What makes a great press photo?

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Earlier this month I attended a free photography workshop hosted by TNR Communications, part of the Press Association.

The workshop set out to “give a real insight into how to get national picture desks to run your PR photographs.”

I’d highly recommend the workshop – it was a great insight into one of the UK’s busiest news and picture agencies – and they illustrated the presentation with some really strong picture examples, as well as offering valuable insight into the day-to-day workings of a picture desk.

Here are some top tips from the day, to help make sure you get that perfect press shot – and the coverage it deserves:

1). Track record is important

Make sure that the photographer you use has a strong track record in securing national coverage for their photos – even if you have to pay more for it. They should have an intuitive eye and know what a national paper is looking for and how to get it. They should also know how to distribute photos – if you have no connections it can be hard to get your photo seen by the right people. Make sure they also offer solid insight and knowledge into the best times to send photos and the best resolution, file size and photo captions.

2). Know what picture editors want

When pitching photo stories, picture editors are your audience not newsrooms – you need to understand them. You need to know what they’re looking for and how they operate. Avoid clichéd photos (smiling business men holding big cheques are most definitely a no-no!) And remember that news is about people – the photos needs to reflect this.

3). Be more creative

Picture editors at national newspapers are inundated with photos – over 20,000 per day, and this is climbing everyday thanks to the rise in digital photography and citizen journalism. For a PR story to gain coverage this way it needs to be imaginative and eye-catching. Think of the wider story, and come up with creative ways of capturing it. If the story allows it try and be fun and humorous. And remember – a picture editor only sees thumbnails on screen – and hundreds of them at that. Your photo needs to be pretty special to stand out.

4). Try and sum up the story

An ideal photo for national press will sum up the story in one go. Even if you need to stage a shot which does this, then it could well be worth it. Often, strong photos aren’t run with a full story – just a photo caption. Make sure that your picture tells the story you want it to.

5). Manage branding

From a PR’s perspective getting branding into a photograph in the nationals is the holy grail of success. From a picture editors perspective it’s a nightmare. Try and find a happy medium – you can get away with branding but only if it looks natural within the setting of the photo. Don’t go overboard, and don’t try and make your branding the focus. Doing that will simply result in your photo not being used – or your branding being cut out.

6). Planning is vital

If you are planning a photoshoot or a photocall you must plan before hand. If it’s in a public place visit the site first; how busy is it? Is it too crowded? Can you get the right angles? Think about the environment and the background. What will be in your frame? If possible take your photographer with you – if not, take a digital camera and take a few snaps. You want your photoshoot to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible so planning is vital. You don’t want people hanging around on the day while you look for the perfect spot, or try to avoid the crowds.

7). Be aware of the news agenda

Pay close attention to the news agenda and time your photos well. Royal weddings, holidays, Wimbledon, hottest day of the year – all of these things can offer you hooks to get that perfect photo. BUT, it’s also worth sometimes going against the news agenda. For example election time, when picture editors are bombarded with man-in-suit after man-it-suit, it could well be worth doing something dramatically different to offer some light refreshment.

8). Move quickly

Once your photo has been taken get it re-sized, captioned and sent ASAP. But make sure that you pay attention to timings. Don’t send it on a Friday, and avoid afternoons if possible. The best time is around 10am in the morning. It’s also worth trying a Sunday morning – papers are often lacking content for Monday’s paper.

For some examples of great press photos check out TNR’s gallery.

Photo by graur razvan ionut

The importance of photography for B2B PR

Let’s face it – a lot of business news can be pretty boring.

So what? There’s been a new acquisition, or a new board member, or an increase in turnover.

You need something to make your story stand out – and a decent photograph could be just the ticket. By commissioning a bespoke photoshoot for your story you could end up doubling your coverage.

Here are some hints to help make it work for you:

1). Use the photo wisely

Not every story needs a professional photograph – whatever shots you have to hand may be enough, or indeed no photo at all. But there are times when a photo is the story. Think about your story visually – the story itself might not be that strong, but a photo could make it get snapped up by journalists. If you can persuade your client to spend that little bit extra (time and money) on a photoshoot it can really make a difference.

2). Be clever with your client

Some stories might not be directly linked to your client, but a photo can make sure they get a mention. For example, I recently did a press release on a law firm who helped a woman – who was the first person in the UK to use thermal imaging on pets – with the t’s and c’s on her website. The story was the woman, not the law firm – but by organising a photoshoot with her and the solicitor (not to mention a very cute Huskie dog), it was guaranteed that the law firm would get a mention in any coverage. And they did – the picture came out great and the story was used in every major business publication in the south west and numerous national veterinary titles.

3). Have respect for the photographer

We have an idea in our head of the sort of shots we need from a shoot, and a decent photographer should be able to get these. But, in the same way we work as consultants to our clients, photographers work as consultants to us. If they have an idea, or think that your idea wont work, discuss it and work through it together – use their expertise to get the best results.

4). Brief your client

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking a photoshoot is a few quick snaps on a digital camera. If you haven’t briefed your client fully and then a bossy (they’re usually the best) photographer turns up with flashes, backdrops and props, barking at them to smile more, then it can be a recipe for disaster. Even if it’s a simple head shot you’re after, ask your client to clear an hour in their diary and remind them to dress smartly (you may think this will be obvious – but trust me, it isn’t to everyone!)

5). Ask the newsdesk

Worried you might shell out £150 (approx $230) for a photoshoot and then the story still won’t get picked up? Call the newsdesk at the publication you’d most like to get coverage in and ask if it would be of interest if you provided professional photographs. It’s even worth asking if they would like to take photos themselves. What with all the redundancies in the past year or so it’s not as likely as it once, was but I’ve still hit gold a few times with this approach – especially in regional newspapers.

6). Do you even need a press release?

Perhaps you don’t even need to bother writing a story to go along with images. Great exposure can be got through an image alone. Without sounding too corny ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ and all that. Send pictures with a simple photo caption and short paragraph outlining the story – this works especially well for the ‘social’ pages in magazines.

7). It’s not just for press

Don’t think of the photo as a one hit wonder. It can be used on websites, uploaded onto social media sites, in marketing collateral and even potentially in future press material. It’s always worth checking the terms with your photographer though to make sure you have exclusive and unfettered usage.

8). Please! No more head and shoulders!

If I see one more ‘man in a suit’ staring back and me from the business pages I think I might scream. Of course these shots are sometimes necessary but try and make them a bit more exciting – if you have funky artwork in your office try and pose in front of that. Perhaps you work in stunning scenery, or on the waterfront? Get outside and have your photo taken. Anything apart from that stark white background.