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1 April, 2022

7 tips to take better advocacy photos

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Take better photos for advocacy with these seven tips

Photos express our common humanity without words and help counter hate.

Images incite an emotional response in audiences. Research shows online content performs stronger with images. Images in Facebook posts got 87% of all engagement. Tweets with images earned up to 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets. IABC

Take better photos with these seven pro tips from veteran photographer, Rachel Dickson.

Focus on the Narrative

Keep in mind what you are trying to communicate to others, compile images that tell a complete story of the situation. Aim for at least 5-10 images that are diverse in nature. Close-ups, detail shots, exploring the setting, in action, and don’t forget to work those angles! Take your viewer from beginning to end and be intentional with your message.

You Control the Message

Believe in yourself and your vision when it comes to your cause. How do you want others to feel when they see your photographs? Inspired, confused, or ignited to make change? Be aware of your biases, make sure your subjects are diverse in nature. You control what others see, make sure you fulfill your purpose.

An activist holds space in front of the old Stonewall Inn during NYC Pride, where the city has allowed gentrifiers to push out LGBTQ+ tenants. (2019)
An activist holds space in front of the old Stonewall Inn during NYC Pride, where the city has allowed gentrifiers to push out LGBTQ+ tenants. (2019)

Angles and Orientation are Everything

We have been trained to orient our photographs vertically because that’s how we utilize our phones on a day-to-day basis. Try rotating your phone horizontally, step out of the vertical mindset. Angles are everything! Making an image from a lower vantage point is essential to making your subject look powerful, important, and iconic. We look up to positivity! Don’t be afraid to get below your subject or step closer in. When photographing your subject from above, the viewer tends to feel superior to the subject. Keep this in mind when trying to communicate your intent.

Make your Photos Pop!

While editing can take up time, there are two very important things to know when you are perfecting your images post-photographing. (1) Choose the best of the best and keep it simple. Try not to confuse viewers with crazy filters or abstract messages, choose the imagery that best advocates for your cause and has the best readability! (2) Simple, small edits can help make your images stand out even more. Boosting contrast slightly, cropping out distractions, and making sure your image can be seen on low brightness screens.

A small community of people gather in Willimantic, CT to stand in solidarity and peacefully protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police (2020)
A small community of people gather in Willimantic, CT to stand in solidarity and peacefully protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police (2020)

Control your Camera Settings

Make sure you know how to utilize your phone or camera to get the best quality. I know the manual is daunting but it will help you when you’re caught up in the action to be well prepared. If you are using a phone, make sure you know how to control flash, focus, and exposure. Tapping your subject on the screen to focus, raising the exposure rate in lowlight or lowering to compensate for bright light. Using flash in appropriate situations or knowing how to disengage it before it goes off awkwardly. Know your tools and practice them to get the best outcomes in fast paced environments.

Use photos express our common humanity without words and help counter hate.
CP delivers a chai latte to a customer during his shift at Lighthouse Coffee in Sparks, NV. (2021)

Be Aware of Public vs. Private Spaces

Most public atmospheres allow you to make an image of someone in that space without their permission (please check local laws and privacy guidelines), however businesses, companies, and other privately owned entities are allowed to control that ability. Make sure the spaces you’re documenting are 1) public or 2) you have express or written permission to photograph in a particular location.

Permission is Important

When photographing a particularly sensitive subject, it is always important to gain permission, even in a public setting. The houseless community or those with disabilities should not be taken advantage of, even if they are in a public space. Asking permission, offering to buy them a meal, explaining your intent, or confirming their comfortability is of utmost importance. If the answer is ‘no’, respect their needs.

Rachel Dickson

Rachel is a veteran photographer with an MFA in Studio Art and BFA in Photography who contribute these seven tips. She uses the visual arts to express ideas and relate to others in ways that are unique and honest. Her work has been featured across the US and internationally in galleries, museums, and publications. Contact Rachel for your next assignment.

TakeAway: Incorporate images to get more responses from your outreach.

Deepak
DemLabs

Title image credit: Gothamist

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