How to produce photos that work for the media

Online publishing has freed publishers from the space constraints of print editions. The result is that good photography is more in demand than ever. It is now feasible to have a picture with even a short online news story about your company, whereas in print days a magazine or newspaper might only use a picture to accompany the very longest reports.

The most important thing to remember is that photography should be of a professional standard. It is always a mistake to go to the supermarket, buy a cheap digital camera and take a few snaps yourself. Publications like stunning photographs. Besides, it’s better for you if the picture of your CEO is flattering and lights his face properly, rather than makes him look weird and shifty in the shadows. According to Matthew Fearn, Picture Editor of The Daily Telegraph: “People say that everyone is a photographer now. They’re not. Unless it is breaking news, if the quality is poor it won’t stand a chance.” Professional photographers, with greater expertise and better kit, will be able, consistently, to take images of a magazine and newspaper quality.

Photographers will use a couple of tricks to get the right sort of photographs. Usually, the photographs that work well in news media are produced using a wide-angle lens. They let the photographer get extremely close to the subject, which produces photographs where the action is right in the foreground, creating an exciting, energetic feel.

If the photographer is taking a head shots, he or she will need a portrait lens: this compresses the face and gives a flattering picture. You will need head and shoulders photographs of all the people likely to comment to the media. They will be used regularly, but my advice would be to not rely on them. If you can have a stock of more interesting shots – those taken with the wide-angle lens – you will be able to provide the media with something more appealing. Journalists have seen thousands of headshot photographs, and they can be a little bit boring. What’s more, many news sites like to place a photograph at the top of an article, taking up the full width of a story. That means they want a photo that’s “landscape” in format, rather than “portrait”, which, unsurprisingly, is the usual shape of a portrait photograph.

If taking pictures in fast-paced or dark settings – for example, an awards ceremony, where the lights are dim – your photographer will need a fast lens (technically speaking, that is one with a wide aperture). This will mean the photographs come out well, often without the need for flash, which can be disruptive and cause people to blink.

This post is based on an extract from The PR Masterclass (out now from Wiley)