Images, whether photographs or illustrations, can help tell a story. They set a mood and reveal a brand’s personality and values. Importantly, images can also help to explain complex ideas where words alone may come up short.
Because images can be so powerful, it is important to choose the right ones for the job. Our unique illustration and photography library resources are a good place to start looking.
Using images that have a similar emotional and visual style, will help make our communication distinctly Wikimedian. By visually linking the stories told by volunteers, staff and partners, we build trust and love for the movement.
How to pick the perfect photo
Picking the right photo that conveys the right message might take some thought, but after that it’s easy to ensure it’s high enough quality and correctly attributed. Read through this guide that covers the basics of visual storytelling.
Subject: What is the photo of?
Feel free to pick any subject that supports your message, but stay away from anything that can be found offensive. Think about how the photo can communicate ‘knowledge’, ‘equity’ and ‘community’, which is what we’re all about. Images that capture a shared moment between people are always a good option. The images don’t have to feel too polished or posed, our movement embraces imperfection and your choice of images can reflect that.
Photos of people tend to grab attention and evoke emotions – you’ll find some great examples in this photo collection. Cityscapes and nature photography can set a mood and context for your message – the Picture of the Year winners has some excellent examples. This collection on Wikimedia Commons is also great starting point.
Quality and resolution
Check that the photo you choose is high quality, high resolution and with the intended subject/s in focus. A good rule of thumb is that photos intended for screen use should have a resolution of at least 1920 x 1080 pixels (or 1080 x 1920).
Make sure you have the rights to use the chosen photo. Giving credit to the creator of an image is really important in the free knowledge movement’s values, so be sure to credit the photographer or creator. Reasonable attribution is a cornerstone of the Creative Commons licences. These flexible licences are designed to make it easy to share and remix creative output. They require that you include the Title, Author, Source and License. follow this handy attribution guide on how to do that.
Using the image in your design
Putting text over a full bleed photo can make your message pop! Just make sure it has a nice contrast with either black or white, so the text is legible and clear. Don’t place text on top of the subject/focal point of the photo, such as faces, people or buildings.
Left: J. Herzog / CC BY 4.0. Right: © A.Savin, WikiCommons.
The examples above have sufficient contrast with the background, and don’t cover any important elements in the photo.
The next two examples show how difficult it is to read text if it is not thoughtfully placed on a photo. The background of these examples are busy, making it almost impossible to read the text.
Open Wikimedia Photo Collection
There are many photos documenting Wikimedians hard at work and play at various events, but not all of these images are equally suited to communicating our values to the world. Developing a distinctive visual style will unite the various communication efforts happening across the movement.
To help do this, we have collected together photos that reflect our movement to make it easier for movement affiliates and foundation communication teams to find the right images. Please add to this collection! Doing so empowers colleagues across the movement to tell more compelling stories about the free knowledge movement. Keep reading to learn how.
How to take your own great brand photo
Most of the photographs documenting the Wikimedia movement are taken at events. This makes it difficult to control the entire image, but it also means that your photo will feel more relatable and authentic. This section has a few tips to help you spot opportunities for a photo that tells the Wikimedia brand story. Please add them to the collection for fellow Wikimedians to also use.
If you are hoping to improve your photography in general, follow some of the helpful photo critique conversations happening on Wikimedia Commons. The page on Featured Images also has a lot of helpful information to help take better photos.
Perspective: How we see the world
Think of this photo collection as an ongoing project to capture what makes the Wikimedia movement so special. The vision is for it to include pictures taken by everyone in the movement, capturing moments of joy, learning and togetherness – a bit like a Wikimedia family album.
Photos that feel like they could only have been taken by an insider work really well. It gives the viewer a sense of being right in the middle of it, sharing in the moment being documented. Just like in this photo below, images do not always have to be perfectly framed or cropped to be a good choice. We encourage you to take close-up photos to get this sense of intimacy. This image works particularly well because the people in it seem unaware of the photographer. They are not looking at the camera, but are engaged with each other.
This is another good example. The photographer is slightly further away, making them the documenter of the scene, rather than an active participant. Just like in the previous example, the people in the picture are not focused on the camera, rather their focus is on each other and what they’re discovering on Wikipedia. Images are great when they capture real, human moments like these.
Colour and Lighting
Photos don’t always have to be perfectly stylised to be beautiful. Bright colours, a saturated grade and natural light help to make a photo stand out.
This is a good example of how to use the colours together in deep saturated blocks. You can also heighten this by increasing saturation and contrast when you edit the images afterwards.
In terms of lighting, we suggest using natural light whenever possible. Images taken with a flashlight are often over-exposed and harshly lit, whereas natural light create warm, welcoming lush tones – especially on people’s skin. It is usually best to keep the sun or other light source behind you so it shines on the subjects.
We encourage you to steer clear of retouching your images and rather keep them feeling authentic and relatable. Ideally, an image shows people’s best side, but that does not mean that they need to adhere to a socially constructed beauty standard. If you do decide to retouch an image, try to do it in conversation with the people in the picture and an awareness of any bias you may hold towards certain traits.
Showing branding in the photos
Most likely, you will be documenting everyday life, rather than putting the scene together from scratch. This makes it difficult to control whether any Wikimedia project branding is visible in the image. Try to keep an eye out for someone wearing a piece of clothing with some branding on it – maybe the moment develops into a great photo!
Luckily you can easily add logos to images when designing your social media post, brochure or website to overtly brand them. Stylistic elements like the use of colour, perspective and lighting discussed in this section will make the image feel like it belongs in the Wikimedia world whether it has a logo in it or not.
Add to the Open Wikimedia Photo Collection
We would love to include your photos showcasing the Wikimedia movement in this collection. If you have a great image that you think other community affiliates could benefit from, add it to this category for them to easily find. We want the collection to eventually include visuals of all the many different people making up the free knowledge movement.
If you need help uploading your images to Wikimedia Commons, this guide will take you through the process step by step.
Illustrations are a distinctive way to really make your content come to life. You can use them in combination with photographs across your publication or campaign, but it is usually best to use one at a time per execution.
We have used line illustrations for a while. It is a simple style that can easily be replicated and added to. We also really like the WP20 illustrations that Karabo Poppy Moletsane and Jasmina El Bouamraoui made. We prefer to use them in one colour, on a big scale. It’s a large set of illustrations, so there is lots to choose from – find one that suits your message!
They work well in black and white, or in combination with our expanded colour palette.
When using the illustrations, do not make them smaller than 1.25 inches / 31.75 mm wide.