Use of images 05

1. Why images?

A picture says a thousand words. Therefore, it’s a good idea to use plenty of visuals. Images appeal to people more than text, and they create variation. Moreover, an image can transmit the idea you wish to communicate in the blink of an eye, whereas you would need lots of words to reach the same effect with text alone. Consequently, images have a strong impact. It follows that you need to put careful thought into the image that you use: what exactly is in the photo, and in what ways can you interpret it? Do these various interpretations fit with the message that you intend to bring across?

In this chapter, we not only will discuss the ethical side of images but also provide practical tips and tools. But first we are going to address the role that your partner can play in the use of images.

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2. Together with your partner organisation

Of course, you can get down to work with photos and videos yourself, but information that comes directly from the partner organisation is often more powerful. Good quality films and photos taken by them can be used immediately; otherwise, you could use the information in this toolkit to work together with them. What type of images would you like to receive from them? A photo showing the construction of the new school? A photo of children having lessons in the classroom? A photo of the biogas equipment?

Another possibility is to use Participatory Video, in which groups or communities make their own films. First, participants learn basic skills to make a video as a group, with trainers helping them to identify and analyse important issues; after that the participants record and direct short films and video messages. These are then shared in the wider community, where it will be decided together what will be included in the videos and how before they are distributed further.

A video is easy and accessible. It is a good way to bring people together to research ideas, to let their voice be heard, or simply to be creative and to tell stories. The process of making a Participatory Video can therefore be very inspiring. A community works together to solve problems, and to communicate needs and ideas to the government, or other entities and groups, the results of which are often surprising. Click here for more information.

When the partner organisation has finished the photos and videos, you would probably want to receive them digitally as well. Photos and films are often large files, and, as a result, sending them by email might not work. In this case, there are various options. With, you can send files up to 2 GB easily and for free. With or Google Drive, you can store files online and sync them with other computers. You can share these files with others by sending them a link.

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3. Photos and videos of people

Once an image is online, it is not so simple to remove it again. It often continues to linger on the internet. It is therefore important to get approval for using the image from the person or people who are visible in the photo or film. If this is not possible, you should discuss the matter with those directly responsible.

  • For example, do you have the permission of the person in the photo or of a parent/guardian to use the photo? It is often easier for your partner organisation to take the photos and consult with the people in them. Sometimes, partner organisations have a list of people in the project who do or do not want to be in a photo. You can also compile such a list together with the partner, for example one containing photos of schoolchildren and the permission from their parents. This is also a good opportunity to have a deeper exchange about the photos. Are there any legal constraints on the local level? Are there people who do not wish to be photographed? What role do issues of hierarchy/dependency/social position play, and are people able to say no?
  • Portrait rights protect the person in the photo against publication and reproduction of the photo. Many countries have legislation related to portrait rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but also many other international and national conventions, mandate that all children, irrespective of race, gender, economic status and disability have the right to dignity and respect. So you should always ensure in advance that you have permission to use the photos.
  • Is the person in the photo depicted in a respectful manner?


  • Respectful, dignified, thriving. This is how most people wish to be seen in a photo. But how do you know you have managed to bring this across? When in doubt, use yourself as a yardstick. Would you want to be seen like this in a photo? Or your child? Perhaps someone has given his or her permission now, but will he or she still be happy with the photo in ten or twenty years? Jocelyn, a Tanzanian project owner, has some interesting things to say about photos of people:

  • What text accompanies the photo? Keep in mind that the text you put with a photo cannot be easily removed once online. Therefore, do not use names and be as truthful as possible. If you don’t know who the person is, it is better to say just that, rather than giving someone a false ‘label’. Make sure the text and photo match. In sum, there are a few things to watch out for. But don’t let that hold you back from using photos and videos as almost everyone enjoys them!

Here we have compiled a checklist for portraits.

You can make adjustments to this form and use it to get permission from adults and you can use this form for permission from parents/guardians of children.

Here is the ‘Child Protection Policy in relation to Campaigning and Website Images’ of the International Child Campaign.

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4. Stereotypes

They often creep into photos and text unnoticed… stereotypes. This is a hindrance as stereotypes lack nuance and are quite often off the mark. It is not pleasant for anyone to constantly be confronted with an image, in which they do not recognise themselves. Moreover, donors become de-sensitised when confronted over and over with a poor little boy with a stomach bloated from hunger and flies around his eyes. This can also lead to little faith in developmental aid. This is illustrated in this video clip, where people are asked about their views on ‘helping Africa’. Ziek kindje

Stereotyping people short-changes not only the affected individuals, but also those who believe in such stereotypes. For example, fewer businesses are prepared to invest in African than in European countries, which is largely a result of the stereotypes about Africa that linger in our minds. The European Union is trying to encourage European businesses to also invest in African countries.

