Because we’re hardwired to respond to images better a great picture really is worth a thousand words. Research shows that we can process images 60,000 times faster than words, which helps to explain why a tweet with a picture will receive 150% more retweets as a regular tweet and if a Facebook post features an image more than twice as many people will engage with it.

Helping charities to promote what they do has never been more vital. Unlike commercial brands that use models and stock photography, many charities prefer to use photos of real people to highlight the importance of their work. In a normal situation, charities could commission a photographer to take pictures on their behalf, but since the lockdown, they need to rely on people taking pictures of themselves.

The good news is that thanks to smartphones, it is easy to take professional-looking photos yourself. I spoke to Tim Cochrane, a photographer who has worked with The Stroke Association, Diabetes UK, and the British Heart Foundation, to get his top tips on how to take a great picture.

Getting started

A few basic things will help to get you off to the best start. As your phone lives mostly in your pocket it can get covered in grime and dirt, so give it a little wipe down, glasses wipes are the best. Turn off any filters for natural colours (and no bunny or dog ears effect) and check the camera app settings (normally a cog icon) and set quality to high.

To selfie or not to selfie

Selfies have become a staple of social media, but being at arm’s length has its limitations. If someone else can help you take the photo, it will allow for a more natural pose, and being a little further away from the lens helps in making it more flattering.

On almost all phones the main camera (facing forward) is better quality than the ‘selfie’ camera (the one the same side as the screen pointing back at the user). If you don’t have someone to help, you can try using the timer function if you want to use the main camera.

Using a window or doorway.

Light is your friend, and more light helps your camera get a clear photo. Windows and doorways are a perfect place to start as they are good light sources. Start facing the window or open doorway. This should give you a nice even light coming towards your face. While talking about locations, think about the background and don’t have anything too busy or cluttered behind you as this can be distracting. The example below shows you the difference that you can achieve if you are able to get someone to take a photo for you and you find a good natural source of light:

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Near or Far, up and down

Framing up the shot often confuses people. Try to have a little space each side of you, generally shoot landscape (longest edge horizontal) as this gives charities more options for using it in different places online. Make sure no limbs like an arm get cut off, and if you are taking a full-length shot, including the whole body, don’t crop off the feet. For closer photos, a nice head and shoulders is a good guide, leaving a little space above the top of the head. Don’t use the digital zoom-in function, if you’re you far away best, move your feet.

Time of day

Leading on from the previous tip, choose a time of day when that light is available, mid-mornings and mid-afternoons are good as the sun isn’t right above you or super bright. If you find you are getting too much sun in your face, move your head around until it’s not directly in your face. Avoid sunglasses or caps, as this makes the photos less personal and keep an eye out for too many shadows.

More than one

Having a choice is a good thing, so take a few photos to pick from. You can review them and choose your favorites to send. You can also try a couple of locations in the house or garden.

Help tell a story

Props are great at helping to show people what the story is about. That might be a fundraising T-shirt, medal, or whatever item helps to tell the story. If you were involved in something previously, overcame a challenging situation, or are working on a project, including a few photos can help to build the overall picture. If you have old physical photos, lay them flat, and without casting a shadow, take a photo of them.

Sending your photo

Once you have a few photos to send, there are a few ways to do it. Emailing the photos as attachments is the best way as it won’t compress them. If the photos are too large to attach to an email, you can use a free file transfer website called ‘WeTransfer’ which is quick and simple to use.

About Tim

Tim started professional photography whilst living in Sydney nearly two decades ago and has since worked with a wide selection of clients including – Waitrose & Partners, The Guardian, NME, British Heart Foundation, Southbank Centre & Royal Festival Hall, The Stroke Association, Innovate UK and SonyBMG.

Portrait and people films
Adventure and Automotive

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