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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Photographs that illustrate a story can be wonderful, but pictures are powerful tools to use with great caution. Even where your words have “painted the picture” you intend, you may wish to add power to the story with a strong picture. Weatherization has a great built in mechanism for this, since the diagnostic tests and works in progress can be compelling photos. Health and safety measures make a great story too. Make sure that the action is clear and that all pictured wear proper safety equipment.

In deciding whether and how to use a particular picture, remember these findings:
  • Pictures summon forth the same pre-existing perceptions or frames as do words;
  • A picture is visual shorthand, replacing more words;
  • A picture, like a dramatic story, will be remembered for longer and more vividly than words;
  • Captions are only words. Be sure your picture is clear without captions; and
  • The wrong picture can completely undermine a carefully worded story

Shape Your Photos Around the Real Story

You can, literally, frame your subject by focusing the camera (or cropped picture) on weatherization installation and participants. Planning what you want your image to convey can ensure you include all the elements necessary to make the photo a powerful tool.

A Picture is Problematic when:

  • It is not obvious what story the picture tells. Vagueness does not get the specific WAP focus item across;
  • It illustrates a bias or stereotype;
  • There is something in the picture that diverts attention from your story;
  • It focuses on individuals, not actions or results. Personal portraits, like personal success stories, should be used only when they help to frame your story in positive terms and the subject should be chosen very carefully ; and/or
  • The role of your organization is not obvious.
Find specific photo Do's and Don'ts in the PDF Storytelling Manual.
Find photos you can use in the WAPTAC Multimedia Library.