Advice for buying Professional PR Photography services
PR Photography is just as important as your commercial photography
Good quality pictures can secure publication on websites, or in magazines and newspapers yet many small businesses waste their photographic opportunities long before a photographer even shows up.
With a bit of preparation and planning you can have good commissioned photography that delivers.
In 1980 I began working in photography
In the last 30 years I have often found myself working for a multitude of marketing and Press departments of large multi nationals. My photography has been used in publications across the globe to support a wide range of businesses and I would like to draw on my experience in this filed to pass on a few things for you to consider and maybe ask yourself before you even contact a PR photographer.
Have you ever wondered why your assorted line up of un-cooperative people squinting into the direct sunlight with a cheque or shaking hands isn’t working that well for you? Then please read on.
Here’s a few thoughts and ideas to help you get PR photographs that work
In an era of social media a quick smart phone photo can work well on Twitter and Facebook especially if it comes from an individual or staff not direct from your brand. It’s quick and can be seen by thousands in no time at all for no cost, what’s not to like.
However, even in this area you should think of the power of good professional photography photography. Only the best should come direct from your brand and if you must have the brand deliver something before your Pro Photographer can process and deliver their photography to you then only ReTweet (RT) or share from staff accounts. Take a scroll though Twitter with a photographs only filter turned on you will notice photos are great and it’s the Professional Photographs that make the biggest impression.
Changes to the Google+, Facebook and twitter, cover photo have presented other opportunities to present a current up to date ever changing impact through the use of professional photography. That’s something to think about when you are commissioning a photographer, you might even want to talk about monthly or quarterly photography commissions and any discounts that can be had for a monthly retainer.
Meanwhile I have drawn on my experience to present you with some thoughts and advice that I hope might help or at the very least get you thinking about how you can get the most from any professional photographer you choose to help you with your business.
Advice to get you started with your photo opportunity:
- How should you choose a photographer?
Ask the photographer about their experience and a track record, or have they done work similar to what you need? It sounds obvious but it always surprises me how many firms buy a camera for the marketing staff or worse they book friends son or daughter who has started a photography course, got a camera for a birthday and have added the word “photographer” after their name on a webpage or FaceBook. Even a good Pro photographer may well have a great portfolio of fashion photographs but if you are trying to make a run-of the-mill press release come to life you may need to look beyond a pretty portfolio, to find someone with some very practical skills and some extensive experience across a whole range of disciplines in photography. Will they be on time or even turn up, sounds so obvious but over the years I have picked up many new clients from a panicked phone call because a photographer has just not shown up. There is nothing worse than interrupting peoples busy day to assemble them in one place and miss it all.
If your having trouble deciding on a good photographer ask people who have used photographers and ask professional bodies like the BIPP, (British Institute of Professional Photography)
- Can you plan ahead?
Consider taking two, (or more) bites of the cherry.
If you have an event you would like to promote you can consider a photo opportunity as soon as you have finalised the details. This gives you publicity for the event ahead actual date and gives can provide more opportunities for press shots at later dates, as well as coverage of the event itself.
If you don’t think you can use photography to promote or advertise an event because you have not had that event before, talk to your photographer about ideas that can be set up or staged easily.
- What do you want to say with the photographs?
Be clear in yourself what you hope to achieve by commissioning a Commercial or PR Photographer.
Some more experienced or creative photographers can anticipate and develop ideas and shots on the hoof but every photographer needs to know what is needed from the shoot in terms of what concept is being promoted and why, as well as knowing who is the the target audience.
Try to choose a location with some potential for a good photograph and you should consider providing props as well as branding, (though some papers don’t like too much branding so consider shooting with and without or keep it low key) that can enhance the potential of your photographs.
Be practical. You should be aware that most shopping centres are private property, most railway stations are owned by private companies so all will involve permissions and licence and possibly proof of insurance from your photographer, as well as signing everyone involved in and out etc. This can all add unwanted problems and time to any photo shoot. Presume nothing and ask about everything!
- How do I write a photographers brief?
Prepare a full and comprehensive brief for the photographer and where desirable share it with others involved in the shoot. Let the photographer see the brief as early as possible as he or she may be able to offer up suggestions and help you refine or expand on it, after all we see a brief just about everyday.
It is always good to include a short or bulleted summery in a brief. Perhaps a bullet point list of musts haves for the photographer, or a simple check list of things most important to you that you can check of together before packing up. Not all photographers read all words but those, like me, who do will want to know as much as possible about; who, why, where, what, how and when. It is true that I get jobs every week with no more info than a time date and location and they are successful jobs but, these are for clients that I have worked with for years. I know their storey, as well as their message and target audience almost as well as they do. I can assure you the brief they would email me for each photography job in the first few weeks were very complete and comprehensive.
Try and avoid asking for big line ups of people, cheque presentations and hand shakes– many newspapers will just bin them.
