The Right Way to Use Stock Images

first_imgHow do I look for good photos?Stock photo sites host thousands of images— and you probably won’t find the best photo on your first attempt. Don’t get discouraged! For best results, ask yourself these questions before searching for that perfect photo that fits your idea of “woman, pink hat, outdoors”:1. What kind of photo am I looking for?Do you want an illustration, an up-close photo of a face, a wide shot of someone head to toe?2. What elements must be in the photo?Is this an invite to a fundraising gala or a 5K? Should the woman wearing a pink hat be in running gear or a formal dress with a pink feathery piece topping off the look?3. What emotion am I trying to capture or elicit in this photo?Are you trying to portray a breast cancer survivor after treatment or an energetic young woman finishing a 5K on behalf of your cause?4. Where am I going to use this photo?Whether you use the image for print, web or both makes a big difference in the resolution and e file size you’ll need. Don’t know which medium the photo will end up in? As a general rule, download the largest image you can afford. That way, you can use the image for a variety of mediums without any resolution issues.5. How do I know if this is a good image or not?Save a few of the images you like (download a sample or take a screenshot) and make a note of where you found them (include the ID number) so you can locate them later. Show them to your staff, volunteers or a loyal donor to see if the image captures the message you’re trying to convey.6. Do I have to use the entire image?If half the image meets all your needs but the random dog on the other side doesn’t add any value, crop it out. Beware: some sites don’t allow editing of images in any way.Dos and Don’ts Don’t use a stock image with a testimonial or a quote; it will diminish your credibility.Do use stock images that feature real people in natural settings (avoid white backgrounds).Don’t use random stock images that have nothing to do with your mission or organization.Do download a higher quality image if you plan to use it in a print piece in the future. You can always make a photo smaller but a low resolution image will never look good enlarged or in print.Don’t modify images unless you have the skills and expertise to do so. People can usually spot inconsistencies and know it’s an altered image.Do download royalty-free images to keep costs downDo read a site’s terms and conditions carefully. Some sites have very specific requirements on how the image can be used.Do select imagery with people taking some sort of action—especially one that reinforces your mission.Do select images that have high-contrast colors. It will catch the viewer’s eye and be better seen by the sight impaired.Don’t select images of people wearing current fashion trends if you don’t plan to change your photos frequently. These images tend to quickly look outdated and this perception can transfer to how people perceive your brand.Do select images with diversity. Our world is diverse; make sure you pick images of people who reflect different ages, genders and races. There’s not much that can stand-in for beautiful images of your organization’s work. But we know there are times when stock images might be your only option for adding visual interest to your nonprofit website, newsletter or fundraising appeal. This is especially true for new nonprofits, organizations that don’t have a photo-savvy staffer or NPOs who can’t afford to hire a pro. For organizations that work with children, victims of abuse or other issue areas where privacy is a concern, stock images can be a great solution when visuals are needed.Let’s face it: Stock images can look generic and incredibly fake. (How many women do you know who casually laugh while eating salad by themselves?) But there are some ways to find quality photos that fit your criteria and help tell your story. Follow our simple dos and don’ts for using stock images and learn how to find the best photos for your message.Here are a two examples of good and bad stock images: 1. Call for volunteers—bad example White background Nothing to do with the organization’s mission Not a lot of contrast in color Not capturing a real world situation2. Call for volunteers—good example (for a clean-up)Real people in a real settingHigh contrast in colorPeople are taking actionDiversity is represented3. Join our email list—bad exampleUnnatural settingNo action is taking placeUnless an animal shelter offers typing classes for canines, this has nothing to do with the organization’s mission4. Join our email list—good example (for an animal shelter)High contrast in colorsPhoto is in a real settingLooks genuineWhere can I look for good photos?Many websites sell photos:iStockphotoBig Stock PhotoPunchstockShutterstockIf you don’t want to buy an image, try your luck with Flickr’s Creative Commons gallery. Flickr, one of the largest communities for online photo sharing, has developed an online photo gallery that gives photographers the ability to share free, high-quality, downloadable images with minimal licensing requirements.Our friends at TechSoup have compiled a helpful list of sites that offer free photos for use. TechSoup also explains the basics for using images you find on the internet (when you have permission and when you don’t).last_img

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