Tuesday, 6th September 2016

Making sure your picture ‘speaks a thousand words’

There is a well-known saying that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’.   This has always been the case for those of us who work in PR -  we can write the best, sparkling piece of editorial copy imaginable, but having the right picture to support a great story can make the difference between getting the front page lead or a few lines several pages into the publication.  But getting that quality piece of photography will usually involve a cost of some degree and in these economically uncertain times, many try to save a few pounds by taking their own PR pictures.  This can inevitably be a ‘false economy’ when trying to get good press and media coverage.

Like many in our business, I can remember the time when digital photography arrived with the promise of improving our lives as PR professionals.

Gone are the days when you paid a photographer for the number of reels of film used at the shoot and then having to trawl through contact sheets with a magnifying glass to pick out the best shots.  You would then have to order your 7” x 5” colour prints, caption them up on the back of the photo and send it out in a cardboard backed envelope.  It sounds positively archaic by today’s working practices, but it really wasn’t that long ago. 

Today we get our images on the same day they were taken, ready to issue.  As they are in the digital format, they can be ‘tweaked’ if necessary, which was not easily possible with the old, film format photographs. 

It is probably around 15 years ago when companies started buying their own digital cameras as a way of saving money on photography and of course nowadays we all carry high quality digital cameras around with us on our smart phones, ready to take photographs or film as and when we need to.

However, the result of poor photography can be catastrophic when trying to gain quality coverage.  For example, ‘people’ pictures with light fittings or calendars sticking out of the person’s head simply won’t cut the mustard.  Not to mention ensuring the digital quality of the image itself is good enough for print or online use can never be underestimated.   Reputable print and online publications simply won’t use badly taken pictures as they don’t do the publication any favours in terms of their reputation.  By the same token, agencies that submit bad pictures on behalf of their clients will be viewed in a poor light by the journalist, so their reputation is also at stake.   

Professional photographers are highly trained and know how to properly ‘set up’ a shot to achieve the right result.   When it comes to press photography, they know how to get people to stand, either on their own or in a group, so that everyone doesn’t look awkward and looking like they wish they weren’t there.  

Also with product photography, they can get the position and lighting right to ensure an image is created that truly showcases the product or subject.  They’ll often be able to come up with creative ideas for photographs that will catch an editor’s eye and gain the advantage over other stories that may be vying for attention that day.

If you are looking to get good PR shots, then the best advice is to resist the temptation to take your own pictures with a tablet or smartphone and invest in hiring a proper photographer for an hour or two.  If this seems costly for a few photos, make sure you maximise the photographer’s time while you have them there to improve your photo library.  For example, when was the last time you refreshed your team photos, both as a group and individually?  Do you have a good photo of your company’s premises or the latest ‘hero’ product?  It is often possible to get what you need taken in an hour or two and you’ll have the pictures you need for your press, website and social media use.

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for.  By bringing in a professional you’ll get quality pictures that will truly speak a thousand words to your audiences and show you off in the best light.

Sarah Burton

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