Try where possible to provide upright, horizontal and even square pictures to be taken, or at least for them to be cropped in post production as choices, these differing shapes are useful for editors and website designers when working on their layouts.
If the story is about a cash handover try and illustrate with something the money will be spent on or something that represents the benefits the cash will be responsible for.
Contrary to popular folklore, Children and animals are OK and they can produce amusing or endearing images that will push your story. However be swear that working with them can ad time to a job and allow for it.
If you are hoping for the local press to be present at the same time remember that their time is extremely limited, they are likely to arrive slightly late, (if at all) and will already be late for their next assignment. Understand that this is not a reflection of how much time they have for you or a snub but simply the way newspapers are run. If you end up with both any experienced commercial photographer you hire will usually understand the journalists position and you should see them stepping aside or even helping the local press get in and out quickly. If you have confirmation of a local press visit have a picture set up ready for the photographer so he can shoot it immediately, and have a left to right of names for him or her written down for them. Be aware that some newspaper photographers may arrive early as they will also be assigned to shoot another event somewhere else at the same time as your shoot.
There are fewer press photographers today and less freelancers supplying press pictures. This is simply a matter of economics but this is your opportunity. Providing professional PR photographs is now, more than ever before, a way of influencing the content of your newspaper, magazine or website with your own product or service. Newspaper sales might have been dropping for a number of years but the hit rate of news websites is rising therefore your professional commissioned photograph has more value than before as it is being seen online as well as in print.
- What do you want to happen to the photographs and when?
If you have prepared a brief for the photographer you should also include your expectations for the pictures. It is considered unfair to expect the photographer to turn around the pictures quickly if he or she has not been briefed accordingly. The photographer may well be going on to another shoot immediately afterwards. So, if a quick turnaround is need this should be made clear at the commissioning stage.
Most photographers can send pictures to you or directly to your contacts by email after they have been through post production processing. You might want to let each publication know beforehand that photographs will be coming from your shoot. It is always best to check the maximum file size that an email address can take and if there are any firewalls in place to prevent delivery.
It is good advice to also ask for a disc or a cloud/sharing link to the high resolution images for your storage. If one of the shots is particularly strong it maybe used at a later date for promotion on, say the side of a bus or building so having the larger files can be a very good idea to archive.
- I’ve paid for the photographer – do I own the rights?
Professional photographers will retain copyright to their work. This is usual. What you, as the photographers client, will get, is a licence to use . This can be specific and by agreement, or general and cover all the press and PR needs you require. People frequently wrongly think they need the copyright to photographs to use them, in fact all they need is a licence (permission) to use the images for whatever uses they were commissoned for.
Here’s 6 considerations for the day of your photo shoot
- A local celeb or someone good looking, we all like to think it dose not matter but it really helps – even if it’s a cute pet dog in shot will help. If that’s not possible a comedian (it can be one of your staff that always gets a laugh) is a good thing to have. Laughter trumps smiles, smiles trumps scowls.
- Props – colourful, imaginative, unusual, interesting or funny as long as it’s eye catching.
- Available light – That is, light that exists and is available. The best being daylight, diffused, window or other. Even with daylight your Pro Photographer will be using flash as when used correctly it gives depth and a good dynamic to your photograph but if it has to be shot in the deep dark recesses of the store cupboard an attractive mix of lighting is not going to be achieved.
- Time – Enough time to make the best of a situation, and this includes allowing the subjects enough time to be photographed without any undue constraints on time. Time enough to produce good work, reflect on it, and then go for something extra ordinary.
- Don’t clash – Try not ‘clash’ with national or local events that you know will demand a lot of coverage in the media. Look through the diary and look through last years press cuttings to decide a good time.
- Get a range of pics – Deliver different looking photographs to daily and monthly publications. A magazine with a longer shelf life will not want to look ‘dated’ by using an image already published.
It’s not always beautiful people a great location and perfect weather
A pro will always get the best possible photographs from any situation or setup but here’s a few things that can make it difficult.
- Clutter – Try and ensure the location for the shoot is clean and tidy without messy signage. If you don’t get the chewing gum and litter off the floor expect your photographs to take longer in post production processing
- Scale – No use having something so small the only way to photograph it is against someones eye, or something so big people have to lean around it. Unless of course that is the point.
- Groups – Large groups of hundreds of people can work as a picture, but if you want a striking simple image one two or three are the magic numbers of people in any photograph.
- Most of all be creative with your ideas and your approach to your photographer. Most photographers are pretty approachable people and don’t mind talking through what you want to achieve.
Bruce Allinson is a professional commercial photographer skilled in advertising, public relations, marketing, fashion, product photography and more with over 30 years experience working in the advertising industry. You can contact Bruce via his website www.AllinsonsPhotography.co.uk