How to Use Photography and Photo Sharing for Preservation

Written by Jason Lloyd Clement and Sarah Heffern

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” the old saying goes, and in a time where 140-character tweets are increasingly the norm, the additional context provided by pictures has become even more important. This is a boon for us historic preservation-minded folks – the buildings we love, after all, tend to be pretty, dramatic, or otherwise visually appealing.

The high-resolution cameras found on most smartphones, along with the popularity of photo sharing sites like Instagram and Flickr, have made it easy to use photography to create awareness of endangered places and share the success stories when they’re saved.

Here are 10 tips for using photography and photo sharing to help save places:

1. Use captions. Include the name of the building, its location, the name of the photographer, and any other relevant information. This will help people find your images when they’re searching.

Miami Marine Stadium. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation.

2. Include tags/hashtags to get more eyeballs. Flickr uses tags (descriptive words) and Instagram uses hashtags (descriptive words preceded by #) to help direct users interested in topics to related photos.

3. Run a contest. Ask people to take photos of a certain kind of building, location, or detail during a particular timeframe, share it on Instagram, and include your hashtag. You can pick a winner, or ask your followers to “like” their favorites. Here’s a great primer from IgniteSocial Media on how to do an Instagram contest.

4. Let others do the work for you. Flickr makes it really easy to set up an open group on any topic — broad or narrow — so you can use groups to collect user-generated photos of your community, a particular building, or an event.

5. Share and share alike. Just as you can create groups to gather photos on Flickr, you can also participate in groups. When you come home from vacation, share your photos in groups related to the place you visited.

6. Take it offline. Organize a tour of a street or (abandoned) building and encourage everyone to share their photos online. This will create a community around the shared love of a place … and you might even make some new friends.

7. Spread the love. Make your photos available via Creative Commons licensing to allow others to use them in their creative work.

Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation.

8. Have an opening. Once you’ve amassed lots of photos, talk to local galleries, community centers, and libraries about the possibility of displaying your photos. Use it as an opportunity to teach people about a place you love.

9. Donate your skills. Local preservation groups are always in need of great photography. Get in touch with staff and see how you can help the cause from behind the lens.

10. Get some ink. Share your photos with local community blogs and websites and see if they are interested in running them as a slideshow. Blogs are always looking for free, easy content, and this is a great way to share your story.

What else has worked for you? Share your recommendations in the comments!

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