Visual Blogging

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“The soul never thinks without a picture.” Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

When I first wrote this article, “visual blogging” was just coming into vogue, hand-in-hand with the proliferation of social media platforms like Instagram and others that focused on video. Since then, the trend toward using visual imagery to communicate has only advanced. A report and infographic from MDG Florida points out:

“The power of images lies in the fundamentals of human nature; we’re wired to notice, remember, learn from, and respond emotionally to visuals.

  • People remember only 10% of information three days after hearing it, on average; adding a picture can improve recall to 65%
  • Nearly two-thirds of people say they’re visual learners
  • Consumers are significantly more likely to think favorably of ads that emphasize photography, over ads that emphasize text.”

Nonprofit Hub advises nonprofits in, “Visual Storytelling on Social Media” (2017), “To keep up, refine the content you spread on social media. Shareable social content is more specific now—it should be visual, and it ought to tell a story.” But it takes a lot of practice to tell a story visually without any professional training in photography and video. Having said that, there are several apps that make your photographs and videos look more professional and enhance your innate creativity. One of my favorites is Instagram.

For the first time, in 2013 I participated in the nation’s largest Martin Luther King, Jr. March in San Antonio, Texas. It was a life-changing experience and I recommend it to everyone. As I marched along with 100,000 others, I snapped iPhone photographs of the crowd, took a few videos, filtered them using Instagram, and uploaded them on the spot. I was “live visual blogging” the event.

Here is my Tumblr write-up. I find Tumblr to be a wonderful platform for showcasing visual images, and I have been on Tumblr almost as long as I have been on WordPress (fall of 2011). With a Master’s degree in art history, Tumblr came to me naturally.

Video continues to increase in popularity, and YouTube is not surprisingly one of the world’s largest and most-used search engines. Today, it makes sense to create a YouTube channel for your organization. Even organizations that are research-oriented benefit from helping their followers and the public “find” information about them via YouTube. I recently recommended a nonprofit make short introductory videos to announce the public of their latest detailed written reports, and to post those on YouTube with a link to the report and more lengthy discussion. For examples of YouTube channels along these lines, search for the major media channels and research institutes, like Brookings. Also, avail yourself of the YouTube Nonprofit Program.

If you are interested, I have posted a variety of helpful video resources at the conclusion of my WordPress article, “Video to the Rescue.” Nonprofits need to be paying attention and make use of video to convey their many worthy missions and needs for support. It does take time and experimentation, but if you will devote your energies to it, you will reap the rewards. I recently created a YouTube channel for a nonprofit, and time being of the essence, I used Adobe Spark Video to create a lovely series of professional-looking but not time-consuming videos.

On a personal note, I have continued to expand my work on Instagram. And as noted earlier, some of those images appear in Tumblr and in YouTube productions. I have also been experimenting with other terrific photography apps like 100 Cameras in 1 by Trey Ratcliff, Aviary, Google photo filters (one must have a Google account and have uploaded the corresponding app to use the filters), and more recently, Microsoft Word. There are many more.

Regarding video, I miss the former app Viddy (I used it during the MLK March mentioned above), but Instagram now incorporates video, and Facebook allows you to go “Live.” The Vine “mini video” platform became more streamlined, and Periscope has become a popular video (live streaming) tool. Videos taken with your iPhone and via other platforms can be saved for later use and compiled with other videos and/or photographs in more elaborate storytelling videos. My YouTube channel contains examples.

Carolyn’s Tumblr  showcases imagery and some video, then I cross-link those posts to other social media platforms. This is a clean and convenient method for posting photographs online that keeps my other platforms free of photographic “clutter” (i.e., maintaining huge photo and video archives on Facebook, which my copyright-concerned artist and musician friends lament is not secure). Tumblr is optimized for sharing. Friends I know in the wildlife arena enjoy Flickr for posting their photo albums. The past few years, I have adopted Google Photos for sharing images via “albums,” with only modest commentary. That is a versatile platform and allows you to tie-in your images and videos to YouTube Video Editor, for collages, animations, photo books and more.

Whatever you do, nonprofits must become more visual. As Visme has stated well, “As visual content continues to dominate the Web, philanthropic organizations are harnessing the power of imagery to help spread their messages and boost fundraising efforts. Visual storytelling is an ideal medium to communicate nonprofit organizations’ purpose since it not only increases audience engagement but also triggers emotions that can effectively lead to a change in behavior or, at the very least, a change in attitude and perspective.”

More Information

  • Online Life in Pictures is a study conducted by Pew Internet Research Project (September 13, 2012). It underscores the ever-growing importance of visual imagery in communications today.

“Photos and videos have become key social currencies online.

46% of adult internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves have created. We call them creators.

41% of adult internet users take photos or videos that they have found online and repost them on sites designed for sharing images with many people. We call them curators.”

This post was originally drafted in February, 2013 when I was still living in San Antonio, Texas. I have updated it since then. I now live in Bee Cave, Texas on the western edge of Austin. The Instagram photos above made use of the “tilt shift” function to create a dreamy soft image around the edges of each photo, with a sharp focus at center.

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