Photos and videos appear to be particularly vulnerable to stereotyping. For instance, think about gender relations (the woman does the housework), images that portray people as ‘poor’ (the half-naked child with flies around his eyes), as well as stereotypes about particular countries: the Masaï in Kenya, or the Sikh in India. These are oversimplified images that stir up emotions in people. Writer Wainaina also speaks out against this in his article ‘How not to write about Africa’.

So try to portray things differently by moving beyond such stereotypes to create genuine and multifaceted representations of the respective community.

This video clip humorously illustrates how it feels to be stereotyped and portrayed as a victim.

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5. Taking a good photo

Below, you can find some advice on what to look out for when it comes to taking a good photo.

  • Bringing the message across Ensure that the subject of your photo comes across in your composition. People doing something that directly relates to the project are the most telling: children studying physics in their school laboratory, men filling their water buckets at the new pump that runs on solar energy, or construction workers who are building the clinic with earthquake-proof materials.
  • Show the purpose of your project If you want to illustrate the effectiveness of a particular project, you can show the generally powerful contrast between the before and after of a situation. Five years after completion is also an option. In this way, you will convince people that the project has yielded lasting results.
  • Photographing people To minimise people feeling uneasy when being photographed, you can tell them what you intend to use the photos for and, naturally ask for their permission. Take plenty of photos so that people get used to you doing so. A tele-lens is useful for taking portrait shots so you do not have to come too close.
  • CompositieComposition, depth-of-field, rhythm, structure, perspective Taking multiple photos of the same object, but with variation in composition, light, depth-of-field, etc., allows you to make a well-considered selection afterwards. Don’t use all of the photos just because you have them. Use the highest resolution when taking photos; you can always consider later what you want to do with them, and opt to save them in a smaller format. One or two extra memory cards certainly come in handy for that!
  • Selecting photos Playing with composition makes the photo more exciting, such as when the subject of the photo is not positioned exactly in the centre, when parts of the photo are in focus while others are blurry, or when a shape or element is repeated and various structures and shapes are photographed. Mix the perspective up by taking a picture from another angle!

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  • Camera settings Diaphragm, shutter time, and ISO influence the lighting of your camera and are directly connected to each other. This means a high value in one of these elements can compensate for the high value of the other. Experiment and be creative for the best effects!

Here you will find a hand-out with a list of tips.

Editing and sharing the right photo

Once you have taken a suitable photo, you can further edit it. This means making the photo look better than the actual situation, or just returning it to how it was at that moment: removing red eyes, restoring light and luminosity, or cropping the photo. Endless creative edits are possible, and you can carry these out with a standard editing programme that corresponds with your camera. You can also opt for a free online programme, such as Picasa and, or you can pay for a more advanced programme.

is a very popular, free app for your smartphone. It allows you to edit photos and share them via social media. Instagram crops your photos into a square; then you can select from 16 filters that play with light, colour, and luminosity. This way, you can give your photos an antique tint, or create a photo that has a cold feel. Then you can share your photos via a social network site such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram itself. Instagram has more than 200 million users, 90% of which are under the age of 35. It is more popular with women (68%) than men (32%).

Click here to learn how to get started with Instagram.


You can also share photos on social media other than Instagram. For more information, see the Social Media chapter.

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6. Taking a good video

People enjoy looking at moving images, so making video clips is an excellent idea!

Shorter video clips are viewed more often than long ones, so it’s good advice to keep it under two minutes, especially for the cursory visitor. Of course, you can make longer videos for people who want more than just an initial impression.

Does your partner organisation know any good filmmakers or do they perhaps make their own videos? Which images would they like to show, what are they proud of, what has already been achieved? Perhaps they have already-made videos that are successful with the general public?

Below are a number of tips on how to make a good video.



The saying ‘well begun is half done’ applies to filming too. Therefore start by making a plan for your video that contains the following points:

  • Goal: Why are you making the video? Is it a promotional video, a thank-you clip for donors, or an update on how the project is progressing? An interview with your partner?
  • Target audience: For whom are you making the video? A potential donor? The loyal, interested and involved volunteer? A chance viewer on YouTube?
  • Medium: For which medium is the video intended? Will you put it on your website? On YouTube? On your Facebook page? Will you circulate it on DVD?
  • Length: How long will the video be? Naturally, this depends on your goal and medium. An introductory video clip shouldn’t be longer than a minute. An interview no more than two. A video with background information may be somewhat longer.

