Miranda Becker / April 29, 2017

Tip: How to Choose the Right Photo for Your Petition

Okay, so you just learned how to write an eye-catching title and powerful petition description, and you know the best decision-maker to target. Fantastic! You’re well on your way to making a difference, and you think the next step is now to go out there and start gathering signatures. Right?

Nope, not quite.

Before you start trying to collect signatures, there’s an important step you still need to take: Make sure you’re using a dramatic, evocative photo on your petition. If you’re wondering why this is so important, here’s the long-story-short version: Images communicate emotions in nano-seconds, forging a powerful connection between the viewer and your cause. (More on that in our blog post here.)

To make sure you’re using the best, most compelling photo on your petition to attract supporters, there are a few things to keep in mind. Let’s break it down. Your photo should be:

  1. Clear

The viewer should be able to immediately tell what they’re looking at. Capiche?

  1. Focused on a single person or animal

Behavioral studies teach us that your viewers aren’t going to connect with a photo showing a million children or a family of puppies. Instead, choose just one to focus on, so the viewer can really focus their empathy on that being. Think of it like a story: choose one main “actor” or “character” to represent the issue you’re addressing.

  1. Emotional

Your photo should ideally make the viewer feel something. The question to ask yourself is: do you want them to feel positive emotions (like inspiration, empowerment, empathy) or negative emotions (outrage, sorrow, fear, guilt)?

Care2’s testing shows negative images can make people care more about your petition (boosting “response rates” by 7-24%) — but the very last thing you want to do is turn people away with the intensity of that negative image. So strike a balance. Avoid violent, grotesque imagery that might turn off your viewer, but let them see the sorrow of the situation at hand.

  1. Eye-catching

Humans (y’know, us people) are biologically conditioned to look at eyes. Have you ever noticed that baby eyes (and baby animal eyes) are big? That’s because we can’t freakin’ resist large eyes, so having big ol’ pair of globular organs was a distinct evolutionary advantage. It’s one of the reasons we go bonkers for kittens and puppies. So, whenever possible, choose a photo where the subject’s eyes are staring right out at you.

  1. Relevant

This may seem obvious, but make sure your photo is actually related to your petition! You don’t have to make it literal — in fact, you can just make it related emotionally. So, for example, if your petition is about an upsetting situation, you might want to just show a sad person or animal.

And if you’re wondering where to find photos, now that you know what you’re looking for, check out this blog post about 11 great websites where you can find beautiful — and free — photographs. I’ve also written up another post on how to take your own photos if you’re interested in trying your hand at some home photography!


Let’s go over some examples, shall we?

Example 1: Pollution and Climate Change

Okay, so for this one, there are a bunch of images we could use. For example, we could show:

  1. Smoky factories emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.
  2. A little baby with a breathing mask on, looking right into the camera.

The first option is more literal. But the second focuses on a clear, single subject who is looking right at the camera. Winner? The second option, hands-down.

Example 2: Healthy Food for Children

Let’s say we’ve written a petition with the title: “Demand Access to Healthy Food for All Children in Sacramento County, California”. Now, we have to figure out what kind of image we want — and again, there are a number of different directions we can go in.

Here are four options:

  1. Healthy lunch with fruits and veggies (literal approach)
  2. Little girl eating healthy foods (positive emotional approach)
  3. A dad and his kid buying fresh veggies (positive emotional approach)
  4. A baby being fed pizza (negative emotional approach)



For this one, I’d recommend option 2 or option 4 since in both cases, we’ve got a clear single subject looking directly out at the viewer. But do you want to go positive or negative? Well, that choice is yours.

And now that we’ve gone over the best images to use to draw people to your cause, don’t forget to head over to our other posts where you can find out more about where to get free, beautiful, non-copyrighted photos and how to take your own photos!

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