by Michelle Ralston LTLS Consultant
I attended an all day pre-conference: A Thousand Words, Taking Better Pictures in Libraries. If libraries use more interesting photos, their users will be more likely to visit the library website and other social networking sites. With websites, Facebook profiles, MySpace, Flickr, et all, it is important for libraries to have interesting, informative picture for these spaces. These pictures can help to tell the library's story and promote the library's services to the patrons.
In order to take better pictures, it is important to understand basic design principles and basic photography principles. The morning part of the session was spent on these principles: balance, rhythm (movement, patter, repetition), emphasis (focal point), contrast (variety), unity (harmony), proportion, and scale. I really think that if libraries apply these principles to their photography that the photographs will show thought and be very interesting for patrons.
After lunch, we delved into the legal part of taking pictures. We talked about Creative Commons, which is a good way for libraries to get pictures to use that they didn't take. We talked about patron confidentiality. The consensus with most libraries is that the library is a public place; therefore, it's okay to take patron's pictures. However, if the patron is uncomfortable with that, or doesn't want their picture taken, then the photographer should comply. There is a book The Legal Handbook for Photographers that can help libraries to know their rights. There is also a PDF The Photographer's Right that can be downloaded for free. These resources, as well as, talking to other libraries, can help libraries find a solution to picture taking in the library.
The last part of the class was about software and online tools. This is where I feel libraries can really benefit. There are different kinds of software, depending on what the library's needs are: Photoshop is powerful, but expensive. GIMP is free, but has a high learning curve. There are also many online picture-editing tools that are free and easy to use, such as: Picnic, Picasa, and Photoshop Express. Libraries need to take time to figure out which editing software works best for them, and what tools their staff feel comfortable using. Simply cropping a picture, or adjusting the lighting can make an okay picture turn out awesome, and the above tools will help you do just that.
We learned about some fun online tools that can help you present your pictures, or do cool things to your pictures. PictoBrowser, Slideflickr, Flickrslidr and Slideoo are all tools which allow you to take your pictures (from flickr mostly) and make a nice slideshow for your website. Animoto will not only make a slideshow, but adds cool transitions and music for a very cool looking video slideshow. Fotoviewr, Splahr, and picsviewr will create a nice looking gallery of your photos, for your website. Gickr allows you to make a gif animation from your photos. Big Huge Labs and Dumpr take your pictures and make cool new pictures such as magazine covers and mosaics. The best way to decide what is right for your library is to check out some of these tools and play with them. RoyTanck has a blog that keeps you up to date on all kinds of cool new technologies using your photos.
Taking better pictures and marketing your library using cool technologies can give your library a better web presence. As people check out your photo streams and websites, they are checking out your library. Since we live in the 2.0 world, we might as well use those technologies to better our library and get new patrons involved.