How to Use Images to Market Your Branch

Images typically get more attention than text does online and on print pages, and they garner more engagement on social media. In a world where people often scan more than they read, images can stop people in their tracks and help tell your story when words don’t.


Why are images important for my branch?

Images help establish your branch’s identity. Before a potential new member decides to fill out that join form or attend that event, they are likely to review your online presence or print materials. For this reason, you should invest time in shooting, editing, and choosing quality images for your branch website and publications.

These are both photos of AAUW convention events in 2013. Which event are you more compelled to attend?

Members at the 2013 AAUW of Maryland convention listened to a presentation on human trafficking.

Women sitting at tables looking off screen laughing.

What can you do with your images?

If you have images from an event or gathering, pick the one that’s worth a thousand words. Use it anywhere and everywhere! Be creative. The image can be used online, in print, and on flyers to market your branch events, fundraisers, and more.

What makes a compelling marketing image?

Here are some DO’s for taking a good photo of your event:

GMU Homecoming

Backlighting: The bright light from the window makes a distracting halo.

1. DO avoid backlighting.

The view outside the window might be nice, but it won’t come through in a photo. (Hint: Have the photographer stand with her back to the window.)

2. DO take photos from different angles and distances.

Often you can’t capture the whole story from one perspective. Take the photo from different angles, closer and farther away, lower to the floor and higher up on a chair, stairs, or ladder. Then, pick your favorite. One great image is better than a dozen mediocre ones. (Hint: Collages and slideshows might be fun, but often they’re too busy for marketing materials, which you want to look clean and straightforward.)

Students start a flash mob to raise awareness.

A different perspective: A ground-level view of the students’ flash mob dance brings it to life.

3. DO capture facial expressions and action.

Instead of having your subject pose, let them continue with their conversation, speech, or activity, and snap several shots. (Hint: You might have to direct your subjects not to look at the camera.)

4. DO take the same picture several times.

To capture the right moment, we recommend you take several photos in a row. (Hint: It can take a professional photographer 1,000 shots to get the one perfect image.)

5. DO remember that you’re not JUST documenting the event.

You don’t have to get every attendee every time. A couple group or overall shots might be nice to have, but when you’re selling the event and your branch, look for the images that really tell the story. (Hint: Pros will consider only 1.5 percent of their photos keepers.)

How do I find quality (and free) images online?

Students at the annual NCCWSL conference.

Photo courtesy of AAUW.

When finding free images online, it’s important to understand that just because images are readily available on search engines, partner organization sites, and news sites doesn’t mean they’re available for use on your site — even with attribution. They’re most likely covered by copyright, so you would need permission from the owner or need to buy them (see numbers 3 and 5 below). Well, you might ask, How do I use images on blogs, social media, and websites without breaking copyright or spending lots of money?

There are plenty of places you can find free and legal images to use on your AAUW website and social media. In this post, we’ll cover some DO’s to help you find and use free images for your online content. And check out the captioned photos for examples of correct attribution.

1. DO use AAUW national social media albums.

You can turn to our Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, and other social media platforms and scroll through the albums. We just ask that you attribute the images to us and link to the page you found them on. (Hint: Our images cover the gamut of AAUW issues and activities.)

Pioneers of the production line, these two young workers are among the first women ever to operate a centerless grinder, a machine requiring both the knowledge of precision measuring instruments and considerable experience and skill in setting up.

Pioneers of the production line, these two young workers are among the first women ever to operate a centerless grinder, a machine requiring both the knowledge of precision measuring instruments and considerable experience and skill in setting up. Photo by Ann Rosener. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

2. DO read creative-commons licenses.

There are several sites, including Wikimedia Commons, Flickr Creative Commons, and the Library of Congress, where millions of images are available to the public and use is covered under the concept of “public domain,” but each site can have different restrictions. Make sure you read the page for information like how you should attribute the image or if you can edit it. (Hint: When searching for images, start with specific search terms and then go broader.)

3. DO ask for and receive permission.

If you ever find an image you’d like to use but you don’t see any guidelines about use, or if you see that it’s copyrighted, e-mail or call the person or organization in possession of the image and ask. Be explicit about your plans for the photo and mention that it’s not for profit. (Hint: You’ll have more luck with individuals and nonprofits than with news organizations and wires or professional photographers.)

