. Forget the chummy picture of volunteers with their arms around each other. There’s no story in that. Instead take pictures of them doing what they do.

2Show relationships. Include more than one person in your photos, or maybe a person and their dog like Best Friends Animal Society does. This way, you embed “relationship” into the photo, which will trigger all sorts of emotions in in the viewer.

3Get people angry. The New York Times found that anger, awe and anxiety are the top emotions associated with sharing. Create images that get people angry like this one from the Humane Society of the United States:

Humane Society

4Use infographics. Any combination of information and image used to tell a story can be incredibly powerful. Idealware’s new report, Infographics for Outreach, Advocacy, and Marketing is a super useful guide to understanding and creating infographics.

5Use black and white. You can use Photoshop or Touch Color to tell a story by coloring part of a black and white photo, a la Pleasantville:

pleasantville Dont Just Post Photos. Post Stories!

6Use words. Many times a picture needs a few words to help the viewer along in the story, like in this photo from the Trevor Project.

One of my favorite iPhone apps for adding text to pictures is Over by Potluck, which allows you to easily add text to photos, like so:

556962 10151292277228979 456059684 n Dont Just Post Photos. Post Stories!

7Use location. Are people growing organic vegetables on a farm? Are they building a house for a family in need? If so, show it.

8Use your fans. Encourage your fans and followers to share their stories in the form of pictures. Create a photo contest, or just pay attention when they post photos to your Facebook page.

9Show contrast. Take something familiar and turn it on its head to tell a story, like Oreo did with its gay pride cookie.

Gay Pride Oreo Dont Just Post Photos. Post Stories!

10Show a beginning, middle and end. Create a series of photos that show a beginning, middle and end. For example, imagine a person who lost a leg entering a rehab center, then working with a physical therapist for weeks and finally going home to be with family.

You can post these these photos one by one, or create a single image that includes entire story (ideally you would do both).

Let your heart be your guide

We are storytellers by nature, so our best tool for creating great stories is our hearts. Tune into yours and listen carefully.

If you listen carefully, you will begin to hear a great story. Then post it on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to see if it speaks as loudly to your community.

What’s your No. 1 tip for telling stories with pictures?John Haydon delivers social web strategy solutions for “the quick, the smart, and the slightly manic.” Curious? Then visit the John Haydon blog, follow him on Twitter or leave a comment.

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