A professional photographer shares tips on how to put members front and center in the photos you take at your events. Done well, these images can capture the “human side of an association.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what do your photos say about your members?
If you’re using stock photos or staged images in your publications and digital channels, you might be signaling to audiences that your members don’t really matter. Or at least that’s how Joy Asico, CEO and founder of Asico Photo, sees it. She works with dozens of associations throughout the year, photographing their members at annual meetings and other events.
Many meeting planners and marketing teams prioritize getting shots of keynoters and association leaders on stage, but Asico frequently turns her camera to the audience to capture what she calls the “human side of an association.”
“You need to constantly look for moments that speak to impact and engagement,” she says. “You also want to show the full range of diversity within your membership and any human connections that feel authentic and real.”
Asico admits that meetings usually involve a lot of sitting or standing—not exactly compelling visual content. But she says if you move around a bit and plan far enough in advance, you can capture moments that illustrate the member experience.
Here some of Asico’s tips for spotlighting your members in compelling ways through visual imagery.
Develop a shot list and schedule. Before any event, talk with your photographer and marketing-communications team to identify opportunities for good photography in moments where members will be in action. This planning goes far beyond presenters at the podium. “You don’t want to miss out on any opportunities that put your members front and center,” Asico says.
An example might be an award presented to volunteers. “Many times there are surprise moments that meeting planners bake into an event,” she says. “Those are great opportunities to capture emotions.”
Look around to find “select images.” Asico typically takes hundreds of photos around a conference venue and in the expo hall, but what she’s really on the hunt for are 15 to 20 “select images” that give a synopsis of the day. “These are the top shots that show a full range of people and really help to illustrate what took place that day,” she says.
To find them, Asico moves quickly in a space while thinking about aesthetics: backdrops, angles, lighting. But she’s also looking for excitement and energy in the subject matter.
“There are so many variables that can make an image interesting, but capturing people at work, together, I think, is a key element that makes a photo compelling,” she says.
Keep in mind that a lot of activities happen outside of a convention center. Asico often rides along on local site visits, field trips, or community service activities. These often result in the most compelling photos of members engaging with each other and the host community.
Explore archives and repurpose images. Many associations already have compelling photos of their members—they just have to know where to look. “Go back into a past photo archive from a meeting,” Asico says. “Frequently there are photos that might be good for a branding or marketing project.” Repurposed images might work well for a member recruitment campaign, or you might find one or more that would make a good hero image on your website’s homepage (see ASAEcenter.org as an example).
Turn to members for backup. Finally, don’t overlook your members as a source of material for visual storytelling. For example, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association maintains a robust member presence on Instagram. Once a month, a member takes over the account, showing their day from the perspective of their smartphone. ADHA also uses Instagram for a recurring storytelling campaign called #MondayMember, which spotlights a different member each week. Here’s a recent example:
And with the popularity of Instagram Stories, your members might already be snapping pictures at meetings, especially if it’s a widely attended conference. “Don’t be afraid to ask a few members to lend a hand,” Asico says.
Do you have a photo strategy that puts members front and center? How do you reuse these images or let members get more involved? Post your comments below.