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PR Masterclass 2

Picture Perfect
One of the most important PR tools is a good photograph, so knowing how and when to use one is fundamental for any business serious about achieving good publicity.

Why use pictures?
Pictures grab our attention. Striking pictures can stay with us long after the words may have faded. Think of Einstein sticking his tongue out. To journalists, the right picture draws the reader in. In a sea of words, a good photograph will instantly make the page more appealing. This is one of the reasons why journalists appreciate a photograph along with a press release.

On the web, the use of pictures is even more important. Who wants to read a website that is just full of text? Think of your favourite sites and count the number of pictures. Chances are there will be plenty of visual interest to keep you from clicking away too soon.

How to create a good PR photograph
If taking the time and trouble to create a good photograph makes sense, what are the rules that help achieve a great shot? When is it right to use a professional photographer and when will the DIY approach do? Here are five tips to get you started:

Get inspired
Start taking notice of photographs in business magazines, websites and national newspapers. Make a note about the pictures you like. What is it that draws you to them? Bookmark them or if you can, take a copy for future reference.

Keep it simple...
Avoid cramming too much into the picture. If the central subject is a person, be wary of them wearing strong colours or the latest fashion that may quickly date the picture.

...but not Boring
Avoid the classic executive-holds-pen-at-desk stereotype, although some desk shots if done well, can work (see Varta example below). Consider siting the key players in more interesting, relevant surroundings such as at the wheel of your business fleet or in the workshop. For new product announcements, try picturing the product in action or, if appropriate, being held by a member of the team.

Use the professionals
Although DIY photography is tempting, especially with digital cameras making it so easy, I would still advise calling in a professional whenever possible. The Press Association is one place to start, or search the web for someone local. Better still, get a recommendation. Speak to your regional newspaper picture desk who may be happy to suggest someone. My photograph on this page was taken by Graham Flack of Quadrant Photography, who is in my view, one of the best in the business.

Start a picture library
Create a library of shots, including products and key personnel to have at your fingertips. A website page where these can be downloaded by journalists or suppliers ensures they are accessible at any time. Do check you have the right size file (the size of file will vary depending on whether its for internet or printed use), so get advice before going ahead.

Consider these two examples taken from MRW:

Photo critique 1

This picture is well balanced. The subject is looking directly at the camera, but is relaxed and the lighting is good. Hes wearing a simple blue shirt which lets him get away with that strong tie, so nothing is jarring. The props the open report hes holding and the edge of the computer screen add interest.

Picture critique 2This is a great example of an action shot. It immediately says recycling to us. Its also colourful, draws the eye straight to where the action is - and we can associate with the effort of stuffing those things into the recycling bin.


Amanda Barry-Hirst is a freelance PR consultant, trainer and writer with specialist expertise in the waste and recycling sector.

If you have a comment about this column or have a PR issue youd like her to cover, email or go to


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