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5 Easy Rules to Remember for Nonprofit Digital Storytelling

person telling a story, surrounded by megaphones, a telescope, a rocket, a heart, and a magician's hat

Digital storytelling becomes more and more powerful in communicating the projects, mission, and ideas of any nonprofits, charity, or public library. With the right tools and techniques, anyone can become great at this. So, begin with our top tips and access the Adobe for nonprofits donation program with TechSoup for useful tools.

Capturing beautiful imagery and creating wonderful designs is only half of the story. If you're an amazing photographer, then in many cases your work will speak for itself. Or perhaps it will create mystery or a question in the viewer's mind, such as, "What's really going on here?"

I love looking at photos that make me think. Even if you're not the world's best photographer or graphic designer, you can be a digital storyteller. Here are some basic rules to always think about when telling your stories.

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Rule 1: It's OK to Break the Rules

As long as you know why you're breaking the rules and you can do so effectively, it actually can be a good and refreshing change. Sometimes, when it comes to composition, the rule of thirds isn't the best rule to follow, and instead, putting the subject right in the middle of the frame tells a better story.

Rule 2: Incorporate Variety

I generally like to shoot tightly on my subject. And although I think my portraits turn out better that way, it's also a good idea to do the exact opposite of what you normally do. In other words, I now get the tight shot and another shot that shows quite a bit of background. People want to see your subject, but many times they are also equally engaged by the environment of the subject.

Rule 3: Don't Just Capture the Obvious

One habit I've had to break is walking up to a scene and capturing the exact same shot that anyone else walking up to that scene would capture. Instead, capture your story from different angles and different perspectives. If you shoot landscapes, capture the landscapes from down low and up high as well. If you normally shoot portraits, capture a few seconds of the person on video.

Rule 4: Don't Forget the Behind-the-Scenes Story

In many cases, viewers are just as interested in the process as they are in the results. We are spoiled by beautiful imagery. We expect photographers to capture a technically correct exposure. When you tell your story digitally, you have the opportunity to show what went into your thought process before, after, and during the moment. Show viewers your set and your post-processing setup. Tell the complete story.

Rule 5: Don't Be Afraid to Try Something New

If you do travel photography, perhaps try compositing multiple images together from different locations. If you never photograph people, perhaps add a single person off in the distance. This all helps tell a story. In a perfect world, there would always be tourist-free shots of landmarks, but in reality, tourists are what make the landmark famous. Don't wait for them to clear out; include them.

Try new equipment. If you shoot stills, try video. If you shoot video, try drone video. Try an immersive 360-degree capture. Shoot panoramas of scenes that just can't be described in one frame. Angles matter too. Be creative!

At the end of the day, you're living in a time where the technology has never been more affordable and approachable. You have all the tools that many of us could have only dreamed of 15 to 20 years ago. Get out there and tell YOUR story! TechSoup has many Adobe products and learning tools available through the Adobe product donation and discount program for nonprofits, charities, and public libraries.

About the Author

Terry White is principal worldwide design and photography evangelist for Adobe Systems, Inc. Terry has been with Adobe for over 20 years and has extensive knowledge of Adobe's Creative Cloud Professional product line. In his current position, he leads the charge of getting customers excited and educated about Adobe Creative Cloud products and services.

Terry is a live streaming expert. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years and is the founder and past president of MacGroup-Detroit, Michigan's largest Macintosh users group. Terry is the host of the top-ranked, award-winning Adobe Creative Cloud TV and has one of the most popular channels on YouTube.

He is also the author of Secrets of the Adobe Bridge and co-author of The iPhone Book, The iPhone Book 2nd Edition, The iPhone Book 3rd Edition, The iPhone Book 4th Edition, The iPhone Book 5th Edition, The iPhone Book 6th Edition, and InDesign CS/CS2 Killer Tips.

Terry is a key presenter at major industry shows around the world.