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Do’s and Dont’s for photos of coworking.

13 Jun 2014
by Alex Hillman

What’s missing from this picture of a coworking space?

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If your first thought was “Where are the people?”, you’re already a step ahead of SO many people who are trying to run coworking spaces. For a “collaborative space”, I don’t see the #1 thing I need to collaborate: other people.

“Collaborative spaces” is kind of a misnomer, when you think about it. The space doesn’t really do the collaborating. And when collaboration is what someone is craving, I promise you that a room full of empty desks is the last thing they’ll get excited about.

Even if they’re fancy desks that you spent a WHOLE lot of money on.

Today, I’m picking on one example from a new coworking space in Brazil, which literally hit my inbox this morning, but we’re really looking at the the single most common mistakes I see made by coworking spaces of ALL kinds and sizes: when their first impression puts the spotlight on ANYTHING other than their community members, things start to go horribly wrong.

Ask yourself, what photos would members take of life in your community?

What moments would be interesting enough for them to want to capture and share with somebody else?

People are attracted to photos of other people doing the things that they themselves want to be doing. THOSE are what you want in the photos you put on your website, in newsletter, etc.

When we answered those questions ourselves, we came up with some ideas for the photos we should use (and avoid like the plague) for showing off Indy Hall at it’s best.

Here are my three tips for creating and choosing photos of your community:

1 – At all costs, avoid taking photos without any people.

You may be excited about your fancy new furniture, but you’re the only one. Pictures of desks or furniture, empty rooms are cardinal sins.

2 – If you have a picture with only one person, show them in action or with some other visual interest.

Just about everybody knows what a person sitting at a laptop looks like, so skip that (or do it once to get it out of your system).

Try showing people in motion, walking through the space, maybe to visit another member, or to grab a cup of coffee from the kitchen. If you’re going to show them by themselves, show how it’s better than being alone at home or in a cafe.

3 – Photos of people doing things together are the best.

Because that’s the point, right?

They wouldn’t need your community if they wanted to do things on their own. So show them what it looks like when members of the community do things together.

Having a conversation, working through problems on a whiteboard, celebrating a success. A mix of candid and staged or set-up photos works great for saying “we have people, and they’re happy, even when we don’t ask them to be.”

Even with staged photos, don’t ask your members to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. Think of staged photos as ‘recreations’ of reality, rather than plucking them from your imagination.

Bonus tip: How to include photos taken by your members.

When the goal is to capture photos that would show life in your community from the eyes of your members, the best people to take those photos are members themselves!

These days, a lot of people have cameras on their phones and snap/share photos of things they experience. If you invite them to use a unique hashtag when posting on Instagram, you can embed those photos as they’re taken in your website using a little bit of code, or a service like Web.stagram.

**We even grab Instagram photos and automatically share them into our chat room, where they prompt more conversation…which we can take a screenshot of, and share more of life at Indy Hall.</p>

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If you use Slack for community chat (we do, it’s awesome), you can use this Zapier integration to do the heavy lifting of posting new photos with an Instagram hashtag into your Slack room.

Let’s practice, right now

Don’t wait to redesign your website, let’s do this right now. Take a picture of your community in action and share it in the comments, or on Twitter (mention @alexhillman so I see it!).

I’m looking forward to meeting your members.

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Hey, thanks for reading!

Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.