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Library photographs can play an impactful role in libraries’ advocacy, marketing and documentation efforts.

Photos tell stories. Action photos of library book clubs, groups using meeting rooms, children participating in STEM/STEAM activities, teen gaming events, and individuals using wifi are examples of ways in which photos can tell a library’s story. Photos help to convey a library’s relevance that may not be captured by circulation numbers and other service data collected for annual reports. Combining photos with data can be a compelling way to showcase how your library is being used. Consider using both the next time you share news of library news with your library board, city council, newspaper, donors, local organizations and businesses.

The use of original photography rather than stock photos is considered a best practice in the development and design of marketing pieces. If you have been using stock photos in the library’s promotional brochures, website and social media, plan to replace them with original photos as they will make your promotional pieces more powerful and impactful.

Summer reading is an excellent time of year to capitalize on taking original photos. Smiling children participating in a lively program or reading in comfy furniture showcase the fun and delight that can be had at the library. If the weather is nice, take photos outside in the natural light.

Building Projects and Maintenance Documentation
Whether for damage assessments, maintenance needs and upkeep, or documenting spaces for repurposing and upgrades, photographs of library spaces can be a useful tool.

Documenting building damage with photographs is important for insurance claims. Insurance companies also routinely request images of the scene for accidents on library property.

Taking pictures of public space use is also helpful when a library is considering a building project, large or small. Are carpets worn in certain areas? Are there crowded or underused spaces that could be redone to enhance the patron experience? Are restrooms in need of an overhaul? Photos can demonstrate the changing ways the library is being used, and offer alternatives for improved services. These same pictures can be used in educational pieces shared with library and community leaders when advocating for space changes, maintenance needs and building upgrades.

Photography Policies
Your municipality should be consulted with regard to existing policies on taking photographs in public spaces prior to taking any photos of the people in the library’s space. While a highly visible sign indicating the library will be taking photographs is a positive and transparent way of communicating the library’s intent when hosting programs that draw large crowds, having photo release forms readily available and on file is a better option. Following are links to more information that may be helpful:

Photo Tips
Smart phones, tablets or digital cameras can be used to take photos. While expensive equipment is not needed, following are some basic tips to get the best shots.

  • Action shots are more interesting than posed shots. If your camera has a setting to increase your shutter speed, even better. Always be prepared to quickly take action shots of library events.
  • Natural lighting is best, but don’t hesitate to use a flash on cloudy days or when indoors.
  • Squat and get near the ground to better capture children’s expressions and faces.
  • Unless it is a contest that involves food, it is not polite to take photos of people eating.
  • When outdoors, photos should be taken with the sun behind the person taking the photo.
  • Instead of zooming in, get as close to your subjects as possible while also keeping a respectable distance.  

-Submitted by Anne Hamland