Posted: Wed 2nd Feb 2022
Stefanie Hopkins is the founder and managing director of PR, social and content specialist Faith, which she set up in 2007. Faith has a ten-strong, award-winning team of experts across a range of communications services.
She is also the founder of BrigHub, the first co-working space in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, and a board member of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.
A picture paints a thousand words – and this is very much the case with a good PR photo. While compelling copy is fundamental in PR, good quality photography is equally as important and essential to achieving media coverage.
A professional PR photo can make all the difference between a small paragraph lost in the middle of a publication and a substantial story. A strong photograph can even become the story.
In PR and communications, words and pictures should work hand-in-hand to create a compelling whole. Research shows that when people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
So, what’s the secret to a good PR photograph? It must bring together the most important elements of a story into a single image and grab the viewers’ attention to make them interested enough to want to know more. It should encourage them to read the caption and accompanying article.
Like any kind of marketing or PR, good photographs can be an investment, but having worked in the PR industry for over 17 years, I’d argue that it’s one investment definitely worth making – the right shots can be incredibly powerful.
How to get a good PR photo
Invest in professional photography. Yes, smart phones have turned most of us into photographers but in PR photography, quality counts and just taking a quick snap on your phone will not cut it. And never, ever, send a selfie!
Use your imagination – a good PR photo is not always the most obvious shot. The best PR picture will grab the viewer, stop them in their tracks and make them think.
Taking people out of their normal environment can also be a good technique, for example, execs playing rugby in their business suits. But consider what works for different publications and mediums. A few quirky shots can be useful if they’re appropriate to the story but make sure you’ve got the basics, such as head shots, covered too.
Attention to detail
We’ve all seen plenty of examples of corporate photography ‘howlers’ so make sure you look at the whole shot to weed out any unintentional pitfalls. Consider setting, lighting and subject matter.
Make sure you get plenty of shots to suit different media outlets. This also gives you something extra to offer publications who want exclusives. Remember to get both landscape and portrait images to ensure you have something to fit every space from front covers to online content (online media always need a photo and only use landscape images).
If you don’t supply a photo with your comment or press release, they will just use a stock image or pull one from your social media profile if you are the main quoted source. This means you lose control of the quality of the picture which can impact on your brand value.
Research what kind of images will resonate with your target audiences. Then give them what they want! For example, a business story will benefit from a shot of the main spokesperson on the business premises while a new product announcement will require some hi-res lifestyle and cut-out photographs of the product.
Many businesses like to see their logo prominently displayed in the shot but remember it’s a PR story, not an advert. Including a brand identity in view can be a good way to anchor the image to your business, but keep it low-key. Overdoing it can switch off editors and annoy readers.
Check the format
If you’re emailing photos, make sure they’re in an easily readable format (most editors work with jpegs) and don’t share zip files. One of the most basic lessons of media relations is to make key information easily accessible – don’t give your recipients extra work to do or you’ll just annoy them.
Check the size
If you’re sending files that are too big, they could take too long to load (see the point above) or even bounce back. Too small and they won’t be usable. Think about where you’re sending the images and remember that print requires high definition whereas online media can be a lower resolution.
Brief your photographer beforehand
Talk to them, share ideas and make sure you both know what’s required before you start. Think about the scene and angle. Consider how you can convey action in your photo - a verb brings a story to life in the same way it brings a photo to life.
As news photographer Giulio Saggin, puts it: “the best way to do this in your photo, or visual story, is to get your subject doing something. This usually means getting the hands to do something. There is nothing worse than seeing hands hanging by someone's side.”
Don’t forget the caption
Make sure you send a caption to go with your photo, so the media know what it’s about and who’s in it (again, you want to make their jobs as easy as possible). This includes stating people’s full names and job titles from left to right. If the file name is self-explanatory this can also help in case the photo gets detached from the email or press release.