If you want to secure media coverage for a PR client or your own business, you need to understand the power of photography and how to work with imagery for the media.
A great story is one thing but without strong PR photography your coverage will never be as widespread or as impactful as you’d like.
The opposite is also true, a weaker news story can achieve prominent placement in a newspaper or magazine based on one outstanding photograph.
In media land, there are also fewer staff photographers, picture editors and dwindling resources – especially at print titles – which provides an opportunity for those PR’s who can excel at commissioning, taking and sending images to the media.
Online journalists have to compete harder than ever for attention as readers quickly scroll and scan social media feeds and web pages.
Eye catching high quality images and well thought out photo opportunities can give you huge competitive advantage in securing positive media coverage.
Here are my top tips for great PR photography, based on my 20 years working in media, as a journalist and PR professional supplying images to accompany press releases, case studies, interview and story pitches.
These top tips cover everything from how to think creatively and master eye catching composition, to practical tips and hints on supplying images in a professional, timely manner; plus the essentials every journalist needs (names, captions, L to R) to do their job.
Composing eye catching PR Photography
The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words,” is a media reality.
Pick up any newspaper or read news articles online and you will see that images are usually evocative, high quality, unusual and eye catching.
Pictures attract readers and editors love quality pictures.
*Pictures are an extension of the fundamental news values which every journalist is trained to look for and like the opening paragraphs of a press release, a picture must tell the story quickly and easily.
It is even more effective if it elicits a strong emotional reaction, includes a person/ people of interest and has some element of novelty, controversy or real impact.
If you want to brush up on news values, check out my guide to Understanding news to master media relations and PR (internal link).
Absolute no-no’s of PR Photography
- Anything out-of-focus or under/over exposed
- Anything that is too small for publication in print/ shot on a lo-resolution setting
- Dull posed photos looking straight into camera are usually ignored
- Shots of business people in suits shaking hands on a deal – done to death
PR Photography – Top Tips
- Wherever possible, I recommend you use a professional PR Photographer
- They are experienced and expert at composing images and putting subjects at ease in order to capture authentic easy-on-the-eye images
- Image needs to grab attention and hold it
- Try and create dynamic, eye catching formations – that tell your story within a single frame
- Position people back to back, one forward & one back (altering depth and perspective) shoot from an elevated position looking down or put a prominent subject in the immediate foreground with others forming a great backdrop
- Don’t use too many people in the shot – limit it to 3 or 4 max – the image will carry more impact, too many and it becomes messy and busy
- Try and use the environment of the shoot in interesting and creative ways – for example connecting your brand to the story in a non-contrived or overly promotional way
- Depending on which media you are targeting, it helps to stage shoots in instantly recognisable and well-loved locations that people connect with
- Try and match the style of the image to the publication you are sending it to – what works in trade press might not suit a consumer audience or your brand’s Facebook page
- Look at the type of pictures you see in newspapers and magazine and get creative with your ideas
- Try to step into the mind of a reader and think about what you’d want to see in print/online. If you want a journalist to write about something, make sure you have images of it available
Examples of strong PR photography
Branding in PR Photography
How to take good PR Photography that features company branding, logos and identity is a tricky one.
Your client will absolutely want their brand front and centre but to a picture editor or journalist, a brand equals promotion, promotion equates to advertising and neither is news or editorial.
There are ways to include a brand in a press shot without overpowering it and risking it not being used.
Try to position it in a way that makes it difficult or even impossible to crop out, where possible make people the focus of the shot but frame it so that it’s difficult to leave out the brand.
Sometimes branding isn’t appropriate. If the right people are in the photograph, branding can always be included in a caption.
You can always bring branding in subtly, with company branded clothing, a car decal or other discreet props – such as a laptop screen if you’re launching a software or digital product like an app or website.
Make life easy – work with Journalists
You will be far more successful in any aspect of media relations if you make life easier for journalists and save them time and energy.
Provide simple, straightforward access to both your words and pictures.
It sounds obvious but make sure you have good imagery to hand for each and every story.
If the story is great but you don’t have an image available or expect a journalist to wait for a week for a shoot, then you will lose out on the coverage.
Pictures should be Hi-Resolution (300 DPI) and about 1 to 3 MB in size – any bigger and some editors won’t like it, because they clog inboxes, slow accounts down and are clunky to download.
Don’t assume that every journalist or commissioning editor has high-speed broadband, many (especially freelancers) will be working from home on standard connections.
Travel journalists may be abroad and using expensive mobile data.
One option is to send a Lo-Res (lo-resolution) image (72 DPI) first – to let the journalist quickly see the quality – and state that Hi-Res images are available on request or can be downloaded from a file transfer link (WeTransfer, Mail BigFile, Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive etc).
If you choose this option, make sure the image is not too small to be easily viewed and doesn’t lose impact or appeal due to its size.
Generally, I would only recommend using file transfer services when a journalist has agreed to cover your story and has asked for a larger selection of images.
If you use them from the outset, it’s possible that a journalist may file away your press release with the intention of running it in a few weeks.
By that time, your download link may have expired and they have no images on hand and they have to chase you for more.
Bear in mind, that if they ask you for one interior shot, one exterior and a company head shot, that’s all they want, don’t send them a link to an entire media bank and except them to trawl through it.
Making a journalist’s life easier is the simplest way to securing media coverage and delivering for yourself or your clients. Make their lives harder and you’re always going to be up against it.
Also, if you send a downloadable link rather than attaching images, make sure the links are clear and include a short, concise description such as “Product Photography of the new Dyson XK560 range are available to download at: http://www….
Attachment, Embed or Zipped
Most journalists prefer images sent as attachments.
There is still a lot of suspicion around zipped files and the possibility that downloading a zipped file may carry a virus or malware onto a journalist’s computer.
Whilst an embed in a press release or body of an email looks nice, you can’t guarantee it will arrive in the correct format or be received the way you sent it.
To err on the safe side, attach images to your email.
Send the right images for the right medium
If you’re sending photography to media, make sure you know what’s required.
If it’s a product review or round up, do they need a white cut out background? ghost mannequin photography or does the editor require model lifestyle shots.
For cut-outs or studio shots, make sure the whole product is pictured, so there is room to crop to fit layouts.
As a general rule send a choice of landscape and portrait images, to give editors more options when it comes to laying the story out on the page.
If you’re offering up a case study or an interview with your client as a contributing expert, then make sure you have high quality head shot photography available – and a few different versions is most useful.
Think of these as like passport photos with a little more expression and personality.
Get the basics right
The editor or journalist needs to know who’s in the photograph and in what order?
Make sure you include detailed captions, accurate names and job titles and set out as left to right: ‘L to R: Jake Haswell, creative director, Angela Burns, graphic designer, Mark Goldbloom, company chairman – Insane Games Ltd – at the launch of its new Virtual Reality gaming academy.”
Make sure you also title the images properly, so instead of a string of unrecognisable letters and numbers that a journalist will have to rename (DSC87654), send in properly labelled images such as insanegamesVRlaunch.jpg
These are small things but they make a world of difference to time-poor journalists.
Matthew Moore Consulting has planned and delivered successful media calls and photo shoots for a broad range of PR clients, achieving outstanding coverage and building profile and profits.