Tips on how to take high-quality, publishable photos

Posted On: Tuesday, 12 February 2019

American Legion Auxiliary members are serving our veterans, military, and their families every day, working these mission-in-action moments to show who we are, what we do, and why we matter.

One of the best ways to show what this organization is all about is through photos of mission moments, such as ALA volunteers handing out items to veterans at a stand down, awarding a deserving child our Youth Hero Award, or contacting legislators to advocate for veterans, servicemembers, and their families.

ALA National Headquarters and local media outlets want these photos of the ALA in action. Unfortunately, many photos submitted are not usable for print publication — some are out of focus, others are too light or too dark, and some have inappropriate subject matter, or other issues that render the photo unusable.

Examples of inappropriate subject matter include alcoholic drinks in photos, signs advertising alcohol, or using alcohol boxes to store items for care package distribution or donations to homeless shelters. It’s very important when taking a photo to look at the background and what all would be in the shot. It’s OK to move items out of the way or re-angle yourself to take the photo.

One of the reasons why the ALA Branding Guide was created is to help members with photography do’s and don’ts as they work the ALA mission in their communities. Through this guide, you can learn the skills needed to take high-quality photos to submit to ALA National Headquarters as well as your local media outlets, all in the spirit of visually spreading the mission of our nearly 100-year-old organization.

Bad! Photo is blurry and has poor color tones.

Bad! Photo is blurry and has poor color tones.

The goal of the guide is to help all members capture photos that show an ALA Service Not Self mindset. Inside the guide, and on this blog, are a few tidbits to point you in the right direction when it comes to showcasing our organization visually.

Steps for Selecting Photographs

  • Does the photo illustrate mission movement?
  • Is what’s happening in the picture authentic and positive?
  • Are the subjects being genuine?
  • Can our audience and/or the public relate to the picture quickly and with ease?
  • Is the photo free of items such as alcoholic beverages or political signs?

When submitting photos, it’s important to show and not tell, which can be illustrated through action shots. Be sure to take photos of members working the mission, whether that’s painting a fence for a community service project, scooping out mashed potatoes at a dinner fundraiser, or helping a veteran visit various stations at a job fair — showing action is key. You can still take those ceremonial shots with the traditional grip-and-grin pose for your own records, but be sure to send the mission-in-action shots to national and local media outlets.

Good! Photo shows people engaged and in action.

Good! Photo shows people engaged and in action.

Other photo tips include sending images in maximum resolution in JPEG format with captions provided. Whenever possible, try to include ALA branded elements in photos (shirts, hats, pins, etc). This helps the public easily identify which organization is hosting the event or activity.

Bonus tip: Wear ALA-branded clothing to a non-Auxiliary event in your community to represent the organization. You may end up being in the event photos/video taken by your local media, or even better, you may get a member out of it who asks about the ALA and is eligible to join, all because you’re wearing a branded shirt!

If you have a great, mission-focused event and you weren’t able to take your own photos, but a photographer from a media outlet was there, be sure to reach out to that person for reprint permissions so you can share the image with National Headquarters, on your social media pages, or in your newsletters. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to showcase our organization!

To see more of the photography guidelines that can help you take better photos to submit to national or your local media, download the ALA Branding Guide at

Good! Photo shows faces and is sharp with good lighting.

Good! Photo shows faces and is sharp with good lighting.

Showing who we are, what we do, and why we matter is so important for our current members, future members, and financial supporters in our communities. Let’s do it right by taking high-quality photos, one of the best ways to showcase the American Legion Auxiliary.

Do you have photos that show members working the mission? Share it with ALA National Headquarters at

Quick Tips

  • Try to capture smiling faces when appropriate.
  • Include at least two subjects unless the action in the photograph is done alone.
  • Try to capture the moment — get real emotions and interactions, not staged ones.
  • People should almost always be the focus.
  • Capture intimate moments of interaction between volunteers and those being served.
  • Naturalism and realism are important in terms of lighting, setting, interacting, etc.
  • Minimal editing is OK for most photographs. Don’t make them appear artificial in any way. If the photograph requires too much editing to make it usable, don’t use it. And always be respectful when editing.

What Not to Do

  • Don’t force interactions, emotions, reactions, settings, or smiles.
  • Don’t crop or cut people off at the edge of a photo.
  • Ensure good lighting. Do not use photos that are too dark.
  • Don’t include tobacco, alcohol, obscene gestures, or brand names/logos/emblems.
  • Don’t make relationships between subjects appear ambiguous.
Bad! Photo doesn’t show person’s face and is too dark.

Bad! Photo doesn’t show person’s face and is too dark.

This article was first published in the February Auxiliary magazine. 

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.