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How to Use Photos to Tell an Engaging Story in Video (with Example)

Photos can be a very useful asset for creating an engaging video for your organization. While photo files are frequently visually interesting on their own, if animated and set to music and voice over, they can help tell your story with even more punch. In fact, I’d argue they can be used just as effectively as camera footage or graphic animation. They trick is actually having access to them, the rights to use them, and having the right kind of photos that match the messaging of what your want to say. For some companies, like an architecture firm, for example, this may be very easy. They will almost certainly have a library of high resolution images of all kinds of building projects. For an accounting firm? Well, probably not.

For this post…

I wanted to share the above recent example of how we animated photos and used a parallax effect to increase engagement and life to (otherwise still) photo images. The client for this project was GLIDE, a San Francisco-based charity organization. Their mission is to “create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.” For their 50 year anniversary they wanted to boost visibility and appreciation for what they do, and hopefully, gain more support. The plan? In a word: JUMBOTRON! Yes, this was our chance to finally produce for the ‘big screen’, the Jumbotron at AT&T Park (The Giant’s baseball stadium).

We worked closely with GLIDE’s marketing agency Addis Creson to create a video that would tell their story. One of the fortunate things about GLIDE was that they have so much support, that it was fairly easy to get archival photos, musicians, voice over talent and other people willing to help contribute to the production, helping to keep costs down. This was a key element for this charitable organization.

We also used some animated graphics and effects as well to add to the ‘sizzle factor’. We knew that we had to maintain GLIDE’s reputation by creating something they would be proud to share with a stadium full of people, and hopefully, help make a positive impression. The graphics really do add a lot of ‘production value’ and I think the piece would be far less engaging without them.

In the end, it looked great on the the Jumbotron. We were able to tell their story in just over a minute. I always think shorter is better but a minute gives enough time to say a few things, without droning on about every detail when people just need a high-level.

The key take-away is that many organizations are sitting on a goldmine of assets (photos) that can be used to tell a variety of stories for a varity of purposes (investment, recruitment, sales, marketing, training, etc).  If you are interested in exploring this production method for yourself I’d offer these tips to get you started:

  • Find out what photo assets you have.
  • Find out where they are and start compiling them on a hard drive or in a central location like or
  • Find out  what resolution they are.
  • Find out what aspect ratio they are: HD video is horizontally wide and is at a 16:9 ratio, more of a ‘landscape’ justification. Many photos will be vertical, especially portraits. If they are high resolution you can usually zoom in (and cut off the bottom) but not always.
  • Find out who owns them. Many professional photographers maintain the rights to their work even after delivery.
  • I’m not a lawyer but you’ll almost certainly need to make sure you have written permission to use them before you broadcast them, perhaps even from those in the photos. I’d suggest getting a release form template together that you can email out to the owner/subject matter, sooner rather than later.
  • If you have a ton of assets, start picking out ‘selects’ of which photos might help tell your story.
  • Pro-tip: When scripting, it’s frequently helpful to ‘write to’ what you have. If you wanted photos of cats and all you have is dogs, it’d be hard to make that cat video but maybe you could be clever and make a ‘cat character’ and have it talking about the dogs! This is usually the time to think laterally!

    Once you have all your assets, I suggest editing them together without animation first to see if the flow works. Once you have decided on final images, then, and only then, should you spend the time/budget animated those assets to music, voice over or text.

I hope this insight has been helpful. Want to learn more about using online video for your organization? Download our free Online Video Marketing Guide: Learn How to Promote your Business with Video (Free Download)

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions and I’ll do my best to help answer them.

Good luck!

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