Make it Picture Perfect

Demonstrating Your Impact Through Pictures

I had the pleasure of assisting a client with a professional photo shoot. Their Foundation was going to publish its first annual report. Rather than provide a boring report about the past fiscal year, I wanted an impact report that shares both written and pictorial stories that illustrate how the Foundation is fulfilling its mission on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the Foundation didn’t have any quality pictures. 

A Professional’s Touch

The Foundation had a ton of pictures because they had recently invested in a quality camera and had their marketing staff attend a photography class, but the shots weren’t lit well or the individuals in the pictures weren’t being highlighted in a way that truly demonstrated the Foundation’s mission in action. As you might have guessed, a single class couldn’t provide enough knowledge to take professional looking pictures for print or digital use. Because of this, I delicately asked if we could hire a professional photographer; happily, they all agreed.

Figure Out What Images You Want

To ensure the photo shoot went smoothly, the Foundation staff and I discussed the type of pictures we wanted for the Report. Our first step was to identify the stories we would publish in this year’s Report:

  • Letter from the Foundation President – the letter will both inspire readers and generate excitement
  • Story on how the Foundation fulfilled its mission this past year
  • Story on a donor and why they were inspired to give to the Foundation
  • Financial information
  • Story on how the Foundation will advance the mission in the current fiscal year (in this case, through a campus expansion)
  • Donor honor roll 

Having an outline for the Report helped us to identify specific picture scenarios that would enhance the reader’s experience and be impactful. For instance, the Foundation’s mission is to provide funds that are focused on the physical, social, spiritual, and educational well-being of their constituents. So we outlined different scenarios, a minimum of three situations, for each of these areas. We wanted to make sure that we were being good stewards of our funds, and since we had to have the photographer for three hours, we wanted to have a large pool of pictures to use for future communications. 

Invite Individuals to Participate

Once we confirmed the type of pictures, we then secured individuals to act as models. This was a great way for us to educate and cultivate the Foundation’s stakeholders. We were able to explain what we were doing, how the Foundation makes an impact on the community, and how their participation in the photo shoot will demonstrate their commitment to the mission while helping increase the Foundation’s sustainability. We didn’t want to be overly demanding of our models, but we did make sure to provide some basic guidelines (e.g., what colors to wear, stay away from prints, etc.). 

Help the Photographer Understand the Purpose for the Picture

On the morning of the photo shoot, we took about fifteen minutes to speak with the photographer to explain that the primary reason for the photos was to use for a printed report. We also mentioned that we want to use these pictures in the future for print and digital purposes. It was necessary for us to explain the mission of the Foundation and how we wanted to highlight the good work that was being done, while articulating that the Foundation is an investment worthy of people’s support.

Find the Right Photographer for Your Mission

I have worked with many photographers, and I was quite impressed with the photographer we used. She understood the mission of the Foundation and she made our models feel quite comfortable. However, what really impressed me was that she was able to take our predetermined scenarios to the next level. What I mean is that instead of having an individual posed for meditation in a meditation room, she positioned the individual to be in profile with the stained glass as the backdrop. Having a photographer who understands lighting is important, but it’s so much more valuable to have one who also understands why you want the pictures and how you will use them.

Make the Investment

As not-for-profit professionals, we are very good at being tight with our budgets; however, sometimes you need to make an investment in quality so that others are willing to make an even greater investment in your mission. Remember, donors need to see that your organization is providing a value, a value above and beyond others, and that your mission is worthy of their financial support. Because humans today are more visual than ever before, an investment in quality pictures is definitely a worthwhile expense. 

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