Your Imagery Represents Your Brand. Saving Money by Using Poor Quality Photos is Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.

The ability to use images to attract people to your cause, convey your story, and motivate donors is more important than ever before — especially for nonprofits, the sector that needs to get its message out in a powerful way. And yet, in my two decades of working with nonprofits, it’s a rare occasion that I have worked with ones that have hired good, professional photographers.

Many nonprofits want to use photos shot by volunteers with little understanding of what is needed for a quality image, many made with cell phones, and most, at a resolution too low to use in print materials. The images are barely usable. And yet, we are told, that is what we have to work with. What a huge lost opportunity! Poor photos are an instant downgrade in the potential of the brochure, annual report, or website to engage donors or attract clients.

I have seen many examples in which poor quality images, supplied by nonprofits, are used on marketing materials. Many design firms, even the large agencies, either don’t know what a quality image is, or don’t care enough to do anything about poor images. I recently reviewed a brochure produced for a nonprofit by a giant branding agency. The cover prominently featured an image of a person whose face was nearly white from the camera’s flash.

Do not let a photo like this be used without retouching it to restore color and bring the person back to life. In fact, if you take the low road in shooting photos, you will have to take the high road — which is expensive and time consuming — in retouching photos. You’ll need to:

  • enhance color
  • lighten faces that are in shadow (especially from harsh outdoor light, such as when photographed on a golf course, or bad indoor lighting, such as at galas)
  • eliminate confusing or awkward backgrounds
  • recolor clothing to match the organization’s brand palette
  • create consistency in the overall coloring of images (such as matching blue skies in outdoor shots that appear near each other)
  • straighten buildings that appear angled
  • sharpen images to be more crisp (especially bringing faces into focus)
  • boost saturation on dull images

At Red Rooster Group, we do multiple color tests on the paper stock that the brochure will be printed on to see how the images will actually print, and we even do additional retouching after reviewing digital or press proofs from the printer.

All of this takes a lot of time, but we do it because we care. We know better, we aim higher, and we can’t leave it alone. We are in this business to help nonprofits improve their image, improve their brand, and tell a better story. We believe that having compelling images are integral to that. We encourage nonprofits to hire professional photographers, but when they don’t, we help them be the best we can be. Because we believe that nonprofits are worth it.

By Howard Levy, Principal of Red Rooster Group.

 

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