By Lauryn Rosinski – Marketing and PR account coordinator

In this fast-paced world, photography is often used to grab our attention, tell us stories and encourage us to think. Whether it is featured in billboards, on bus signs or in museums, photography is all around us.

Photography also plays a huge role in the digital world.

Individuals on social media often take photos, whether of themselves, their travels or their hobbies, to effectively communicate their “personal brands” and engage with their followers. Nonprofit organizations and businesses should do the same.

In order to communicate effectively with followers on social media, nonprofit organizations and businesses cannot simply have someone take a quick photo on their phone, share it on all their platforms and expect it to achieve results. Creating compelling photography requires thought, strategy and, of course, creativity.

If you are in a nonprofit organization or small business, here are some best practices for taking and sharing engaging photos with your social media audiences.

  1. Quality over quantity.

It can be tempting to post multiple photos on social media at a time, especially when there is a lot of activity at your organizations. However, viewers don’t necessarily want to see a lot of photos; in fact, they would much rather see a few QUALITY photos.

But what components make up a quality photo on social media?

Here are some components of good social media photos:

  • Make sure the image is clear – viewers do not want to look at blurry photos
  • Ensure that the image is bright, but not so bright that the viewers cannot properly read the image
  • Make sure there are not too many subjects in the photo that would distract the viewer

Additionally, if you want to take your social media photography to the next level, feel free to explore training sessions at local colleges and online schools. There are many classes out there that can help you learn more about social media photo composition.

  1. Format your photos to be the right sizes for the right social media accounts.

Have you heard the expression “one size fits all”? Well, this does not apply to social media platforms.

Each social media platform has different specific qualifications for photos posted by users. In order to avoid posting pixelated photos, you want to make sure your social media photos are the right sizes on the right platforms.

To get you started, here are some photo sizes for different social platforms, provided by Social Media Today:

  • Facebook photos: 1200 x 630 pixels
  • Twitter timeline photos: 1020 x 512 pixels
  • Instagram photos: 1080 x 1080 pixels
  • LinkedIn social post photos: 532 pixels wide

To learn more about photo sizes for other platforms or for other parts of your organization’s profile, such as header photos and profile pictures, check out this article by Social Media Today with an infographic by Statusbrew.

  1. Respect your photography subjects.

Whether you work in a nonprofit organization or a small business, it is important that you take photos for your social media pages. However, it is even more essential that you ensure the subjects of your photos are being treated with respect and dignity.

This does not simply mean following the community standards for photo sharing on social media platforms (although these are important too). You need to make sure that your subjects know their photo is being taken, are aware of what the photos are being used for and understand their right to decline being featured on social media.

Here are best practices of respecting and guaranteeing the privacy of subjects in your photos:

  • Prior to taking a picture of a subject, ask if it is okay to post the photo on social media
  • If the subject does not give you permission, do NOT post the photo on social media
  • At large events, post a sign outside the front entrance stating that, by entering the event, attendees are subject to be included on social media photos
  • If the photo you are taking is particularly sensitive (i.e. a group therapy session, a patient appointment) or will be featured in other marketing collateral, make sure all subjects in the photo sign a media request form
  1. Use stock photography.

You may not always have access to photos for social media. Sometimes, you may find yourself in a situation where you must make a quick update about an event, but you do not have access to a photo or a graphic. Other times, you may be dealing with difficult subject matter, such as domestic violence, and you want to respect the privacy of your subjects.

When you face these situations, consider using a stock photo.

Please note: This does NOT mean searching an image online and using photos from an image search. Many of these images are copyrighted and using them can mean a lot of trouble for your nonprofit or business.

In order to obtain legal stock photography, make sure you are using a legitimate, reputable stock photography site. Some of the free stock photography sites we use for our blog posts include Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay.

  1. Tell your organization’s story.

I saved the most important tip for last.

When taking a photo for your organization, you must make sure that the photo you are taking effectively communicates who you are and what you do. Consider your overall mission or business statement, your audiences and your ultimate goals – and show your viewers these components through photography.

Let’s say you work for a nonprofit organization that specializes in building houses for low-income families. For social media, you want to take photos that represent your organization. Some photo ideas include your volunteers building the homes or your staff showing a family their home for the first time (with their permission, of course).

On the flip side, let’s say you work for a small business that sells sustainable clothing. You want to show your viewers your clothing being worn by your target audiences. This could mean taking group photos of multiple people wearing the same T-shirt designed by your company or one subject rocking a pair of pants by your business.

No matter what organization you work for, make sure photos tell your story.


In order to take engaging photos for social media, you do not necessarily need access to fancy camera equipment. If you follow photography best practices, respect your subjects and create a compelling narrative, you have the tools you need to make your social media photography successful.


Want to learn more about social media best practices? Contact us at 330.247.2180 or at [email protected] for more information.