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Promoting Nature Programs with Stock Photos and Illustrations

Nature organizations have a great number of programs that help the public enjoy nature and develop awareness of how they can help care for our natural resources.

The challenge for many nature organizations is marketing -- communicating information about nature issues and programs, as well as opportunities to volunteer and donate.

Illustrating Nature

Communication tools used by nature organizations range from printed brochures and fliers to electronic marketing tools like Web sites and videos. While all of these marketing techniques require written words to describe the organization’s programs, something more than words is needed to attract attention and present a compelling story.

Visuals grab an audience, hold their attention, and show nature in ways that words alone just can’t accomplish. Photographs and illustrations (i.e., drawings) are the main visual tools of nature organizations, with nature videos becoming popular as they become less expensive to produce.

You probably have plenty of photographs of your nature programs, staff, and volunteers. However, what’s also needed are detailed photos and illustrations of wildlife, habitat, and native plants that can help the public visualize what it’s like to attend your nature and science programs.

To communicate this message you need photographs or close-up, colorful illustrations, like these illustrations of habitat plants and animals. It can be difficult to obtain close-up photos of native American animals in your nature or wilderness areas, but stock illustrations can take your audience there visually at a fraction of the cost of hiring an illustrator to create custom illustrations.

One of the marketing mistakes that’s frequently made is using simple-looking animal clipart or plant clipart in brochure designs, then wondering why a program was poorly attended. When someone is deciding between coming to your program and another program, the details and color in your program photography and illustrations let them know how conscientious you are in creating your programs.

Stock Photos and Illustrations Keep Costs Down

So, how do you obtain professional-quality photos and illustrations at a low cost?

In the past few years stock photo companies have lowered their prices for the type of photos needed by many nature organizations. In addition, stock illustrations are becoming available at both stock photo companies and at newer stock illustration services. Both of these types of companies – stock photo and stock illustration -- sell what’s called “royalty-free” photos and illustrations.

In the past these companies charged a fee for each and every brochure, display, advertisement, and any other way their stock photos and illustrations were used. Those ongoing royalties made stock photos and illustrations too expensive for most nature organizations. Now, the cost of royalty-free stock photos and stock illustrations is very affordable.

One of the benefits of using stock photography and illustrations is that some of these stock companies work with a limited number of photographers and illustrators to create “collections” of stock photos and illustrations with a consistent look and style. This means you can buy photos and illustrations today, then go back months later to buy additional stock photos and illustrations that will complement those you purchased earlier.

Stock illustrations can be purchased as CD collections, or online one illustration at a time. As your library of stock photos and illustrations grows, your future costs to create compelling marketing materials will decrease.

Illustrating Your Environment

If your market includes ecotourism – local or regional tourists or international tourists -- you are probably using a great deal of printed material, such as direct mail, handouts and advertising, to attract visitors to your nature programs. This means you need high resolution photos and illustrations that make your printed materials look great. Be sure to let your stock photo and illustration service know that you need art at a much higher resolution than is used on Web sites.

If your organization promotes the use of native plants, you know it’s hard to take photos of native plants that are being pushed out by non-native plants. The solution is to use a well designed stock illustration of just the native plants your organization is concerned with.

A similar challenge faces nature organizations dealing with endangered species. Again, stock photographs and stock illustrations make it easy to show the focus of your program and your conservation or nature recreation organization.

Whatever part of the environment you promote, stock photos and illustrations can help you gain attention, promote your programs, make your programs sparkle and grow your organization – while you help the public have an enjoyable, educational and memorable experience with nature.