How to Take a Decent PR Photo

Ever notice how people will read a caption to a photo before they read an article? Or they look at the pictures long before they read the text, ad or information? An overworked, but very true, adage is that a picture is worth a thousand words.

There are several ways that a photo can be used in the place of a press release to effectively promote a message, organization or event. I have used Public Relations photos to place of press releases to tell her client stories for many years and finds them extremely effective in conveying a message.

Sometimes an amateur shot or even a professional photographer’s photos are not suitable for use in the media. Often a photo is either too plain or has too much going on. The newspaper editors face the challenge of finding a clean image that tells a good part of the story.

To increase your chances of having your PR photo published and your cause promoted, here are some tips:

  • Try to limit the number of people in the photo to three.
  • Solid color clothing works well.
  • Plain backgrounds also help to keep the clutter to a minimum. Often the photos are converted to black and white so contrast between the foreground and background is helpful.
  • A triangular photo composition is best where the main person is looking at one of the others and is being looked at by the other two.
  • If the organization you are trying to promote has a symbol or a logo, make sure that it is seen proximately in the photo.
  • Is it possible to show a little action? The best PR photos do not have the subjects looking at the camera, but are actually involved in what they a doing.
  • Write a caption for the newspaper that uses only active verbs. Y you get the picture! (ha ha)
  • Name the people in the photo from left to right, front to back. Put a title to the key person you’re trying to promote.
  • If you must show a group of people, don’t line them up like a baseball team photo in a yearbook. Engage them in an activity, like have them looking/listening to one of the group speaking. Take a side shot of them in a horseshoe setting. Have the speaker hold something up to show the rest of the group. This works very well when the item relates to your organization. It gives the photo some action.
  • Don’t be afraid to stage a photo. Unlike a true journalist, your assignment is to make the organization look good, not take a candid photo. Your big challenge will be to make sure the subjects are comfortable and relaxed.
  • Don’t let bystanders outside of the shot try to help you by directing the photo. If they do, the subjects will be looking at the wrong place and other people will be shouting “smile” which is not what you need.
  • Take several photos, both vertical and horizontal.
  • If some of the people in your photo are not members of your organization, have them sign a model release so you can use the photo in your promotional materials or on your web site. (Might be best to have everyone sign a release… just in case.)
  • Make sure you get the correct spelling of everyone’s name and the city they are from. If appropriate, you may want to send a copy of the photo with caption to their local newspaper as well.

If you follow these tips, you’ll find that your PR photos will improve and your hit rate for getting them placed in the media will also increase. Happy shooting!

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PR photo courtesy Kathy Hetrick of Strategic Focus Ltd., a management consultancy firm in Hartville, Ohio — near Akron.Full Disclosure: Strategic Focus is a client of Marketing Resources & Results, Inc.