Images: producing rights-based, non-stigmatising image-based materials

Written by Katie Northcott, AmplifyChange

Please click here for examples of good and bad imagery to use.

Images should be used to enhance the message you are communicating, not act solely as a placeholder or to fill empty space. They need to be appropriate to the issue you are discussing.

Avoid images that show strong negative emotions, trauma, and disturbing situations, and that are shocking and explicit, as this can have an adverse effect on your audience. For example:

  • Triggering or traumatising images can have a negative effect on individuals you are looking to empower or support
  • Negative images can create confusion if not put into context
  • Positive images will contribute to a higher likelihood of acceptance or engagement with your campaign

Avoid images that could contribute to the victimization of the subjects.

Individuals who appear in your images should be protected/anonymized or have given consent to have their faces shown.

If you cannot show people’s faces, avoid using techniques like blurring their faces as this can imply shame. Instead, use a picture that obscures their identity, or use cartoons. If filming, use their voice over a different image related to the cause.

Remember: children cannot consent to have their photo used for public dissemination. You must ensure you take clear consent from parents or guardians when using images of children; for example, use a consent form such as this example.

Images should accurately reflect the reality of the SRHR issue you are advocating for.

Avoid misrepresenting the issue; this can be done by selecting photos that are medically accurate, relevant to the point you are making, and could not theoretically be used by the opposition to support their position.

Ensure that your image can stand alone. If, when testing your image, your audience cannot interpret what message is being communicated, rework the image until you arrive at a clear alternative.

Katie Northcott, AmplifyChange

Katie is a Technical Performance Manager at AmplifyChange. At her previous work at Population Institute, she conducted analysis for a wide-scale report on demographic vulnerability, as well as managed the organisation’s social media channels.

As a Community Health Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, she implemented youth sexual health programs and supported maternal health and family planning outreach services. She worked with non-profit organisations in the U.S. advocating for women’s rights in the fields of abortion access, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS.

Katie’s experience at these organisations included social media management, street campaigning, and crafting messaging for publications, as well as the development of advocacy and media toolkits. Katie has a MSc in Population and Development from London School of Economics and a BA in Economics, African Studies, and French from Northwestern University.