Shooting Challenge #25 -- The Message (Win a Sony SmartWatch 2 and Charity Donation)

By Martin Snelling on at

60 years ago this week, history was made; the helpline charity Samaritans took their first call. The Samaritans were founded by the London vicar with a very trendy sounding name, Chad Varah, in response to a funeral he conducted early on in his career: a girl aged 14 had started menstruating, but having no one to talk to, believed that she had a sexually transmitted disease and took her own life.

Throughout his career Chad had offered counselling to his parishioners, and wanted to do something more specific to help people struggling to cope and possibly contemplating suicide, and so The Samaritans were born. Interestingly, the name 'The Samaritans' came from an article in the Daily Mirror in the December of 1953. In the past 60 years 127,000 volunteers have answered 115 million calls for help. The organisation now has 201 branches with 20,980 volunteers across the UK and ROI, who answer more than five million calls each year.

But what does all of this have to do with this fortnight's Shooting Challenge, you ask?


The Brief

For this week's Shooting Challenge I want you to make a poster; and not just any photographic poster. I want a poster for a charity -- a poster with a message. It can be for any charity you want, but it has to be a real charity. It could be a charity close to your heart, or a charity you feel needs more recognition. But it has to be real. Any made-up charity submissions will be disqualified.

In addition to making the photograph, you'll need to add your 'message' to the poster along with any relevant information. The message could be the charity's tagline or something related to the photograph you've taken. The poster visuals and text should work together so that the viewer is left in no doubt what 'the message' is. Really think about what you are trying to say.

When you submit your entry, you'll also need to tell us a bit about the poster; what you wanted to achieve in terms of 'the message' and visuals as well as why you chose that particular charity.


The Example

Last Friday I was down in Brighton taking photos of the crappy weather with one of my Twitter buddies and fellow Fuji X100 owner @photohumourist (well worth following) and snapped the photo below. I loved the horizontal lines of the wall, shingle, water and sky as well as the solitary nature of what was in front of me. The original photograph is called 'a time for reflection'

After a bit of tweaking in Lightroom on Saturday morning, I was happy with the image and uploaded it to Flickr and thought no more of it. I was then watching the news in the evening and saw a story about the Samaritans' 60th anniversary and my mind went straight back to the image I'd uploaded earlier in the day. I slept on the thought and on Sunday decided to celebrate the anniversary in my own way and pay tribute to the charity's fine work with this week's Shooting Challenge.

I exported my finished image and imported it into Photoshop Elements. I played around with their current tagline of 'need someone to talk to?' and it just didn't work for me in the context of the image. Combining it with my line of 'you are not alone' just sounded wrong and so I kept it simple and just used the one short, sharp and to the point message. Given that the Samaritans is a telephone support helpline, it needed the telephone number as well as the charity name. The photograph composition worked perfectly for what I wanted the poster to say:

Phone number
Charity name

After looking at a number of different fonts, I opted for good old Arial Black as I wanted a strong, bold type that was easy to read at a distance. I made the telephone number larger than all the other type as this is the most important part of the poster. Not wishing to use copyrighted logos, I colour-picked the green from a screen-capture on the Samaritans website and applied it to the vertically stretched type.

For 'the message' I duplicated the text layer and changed the font color to black with a 40 per cent opacity and knocked it one pixel to the right and one pixel down as I wanted it to stand out against the sky and not appear too flat.

Happy with the result, I exported the image as a JPG. Job done!


The Technique

Let's not forget this is a Shooting Challenge and so the photography is still just as important as 'the message' and they need to work together.

First off, think about what charity you want to base your poster on -- this is important as it can help you decide what to photograph.

As you'll need to place text on your photograph, composition of your subject is very important. You don't want text covering up portions of a photograph; this could result in the poster being less impactful.

Font choice and colour -- I don't want to see any Comic Sans anywhere! Your font choice and colour should make your text stand out, but not be too overpowering. They need to work with the photograph.

The message -- use a charity's existing tagline or come up with your own. If you're crap at coming up with messages or taglines on your own, ask a friend.

Call to action -- very important for charity posters. What do you want the viewer to do? Call a number, text a donation, or find out more?

Keep it simple -- sometimes, simplicity has the most impact.


The Prize

After a few weeks of teasing you by not offering any prizes, we're offering up a doozy this week -- not only will the winner walk away with a Sony SmartWatch 2 for themselves, we'll also donate £50 to the charity they choose to theme this Shooting Challenge around.


The Rules

- Follow the brief
- Submissions must be your own work.
- Submit up to five images.
- Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
- Image post-processing is allowed
- Explain, briefly in your submission email, the equipment, settings, technique used and the story behind the image including why you chose that charity. Please ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
- Email submissions to, not me.
- Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
- Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameTheMessage.jpg (and for multiple image, use FirstnameLastnameTheMessage1.jpg, FirstnameLastnameTheMessage2.jpg etc)
- Don't forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
- Send your best photos by Monday, November 18th 2013 at 6pm UK time with "Shooting Challenge - The Message" in the subject line.
- Anyone can enter, regardless of location.
- The most important rule -- ENJOY WHAT YOU DO!

Martin Snelling is a Hampshire-based photomatographer. He tweets here, Flickrs here, and does his website stuff here.