Using photography to best effect
We know that including a photograph with a press release can elevate a story from a few column centimetres to a much more prominent position in a publication. Picture editors however, receive hundreds of dull images of people in suits every day, that are more often than not poor quality; they go straight in the bin.
If you set up a photograph well, you can convey a message with immediate impact. The photograph you choose to accompany your release is just as important as the words, so plan ahead. Think creatively and take a variety of pictures, this way they may be relevant to more than one publication.
Contact the picture desk of your publication; they may want to send a photographer out to cover the story themselves. This is great, but remember that these images are the property of the media outlet so they’ll be choosing what they use. You will be able to request prints, but expect to have to pay for them.
If you feel the story warrants it, but the publication can’t send someone out, get a professional in. Look online for local photographers; if you shop around you’ll probably find that there are some reasonable prices out there. If you’re photographing something quite specific, ask your photographer to take some generic shots at the same time.
If you are supplying the photograph yourself:
- Contact the publication for a photo spec. The majority of the time you’ll be working with digital images and they will tell you what size they would like you to send. Teach yourself how to resize a digital image to make emailing much quicker and less cumbersome. Search online if you’re not sure, there are sites that can tell you what to do in simple terms.
- Make sure your photo is relevant to your story. A feature picture, rather than a simple head and shoulders shot creates immediate interest and will bring your release to the top of the pile. A picture-led story can get better coverage because the image caught the attention of the editor (even though the words weren’t half as exciting) and they know in turn that it will catch the attention of the reader.
So, consider your photograph: would you notice it in a newspaper? Is it interesting? Does it tell a story in a simple way? Is it clear and nicely cropped (not tiny figures in the distance in a huge empty hall)?
Avoid the obvious. Enormous cheques or ribbon cutting doesn’t light anyone’s fire. What will the money raised be used for, would that make a better shot? It’s an ice cream parlour opening, how about a small girl eating her free vanilla cone in the shop, huge grin on her face?
If you are sponsoring an event that may not warrant a story, call the picture desk anyway and let them know what’s happening.
Long-term planning: if your company will be regularly submitting press releases and has a number of people who will talk to the media, it can be useful to have photographs taken of the key figures and your building: exterior and interior if it’s relevant, a bakery for instance:
- Avoid photographing people on a white background
- Take portrait and landscape shots
- Quality is key: a blurry photo of someone with their eyes shut isn’t going to get you anywhere
- Including your company logo or signage can be useful
- Photographs of people at work are infinitely more interesting than straight portraits
- Generic shots that represent your business or industry are fine, but try to inject some personality into them
And finally, photographs that have been optimized for your website are not suitable for print. You can, however, have a facility set up to hold PR shots on your website that are high resolution (ie suitable for professional print) and available to download. Get someone who knows what they’re doing to set this up for you so that it is a helpful resource and not slow and irritating to use; best thing is to ask to see an example of this in practice before you commission it for yourself.