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Five things… about photography

Updated: Feb 6

By Patrick Southwell:

Humans are visual creatures. The eye’s retina contains 150 million light-sensitive rod and cone cells. Which is why a picture can tell a thousand words and some of the best stories have been told through the lens of a camera.

Photography, therefore, matters in PR. And I’m not just talking about clever consumer picture stories. The simplest of images are often a must for a B2B journalist. For example, a head shot of a spokesperson to accompany a thought leadership article.

Yet quite often, the images available to PR teams (in-house and at agencies alike) are, er, a bit… well, lacking. And that’s a problem. So, what are the five simple steps everyone can follow when getting the right image for the job?

Man taking photograph of the sea

1. Get a professional

“Will this do?” says the email with the blurry thumbnail image attached. No, it won’t. Don’t underestimate the work that goes into a decent picture. If you have the time and budget to invest in a photographer for even the simplest shots, do it. You’ll get value month after month.

2. Tell a story

If you’re not using a professional photographer and need to get a quick pic (with a decent camera), think about the story you’re telling. I once remember a colleague telling me about an image accompanying a press release detailing a new cardboard box. I know….

Anyway. The most important thing about this box was how strong it was. Really strong. The photo conveyed this perfectly by showing a small truck sitting atop it. The story was there in one simple scene.

Another way to bring out the story is with detail. Get the key elements into the picture, framed with the context. Also, look for emotion and passion from those you’re snapping.

3. Faces and people

Even those stories that deal in dryer or technical issues need human context. For example, an office opening. Now, I know from bitter years of experience that this is not news. It won’t get coverage. But it’s a good example of where good photos can bring something to life even if just for internal comms.

So, remember, no one cares about the actual office. We’ve all seen walls, desks and chairs. What we want to see are people, faces, something culturally relevant to the setting. Tell us about who will work there and what it might be like to spend time in their company.

4. Avoid clichés

I remember as a kid leafing through the local paper at home. The Somerset Standard. It holds a special place in my heart. Week after week there was photo after photo of councillors and community groups holding giant cheques to show how much they’d raised at the annual cake sale.

I know I told you to tell a story with photos, but avoid clichés. They make a story look cheap and amateurish. No handshakes. No power poses. No pretending you’re in a band. And certainly no giant cheques.

5. Size matters

If a simple head shot is needed to go with an article at short notice, ensure it’s well lit, has a clear background and is a big enough file size to work. The rule of thumb is: the bigger, the better. Screen resolution should be minimum 150dpi and print 300dpi. Most people now work in pixels, so ensure an image is at least 500 pixels wide.

It may sound like I’m teaching you to suck eggs, but it’s worth repeating. We see a lot of ridiculously small images being sent our direction.

So, there you go. It’s not an exhaustive list. But it’s an important start – and worth keeping in mind next time you need a photo at short notice. It happens more than you might think.


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