4. DO attribute everything.

“Better safe than sorry” is our mantra, but we also believe that photographers and their organizations deserve credit for their work. Be sure to list the photographer and organization, and include a link whenever you can. (Hint: Put the attribution in the caption.)

Women Laughing Alone with Salad was the theme of a popular Tumblr blog satirizing cheesy stock photography. Photo courtesy of ThinkStock

Women Laughing Alone with Salad was the theme of a popular Tumblr blog satirizing cheesy stock photography. Photo courtesy of ThinkStock.

5. DO use stock images when there’s nothing else.

Sometimes you just don’t have the right image to accompany your message, so stock photography can help. Here are some cheap or free stock photo sites for you to explore:

(Hint: Stock photos tend to be generic, so make sure your site stands out with these tips.)

Remember, every photo that you post or print contributes to the impression others will get of your branch and AAUW. Keep potential new members and other audiences in mind when you choose your photos so that you can be deliberate about your brand. Photography is a skill, so it might take some practice to start capturing good photos.

If you’re still having trouble getting the right image, a good resource might be your local community college or university for students who are looking to build a portfolio and can work your event. (Hint: If you can, offer them compensation, because photography is an expensive hobby and a valuable skill.)

How do I use the images I find on my Site Resources website?

You should always check that the images you use are in an acceptable format for your website. This means that after finding an image based on the tips in this article, you must check these four things: file type, size, resolution, and file name. (Note: This guide was written specifically for use with a Site Resources website but contains good rules to follow for any website.)

1. File type

Your website should contain only these types of images:

  • JPEG (.jpg) images are preferred for photographs
  • PNG (.png) images are preferred for logos and images with large color blocks

If the images you have are in a different format, see if you can get them in a JPEG or PNG version, or check if it’s easy to convert the image into one of those file types.

2. Image size

You want to choose images that will fill the space of your website’s content well without being pixelated. But if your image file is too large, the page will take longer to load, particularly on mobile devices or devices with a poor connection. On Site Resources websites, we recommend the following dimensions:

  • Header images: 960 pixels wide by 250 pixels tall
  • Web page images: 700–750 pixels wide by 300–500 pixels tall

WordPress (the platform that Site Resources websites use) will automatically create a medium (300 pixels wide) and thumbnail-sized (150 pixels wide) copy when you upload an image to your site.

(Hint: To find the image size on your PC, open the folder that contains your photo file.  Right click on the file name and select Properties. Under the Details tab, look to Dimensions, which are measured in pixels. On a Mac, open your photo file in Preview, select Tools from the top menu bar, and select Adjust Size. In the window that pops up, you should see the width and height, as well as the resolution.)

Print-quality images are not the same as web-quality images. Read more about selecting images for print.

3. Resolution

Just like for image size, selecting resolution is a balancing act between quality and loading time. Websites don’t require the highest resolution images to still be quality. A good rule to follow is to set your image resolution to 72 dpi (dots per inch — check out this resource for how to find the dpi of your photos). Use this tool to quickly change your image size and resolution (for web images, select Medium Quality.)

Your website can only accept file sizes up to 3 MB (megabytes), but you should shoot for less than 1 MB (or 1,000 KB/kilobytes).

4. File name

File names for your images can be very important in how well your website ranks in search engines like Google and Bing. Use keywords including nouns that describe AAUW, your branch, or your event in the file name to help. The goal is to include as many keywords in a short, descriptive file name as possible. Eliminate extraneous words such as “compressed” or “small.” Numbers and letters that are not a part of the actual photo file name should be removed, too.

Look at these examples for do’s and don’ts in naming an image featuring your friend Sue at an AAUW table at a local event.

Don’t

  • Sue-1.jpg
  • Sue at the table.jpg

Do

  • AAUW table at fundraiser for NCCWSL scholarship.jpg

The last option is the best in terms of keywords and will benefit you both on search engines and for easy use of your branch’s photo archives.

These tips can make all the difference in your branch’s online image. Make sure your website is reflecting how inspiring and fun your branch or state work really is!