This month, I attended a free photography workshop hosted by London’s TNR Communications, which is part of the Press Association.
The workshop set out to “give a real insight into how to get national picture desks to run your PR photographs.” I’d highly recommend the workshop—it was a great insight into one of the U.K.’s busiest news and picture agencies—and it offered valuable insight into the day-to-day workings of a picture desk.
Here are some top tips from the day to help make sure you get that perfect press shot—and the coverage it deserves:
1. Track record is important.
Make sure that the photographer you use has a strong track record in securing national coverage for his or her photos—even if you have to pay more for it. The photographer should have an intuitive eye and know what a national paper is looking for and how to get it.
He or she should also know how to distribute photos—if you have no connections it can be hard to get your photo seen by the right people. Make sure they also offer solid insight and knowledge into the best times to send photos and the best resolution, file size, and photo captions.
2. Know what picture editors want.
When pitching photo stories, picture editors are your audience (not newsrooms)—so you need to understand them. You need to know what they’re looking for and how they operate. Avoid clichéd photos (smiling business men holding big checks are most definitely a no-no!). Remember, news is about people—the photos needs to reflect this.
3. Challenge yourself to be more creative.
Picture editors at national newspapers are inundated with photos—more than 20,000 per day—and the number is growing larger every day thanks to the rise in digital photography and citizen journalism.
For your story to gain coverage, it needs to be imaginative and eye-catching. Think of the wider story, and determine creative ways of capturing it. If the story allows it, try to be fun and humorous. And remember: A picture editor only sees thumbnails on screen—and hundreds of them at that. Your photo needs to be special to stand out.
4. Try to sum up the story.
An ideal photo for national press will sum up the story in one go. Even if you need to stage a shot which achieves that goal, it could well be worth it. Often, strong photos aren’t run with a full story—just a photo caption. Make sure that your picture tells the story you want it to.
5. Manage branding.
From a PR pro’s perspective, getting branding into a photograph in the national press is the Holy Grail of success. From a picture editor’s perspective it’s a nightmare.
Try and find a happy medium. You can get away with branding, but only if it looks natural within the setting of the photo. Don’t go overboard, and don’t try to make your branding the focus. Doing that will simply result in your photo not being used—or your branding being cut out.
6. Planning is vital.
You want your photo shoot to be as quick and efficient as possible—which means planning is vital.
If it’s in a public place, visit the site in advance. Determine how busy and crowded it is. Find out if you can get the right angles. Think about the environment and the background. What will be in your frame? If possible, take your photographer with you. Short of that, bring a digital camera and take a few snaps.
Bottom line is you don’t want people hanging around all day while you look for the perfect spot, or try to avoid the crowds.
7. Be aware of the news agenda.
Pay close attention to the news agenda and time your photos well. Royal weddings, holidays, Wimbledon, hottest day of the year—all of these things can offer you hooks to get that perfect photo. But, it’s also worth going against the news agenda sometimes.
For example, come election time—when picture editors are bombarded with man in suit after man in suit—it could be worth your time to do something dramatically different.
8. Move quickly.
Once your photo is captured, get it re-sized, captioned, and sent ASAP. But make sure that you pay attention to timing. Don’t send it on a Friday, and avoid afternoons if possible. The best time is around 10 a.m. in the morning. It’s also worth trying a Sunday morning—papers are often lacking content for Monday’s paper.
For some examples of great press photos check out TNR’s gallery
A version of this story first appeared on Nolan’s blog PRtips.