If you have a clear idea of the previous points, you can begin with your story, which you will then bring to life in your storyboard.

  • Story: The five W’s and the H can help you to get a clear sense of your story:

    • Who or what is the topic?
    • What happens in the story?
    • Where does the story take place?
    • When does the story take place?
    • Why do the events in the story occur?
    • How do the events unfold?
  • Storyboard: This is a drawn outline of your video, shot by shot. You work out your story in small, rough sketches. With each shot, you need to consider:

    • Who is sitting/standing/walking in the shot? In which direction?
    • What is said, roughly?
    • What is the camera position? Close, far, moving?
    • Why am I taking this shot? What do I want to communicate, and is this message getting across?

A storyboard helps you with the planning of your video. If you cut out small clips of the film, you can move them around to imagine more realistically how your story can best be told.



After you have carefully planned out your video, you can start creating it. Keep the following points in mind:

  • Cameraman: Who is going to film your video? You? Someone from your partner organisation? Perhaps a good contact of yours or of your partner organisation?
  • Camera skills: Find out how the camera works. What do all of the buttons do and how can I use them to produce the best image? The automatic mode is always searching for the best picture. Experiment ahead of time, so that you know the best option when it comes to that key moment. How long does the battery last and how many minutes will fit on my SD card? Always bring a backup of both, just to be certain!
  • The power of images: What are you going to shoot? Who is visible in your shot? How close by? It is better to be close to your subject than to zoom in. Zooming tends to lead to shaky images. To make sure your frame is as still and undisturbed as possible, it is very useful to have a tripod or another stable object on which you can rest the hand that is holding the camera.
  • Sound is very important! You can’t have a good video without good sound! So pay attention to background noises, overhead planes, and wind. Search for a quiet spot. It is useful to film an extra three seconds at the beginning and end of the actual video. Then you are less likely to cut someone off and it will be easier for you to edit the video.
  • Interview: Interviewing is an art and requires plenty of concentration. So make sure that you are well prepared for it. Create a questionnaire that contains sufficiently open-ended questions, which provoke interesting answers. During the interview, try to concentrate on what the interviewee says and act genuinely interested. Try to say as little as possible yourself, both literally – your “yesses” and “hmms” can be distracting to the viewer – and figuratively: this doesn’t revolve around you, but around the person being interviewed.


Next comes the biggest job: editing your video so that you end up with a beautiful and coherent story! What does this entail?

  • Selecting the frames that you need and getting rid of those that you can’t use
  • Setting the selected frames in the right order and trimming them to the desired length.
  • Adding music, title, subtitles, credits, logos, URLs.
  • Exporting it from your video software, saving it in the correct format and sharing it on YouTube, on your website, or on your social media. You can find an extensive explanation about creating a video here.


Editing and sharing your video

You can do a good job of editing your video with free software. Windows has Windows Movie Maker for that purpose and Apple has iMovie. Both programmes are quite easy to use and to download (see table). By simply snooping around and trying things, you can easily discover many of the functions. If you still would like more support, or want to view an instruction video, the table below will show you how.

Windows Apple
Download Movie Maker Download iMovie
Support for Movie Maker Support for iMovie
Instruction video Movie Maker Instruction videos iMovie

For more instructions, check out these videos on YouTube or Google at “Tutorial (MovieMaker of iMovie)

When you’re done, you can post your video on your website, or to a video channel like Vimeo of YouTube. YouTube is especially popular: for years it has been in the top three most-visited websites. It has more than one billion users, and the average person spends an average of three hours per month watching videos. Each day, four billion people view videos and more than 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. It is also often used as a search engine. To upload a video, you must have created an account. Click here to find out how. You can choose to make your video public or to keep it hidden and send people an invitation to view it. Of course, you will generate the most publicity with public videos. Make sure that your video can be found easily by using searchable terms in the title and video tags. Think about the country or region in which your project is taking place. Once your video is on YouTube, you can then post it on other social media outlets.

The amount of videos out there is enormous, so make yours as interesting and exciting as possible to attract visitors to your video. Get others involved who can help you!

Who knows, maybe your video is so great that it will go ‘viral’! Then it will be seen and shared by many other people, spreading it across social media like a benign virus.

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