Does a picture paint a thousand words?
If it did then someone would have painted the Gettysburg Address by now.
Can a picture really paint a thousand words?
It's been said more times than I care to remember, but a picture is such an vital element of a news release that it is just as important as the story it accompanies.
We are visual creatures, and our thinking is led by what we see before what we read. Journalists and editors are no different, they want their magazine, web page or eshot to have visual appeal, and will visualise the text as the stuff that appears between the photos. Providing the story is rich in the three Fs (facts, figures and financials) and it’s a useful, valuable and informative story, a cracking image will probably win some prominent coverage. Not even the Mona Lisa can rescue a bad story from the spike, but a good story can get great coverage with exactly the right photo.
The press shot is perhaps the hardest picture to get right. You know the situation: there's a new member of staff and you want to announce their arrival to the industry. This may be their first introduction to their peers across the event sector or it may be announcing that they have taken up a great new position with your organisation. It's at this point that we would like to bring out a well used phrase but one that needs to be given an airing at this point – first impressions count.
You're about to put an image of this person into the public domain, it is likely to be the only time many people will see them, so make them look good. A good press shot also reflects well on the wider organisation but you must resist the temptation to shoot them against the company logo or sign. It rarely works.
8 ways to ruin a perfectly good press shot
- Shoot in bright sunlight, because everyone looks better when they’re squinting.
- Use on-camera flash to pancake the subjects facial features.
- Make your subjects head balloon with a wide angle smartphone lens.
- Position your subject in front of a plant, so it looks like it’s growing out of their ear.
- Crop them out of a group pic taken at a wedding 5 years ago.
- Use depth of field to blur their face and focus on the blank wall behind them.
- Get the subject to look away from the lens, it helps make them appear bored, or even better, anxious.
- Zoom in on their head,. Picture editors may have to cut parts of their face off to make their shot fit.
You should be able to get good results with a reasonable compact zoom camera or any dSLR, but don't forget to shoot in portrait (camera on its side so your pictures are tall and narrow, not short and wide). Take plenty of pictures and experiment, and then compare your results to the professional press shots in the media and online.
Should you get a professional to take the pictures you need?
Our default position is yes, simply because they have the experience to see what will and what will not work, they know precisely how to light and shoot a subject and they will get the job done much, much quicker than someone without the experience.
Choose the right photographer for the right job though. If a photographer is a master at bringing inanimate objects to life for product catalogues, they may not be the best one to use for candid photography a lively event. Someone that specialises in people photographs may never be able to capture your venue or premises. It is definitely worth researching their portfolio and making sure that they are experienced in photographing your subject matter.
5 Things most editors want from a picture
- Choice – Can I have a choice of images so I can use the one the other magazine didn’t?
- Relevance – Does it tell, show or illustrate this story or news release?
- Technical Quality – Is well lit and exposed? Is it a pin sharp megapixel image?
- Composition – Is it well composed, does it lead the eye?
- Aesthetic appeal – Does it look good?
In summary, a great set of pictures will not make a bad news release better, but it may be enough for a photostory – a caption and an image. It can make your news stand out from that of your competitors, and it can most definitely turn a strong news release into front page or cover material.