Photographs, illustrations, and graphics enliven your text and help you connect with your audience on an emotional level. As with all communications, first be clear about what you are trying to say. Then, start thinking about a “visual” that will serve to complement, make memorable, and if possible amplify your message in interesting ways.

Thinking visually

Many messages automatically evoke a visual representation. For example, if your message is about the rapid growth of the "oldest old in America," a literal visual might be a population chart. However, if you think in metaphorical or symbolic terms, your options for images are only as limited as your imagination! For example, you could use an image of an explosion (“explosive growth”), or you could talk about the “age wave” and use an image of a large wave.

If you are doing a presentation about the issue of sleep fragmentation, you may be tempted simply to use a photo of someone tossing and turning. But you might also consider an image of shattered glass shards or puzzle pieces strewn on a table. If you are communicating about the long-term challenges of caregiving, then instead of a tired caregiver with his or her loved one, you could use an image of a struggling long distance runner.

Finding the right image

An Image Library of professionally shot photos is available at no charge to grantees and Change AGEnts of The John A. Hartford Foundation. There are also a a vast number of databases and stock houses available on the Internet, with images ranging in quality, subject matter, and cost. View the full list here

Take your own pictures

Why not try to create your own image? Your first inclination may be to take a photograph of an older patient or people. This has its challenges (think HIPAA), but you can click here for Tips for Taking Photographs of People (Developed with help from photographer Annie Levy). Even easier may be taking pictures of objects that express a metaphor describing your message. You might also look through family and other household photos you have taken and may be on your hard drive for images you can use.

Tools and Resources

General Tips on Using Images and Graphics Effectively. Four key tips to taking and using photos.

Communicating via Imagery is a great online guidebook from the Georgetown University Center for Social Impact Communication.