The Scriba guide to taking good PR photos

You have a great press release ready to unleash on the world’s media – but it would be even better if it was accompanied by a strong image or three. If you have the budget, get a professional photographer to help you out. They will turn up with creative ideas, a car boot stuffed full of props – and all manner of kit.

A good one will work very hard to get you the best possible results, setting up innovative shots, often involving climbing a rickety stepladder or lying on your factory floor – however dusty – to get the best angle. And while they’re there, you can get your money’s worth – they may be able to shoot some nice video clips to add sparkle to your social media posts, and take a few general shots that would look great on your website.

A professional is definitely worth the outlay. Ask on LinkedIn – or contact us at Scriba – for a recommendation.

Having said that, when you don’t have the cash for a photographer, all is not lost. We are all equipped to take half-decent pictures – anytime, anywhere – via the magic of our powerful smartphone cameras.

Here are some tips for good results…

Get to know your camera

Before you need to use them, spend a bit of time investigating the settings on your smartphone camera. Tapping the screen to sharpen the focus on your subject is the most important feature to be familiar with – a blurred image is no use to anyone. It’s also worth knowing that you can switch the flash on and off, as well as adjust things like brightness and colour saturation.

On an iPhone, selecting the live photo setting records several frames over 1.5 seconds – of which you can later choose the best. This is especially useful if your subject is moving.

For Instagram, fill your boots in terms of filters, but for media use keep things natural. When you email a photo, choose ‘original size’ or ‘large’ – lower-resolution images are OK for online, but no good for print.

Study your desired media

If you are looking for coverage in a serious trade publication, the chances are its editor won’t want a cheesy thumbs-up shot of your sales director, lying across the bonnet of one of your branded vans. Neither will they want a lifeless line-up of your senior staff in their suits.

Don’t second guess what your local paper will like – take a look at the type of pictures they use. Our guess is that old-fashioned presentation-type images featuring big cheques, handshakes and mayoral chains are few and far between nowadays.

Think about whether you need posed pictures, or ‘candid’. The latter, in this context, means images of people engaged in an activity, as if the camera isn’t there – though in reality some staging is inevitable. Our advice is to cover both.

Have a few goes

Whatever you are photographing, take a few shots, then pin point the best. It’s amazing how, in a group picture, someone will always have their eyes shut, or be looking in the wrong direction. Try out different angles or backgrounds – the more options you have, the better.

Where possible, take some ‘portrait’ pictures (meaning tall) as well as ‘landscape’ (meaning wide) so that you can offer your target media a choice. If you have the opportunity, take pictures outside in daylight – with the sun on people’s faces, not behind them.

Take a nice portrait

Journalists will often ask for a ‘headshot’ of whoever is doing the talking in your press release. It’s easiest to take a quick portrait shot in bright, natural light, with your subject placed in front of – thought not directly up against – a plain wall.

Encouraging them to stand at an angle and look towards you – school photo style – will result in a more flattering shot, than one with their shoulders square-on to your camera.

Remember, online media often require a ‘landscape’ image, rather than a ‘portrait’ one. How about your subject at their desk, or with some of your signage or branding, as an alternative?

If the subject matter of your article is serious, don’t accompany it with a picture of your spokesperson grinning from ear to ear. Take some smiley, but sensible, shots – as well as some more composed ones.

Think about props

Your company has won a big contract to source and supply beach balls to supermarkets. This is a real gift in terms of a media shot. How about a picture of your managing director throwing an inflatable ball in the air celebrating, outside your premises, with your signage in the background?

You could do all manner of things with props, all it requires is a bit of thought beyond the obvious – and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Get down low

If your shots are of people doing something – demolition contractors in hard hats, studying a plan, or schoolchildren building rockets from cereal boxes – the chances are, they will be looking down.

Media editors hate images of the tops – or backs – of heads, so get down low and try to capture people’s faces. Crouch on the ground if you need to. This is why you never see a professional photographer in a three-piece suit, except perhaps at a society wedding.

Full-length pictures can work well too. Images of a VIP being shown around your headquarters could be more powerful and engaging, if they are shot head-to-toe, from a low level, as they walk along pointing at matters of interest.

Shuffle people around

If you’re taking a photo of a group of people, don’t be afraid to ask them to move around. You might need them to be closer together – with tall people to the back, and shortest at the front. There are so many more creative ways to shoot a line-up than simply positioning people in a row – how about on a bench or at a table?

However, don’t get them walking along in sunglasses, Reservoir Dogs style. It’s been done to death – as has anything at an overly jaunty angle. No-one wants to see a skyline tilted at 35 degrees. Or indeed a person in owlish glasses, chewing a pencil, to denote that they are a writer … the list is long.

Carry on learning

Finally, when you do hire a professional – or see them at work – watch what they do, how they make their subjects laugh, and make the process enjoyable. Also, how they frame shots and think about light – you can learn a lot just by observing.

Similarly, when you’re reading your favourite business and trade titles, or scrolling online, take note of great images that work well for their intended purpose. How could you ‘steal’ that style?

Take pictures whenever you can – not just for the ‘official’ photoshoots. You have an ever-present audience on social media, remember, so the more you practice the better you’ll become.

Good luck and happy snapping!

Back to all Words

Written by Jenny Gibson

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