The power of the picture

The power of the picture

A picture paints a thousand words.

Ahhh.  Lovely, yes, of course it does.

But it’s also incredibly powerful if you want to get some media coverage.  A great, well written news story is important if you want to generate some media coverage.  Journalists are hard pressed – lots of space to fill and little time to fill it – so good copy is always a god-send.  If it’s coherent and well-structured, it’s easy to include.

But these days, for plenty of outlets it doesn’t matter how good the copy, your story isn’t going to get any space or airtime if you don’t have a good picture.  And by good picture I mean one that brings the story to life, provides a narrative, adds colour and flavour.

I recently worked on a decent story.  It was relevant and timely and had the potential to get some good results.  Then the image landed in my inbox.  It was in focus.  It was of people.  But in terms of composition there was nothing to it.  I knew instantly it would kill the story and, sure enough, the media were not interested.

So how do you get images that tip the balance in favour of your story rather than the reverse?

Many, many years ago, when I was a trainee account executive I arranged a photo shoot of a technical client.  I engaged an interesting and creative photographer, but one who had no experience of taking pictures of leaders of technology companies.  I came back with some incredibly beautiful images set in central London but none that I could use to promote the business’s messages.

I’ve learnt a lot since then.  Read on to see my top tips for getting a picture that will add to your story:

  1. What’s the message your trying to convey? The point of the picture is to get this across at a glance so put in the time and effort to think about it in advance.
  2. Which publications and outlets are you targeting? Then do a little research. What sorts of pictures do they use?  That’s the sort of picture you need to provide.
  3. Who’s going to be in the picture? People like to see people, or animals to whom we can ascribe human characteristics.  So who can you include?
  4. Get the lighting right. You want to be able to see the people.  They don’t want to be in the shade but equally you don’t want them screwing up their eyes to cope with bright sunlight.
  5. The image quality has got to be good enough. Most smart phones take a high enough resolution picture but it always makes sense to get a professional involved.  The real skill of a professional photographer in this sphere rests in their eye for the composition.
  6. Keep it simple. Don’t get carried away with pointless props.
  7. Finally, provide it in a format the journalist can use. That means as a jpg with a good enough combination of dpi and size.  Do not embed it in a word document!
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