Need more photos? Crowd-source them!

August 12, 2013

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed a picture that captured some of the field work you have been doing in the last year and you are searching your photo archives and still coming up with nothing? Your members and other supporters will be happy to come to the rescue! Want photos from them? Just ask. You will be surprised by how generous people can be.

Crowdsourcing of photos works very well via social networks like Facebook and Instagram. To be successful, be as specific as you can be about what you are looking for, to avoid spending too much time separating the wheat from the chaff when the pictures and video roll in. Recognize your contributors (trust me, we love being recognized for our contributions!). If you get “stuff” via your social networks, promote your fans’ offerings to incentivize them and others to push more visual content your way. Always make sure that you own the rights to use the photos in any way you wish to avoid headaches farther down the road.

SeaWeb’s Marine Photobank held a photo contest in 2012 with prizes to get more professional and amateur photographers to donate photos to their ocean conservation photo bank. Details of how they carried out the contest are available at this link. More ideas can be found by looking at the student photo contest put on by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies.

You don’t need contests, however. The Conservation Lands Foundation has an example from a student group’s photography expedition to Little Finland off the Gold Butte Byway in remote part of Nevada posted on Flickr.

Ask people to submit their best photo of (insert your theme here) for your calendar, like the ASPCA does. Post your calendar on Flickr for all to enjoy, like Oregon Natural Desert Association does. You guarantee calendar buyers this way, too! Have supporters vote on their favorites to further drive engagement. You can ask all entrants if you can have the right to use their photos (or videos) for organizational purposes other than the calendar as well.

Other approaches include having a Photo of the Day (or week or month, if you have a lower participation rate) contest on your website, Flickr, Pinterest or elsewhere like UNICEF, Modern Dog Magazine, charity: water and National Geographic do. Note how UNICEF pairs the photo with detailed text to educate site visitors on the work they are doing around the world.

If you ask your members to not only submit and vote for their favorites, but to tell you why, you are also getting invaluable feedback for your communications program. Metrics, oh joy! And what an easy way to build your photo library!

Liz Banse