Not a photographer? Here’s help! by Megan Groves

If you are a typical nonprofit development professional and not a photographer, you probably feel nervous about picking up a camera to take pictures for your organization’s website, brochure, or other promotional vehicle. But, organizations can’t always afford to hire someone.  So here are a few tips to help you feel confident taking things into your own hands. Even if you don’t know an f/stop from your elbow, there are a few basic tips that can take you from amateur to almost-pro!

  • Take pictures of faces

People like other people! Faces draw attention on a page so even if you are an environmental nonprofit (for example), you could use photos of kids exploring the wetlands you strive to protect.

  • Give people room to look

If in a photo someone is looking to the side even slightly, her face shouldn’t be in the center of the frame.  There should be extra space in the direction she is looking.

A pretty simple concept to grasp that has the potential for creating fantastic photos.

  • Crop, crop, and away

Remember in this digital age you can crop photos if your viewfinder composition doesn’t come out well.  You don’t need image software. You can even do it in Microsoft Word – just be sure to use a high resolution (this also a good tip for when you want to print photos, not just use them online).

  • Flash vs. no flash?

Using the flash can make images look stark, and people washed out. However, if you are having trouble taking pictures that aren’t blurry, using the flash can help you out.

  • Brightness and contrast

If a photo is too dark, you can first increase the brightness, and then increase the contrast so it doesn’t look washed out.  You have to play around with the settings so it doesn’t look strange or bad.  Again, these are tweaks you can make even in Microsoft Word.

  • Look at what’s around your subject

It can be easy to focus on the person you are photographing—is she smiling, is his hair messed up?  But don’t miss something that makes it look, for example, like a tree is growing out of the top of his/her head.  In real life it doesn’t look like that, because we have 3D vision.  In a photograph, though, the image is translated into flat 2D.

This post on Big Duck has 10 tips aimed at the nonprofit.  A few of my favorites:
#1, “Think beyond events.” This is so important.  Do the people you snapped photos of at your annual gala like to see themselves featured in, say, your annual report?  Sure.  Does anyone else care?  Not really.  Donors like to see where their money goes.  You want to give them a warm fuzzy feeling, which photos of people in suits accepting awards just doesn’t provide.

Also, #6, “Shoot lots of frames,” is great.  Why not?  In the digital age, there’s no extra cost involved in hitting that shutter repeatedly.

#9, “Always get permission,” is of course very important!

Here are some more great beginning photography tips for you to check out.  Photos tell your story. Don’t be afraid to experiment; you’ll keep getting better and better.

Megan Groves is a nonprofit marketing and communications professional currently looking for full-time employment in Chicago. She’s always on the lookout for new information and research relating to best practices for fundraising communications, including direct mail, newsletters, marketing strategies and social media. Megan is passionate about making a difference in the world, with over seven years of experience working in the nonprofit sector.  She blogs about nonprofit fundraising communications at

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One Response to Not a photographer? Here’s help! by Megan Groves

  1. Great article and helpful links. Thanks, Megan!

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