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  • A picture paints a thousand words (Weekly blog, 31 July 2016)

    Posted on July 31, 2016
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General
    Image: John Blanding/Boston Globe/Getty Images

    Image: John Blanding/Boston Globe/Getty Images

    This week, I’ve been thinking about photography.  Photos have always been an important way of capturing the essence of life-events and recording them for posterity.  Often helping memory.  (Photos are very important for my Mum whose comprehension of the day-to-day world is diminishing but whose long-term recollections remain spot-on.)

    Today you’d be forgiven for thinking that perhaps we may have pushed this to the limit?  Getting the perfect shot sometimes risks spoiling our actual enjoyment of real events.  (Who can forget the widely shared image of the lady watching the red carpet without a phone?   Ironically the image of course went viral …)

    A picture is definitely worth a thousand words. And in today’s world of information-overload, a great picture on a social media feed can make all the difference to getting our story out there.

    Noémie and I have also been talking about an INTO photography competition: challenging people to share images of their favourite NT places.  Watch this space on that one!

    And I’ve begun trawling through my own ‘image library’ to find passable entries for the photography classes at the coming village fete.  Being one of a small number of families to enter, there’s a bit of a three-line whip to come up with some exhibits!

    So with all that in mind, here are two tips for great imagery:

    Stourhead bunnies 31. Composition: Traditional picture composition talks about the rule of thirds, which encourages you to divide your picture into 3, placing your focal point or subject in either the left or right hand third.

    Great for those long smartphone photos, but not great for the square format (e.g. Instagram) where it’s best to centre your subject.  So you need to think what your photos is for.  Print or social media?  If it’s for print, you’ll need to think about resolution as well as composition.  If the latter, experts suggest focussing on one particular platform – one that best gets your message across.  Most National Trusts have a Facebook account, but they are also increasingly active on Twitter and Instagram.

    Really worth thinking about this – if you’re all about providing up to the minute timely ‘news’ from your smartphone, then a less good image quality is more acceptable than if you have the luxury of thinking/editing time back at the office.

    This NTEWNI Facebook post shows successful visit driving content and a clear call to action.  It did well with a reach of 342k but better than that, it appealed beyond the base as more than 2/3 were new fans.   A good example of an image-led piece of integrated marketing – the bunnies appeared everywhere, including almost every newspaper.

    QUICK TIP: Try changing your camera angle.  Think of Robin Williams’ Mr Keating standing on his desk in the film Dead Poets Society, saying “The world looks very different from up here”.    And don’t over edit.  Small adjustments are fine but try to keep your images as natural as possible.

    Gunby Hall Ducklings 22. Audience: You have seconds to capture attention. Plan each communication from the recipient’s perspective, not yours. Be relevant.  Target don’t scatter gun.   (Help cut down on the overload we all suffer from!)

    And remember to respond to any messages and comments.  Social media is an active dialogue, not a one-way broadcast.

    Just as throwing open our doors and expecting people to visit our places no longer works in the NT world, neither does just sharing a nice photo.   A picture needs to help tell a story, make a link, interpret your message.

    This NTEWNI Facebook post of ducklings and bluebells (what’s not to like?) reached more than 1.1m people.  A similar post achieved similar numbers last year, which shows that social users don’t mind repeats. 

    It’s mainly a visit message but it does link the NT and nature, which is a fit the NTEWNI are trying to build.

    QUICK TIP: Don’t be a one hit wonder.  People rarely remember a ‘one off’ message.  Scheduling your posts ahead of time can help with this.

    I realize of course that you will now be expecting all my photos to be spectacular … which is definitely not the case!  But remember, sometimes a quick snap works better than the most carefully thought out photograph.   Sometimes it’s the speed it gets out there that’s more important than finding the perfect composition.   Sometimes it’s the other way around.    (And my apologies for using only NTEWNI examples.)

    Well, I’ll let you know how I go in the Village Show – wish me luck!   (What do you think of my ‘opportunistic snap’ of our neighbour’s house, below?)

    Possible entry under 'Class 100 Waterscape' - ?

    Possible entry under ‘Class 100 Waterscape’ – ?

    Thanks for reading – and very best wishes on World Ranger Day to all you brilliant folks out there at the front line of conservation!


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