Photographs have always been a powerful means of communication but until recently, frankly they'd been a pain to handle online. You had to organise them, find storage space and arrange them on your webpages. And if you wanted to make use of someone's else's pictures you had to link to them or ask for copies that you could add to your 'gallery'. Not now though. Online photo-sharing sites mean you can manage your own photo library but also connect with other people's libraries to tell your stories in new ways.
The leading photo-sharing site is Flickr (www.flickr.com). In short, a free account at Flickr lets you upload your digital photographs, from your computer, by email or direct from your mobile phone. You can add titles, descriptions and keywords or tags. You can arrange them into sets or albums and set the copyright on each image. You can specify that all images are your copyright and people can't use them or you can use what is called a "Creative Commons' licence which means that people are free to use your work for non-commercial purposes as long as they give you a credit. This is potentially useful because you might find your pictures taking your story or message around the world. When your Flickr gallery is up and running, you can then use a simple piece of code to 'embed' the pictures on your site. Visitors to your site will see your images but you don't have to worry about hosting or arranging them. You can have a gallery on your site run for free by Flickr.
Another key aspect of Flickr is that visitors can leave comments. You can set it up so Flickr let's you know when someone has left a comment on one of your pictures. Someone leaving a comment is someone talking to you, expressing an interest in what you are doing. If you respond, maybe it's the start of a new relationship which might be a fundraising or campaigning relationship. It might be a potential partner... who knows. And of course you can leave comments on other photos and open a dialogue that way too.
Potentially the real power of Flickr comes in groups. Anyone can start a group and then encourage others to post their photos to that Group. Not only do you get lots of interesting images but you get people feeling as though they are part of a group whether that is a campaign or a fundraising group. They own it. They have a stake in it.
More and more people are taking pictures. The availability of cheap digital cameras and in particular the ubiquity of mobile phone cameras mean that people are documenting their lives like never before. Many of your supporters will be taking photos. They'll be taking them at your events but they may also be taking pictures that are about your issue. Many will be taking their photos on their mobile phones and sharing them with friends and family. If you brought them together on Flickr together with images you've taken, pictures of your fundraising garden party or the lobby of parliament, you have a documentary built (and owned) by the people involved. And to the outsider, your organisation looks as though it is at the heart of a vibrant community of people passionate about an issue or idea.
Pro's and Con's
Content provided by Paul Caplin from www.theinternationale.org