Do you have a powerful story to tell about your programs, events or scholarships?

If so, that’s great — and the next step is to support your words with good photos on your website or direct mail materials.

So you request photos from your field officers or grant recipients. But time after time, all you get are lousy photos. What should you do?

Of course, the best way to get great photos is to hire a professional photographer, but the cost might be too much for your faith-based organization. And even if money were not an issue (hah!), hiring and managing a professional could be unrealistic — or even impossible, if the location is on the other side of the world.

Fortunately, there’s a better way. By providing some simple instructions to your grant recipients or member organizations in the field regarding your expectations and needs for photographs, you might be able to improve the situation. We’ve grouped our suggestions around the two most commonly used subjects: people and buildings.


Simple Tips for Better Photos

PEOPLE. Because you’re in the business of helping people, it only makes sense to include images of people to help tell your story. Here’s how to get the best images of people:

  • Use natural lighting when possible, because skin tones lit naturally often look better than when photographed in artificial lighting. If you need to photograph people indoors, do so near a window. The warm sunlight coming in the windows can cause a nice effect on your subjects’ faces.
  • Be careful of shooting photos outdoors at noontime, because the sun can cast harsh shadows across faces.
  • Make sure to get close enough to your subjects to capture the expressions on their faces, when appropriate. An image where the subject appears as a tiny speck doesn’t let the viewer feel as much of a connection.

BUILDINGS. If your funding goes to support brick-and-mortar projects, it’s likely that you receive tons of rather boring photos of building under construction, ranging from chaotic worksites to finished structures. Here’s how to up your game:

  • Most photos of buildings are enhanced if there are people in the photo (see above for more about featuring people in your pictures).
  • Even better, include some people taking action in the shot! Whether taking the photo inside or outside the building, try to get an image with people actively participating, either in the construction or afterwards, using the building.
  • For added impact, instead of taking the photo directly in front of the building, try shooting it from an unusual angle — the side or from a high or low angle — to add interest.

Other Tips

  • Make sure your photos are colorful. Color adds emotion and interest, so try to position yourself to get some colors in the foreground or background to give the shot more impact.
  • Simplify what is in the photo. If the background is too busy, either take the shot from another angle or, if possible, temporarily remove items that could distract the viewer before you take the shot. You want the main subject to stand out!
  • In some cases, you might want to step in closer to the subject to fill the frame. This can make the photo more dramatic because the viewer is focusing on a bigger image.
  • Contact freelance photographers who travel to the countries where you need photos. They may have some photos related to your subject matter that you can buy for a usage fee.
  • When all else fails, consider the old standby of using online royalty-free image sources such as iStock or Getty. The photos are searchable by subject. You can purchase them in different sizes, depending on how you plan to use them. The general rule of thumb for online usage is a resolution of 72 dpi. For offset or digital printing, the ideal resolution for images is 300 dpi.

A good picture could be worth a thousand donors

Worrying about photographs may seem like a distraction from your mission. But because many or most of your supporter and donors may never actually see the impact of your work first hand, photographs are a powerful way of helping them feel connected.

That means it’s worth the time and energy to acquire and use high quality photos!