Photo Tips for Your DIY Media Efforts

 In Blog

You’ve heard me talk about the dos and don’ts of sending a press release. (If you haven’t, sign up for my enewsletter and get the white paper on the topic! Scroll down below the contact form until you see this paragraph: Sign up for my newsletter and receive my informative white paper “What is news? And how to share it.” Free.)

Equally important as the release itself are the photos that you send to illustrate your news. I am choosy about the photos I send with my clients’ releases; when they can’t provide one that I know cuts the mustard, I opt to send no photo at all.

The photo needs to tell the story too, and if it’s low-resolution, poor quality, or otherwise flawed, sending it will not help you.

A former colleague of mine, Dave Roback, a photographer with the Springfield Republican newspaper, knows the importance of the photo, of course. He’s on the receiving end of photos that come in with press releases, and he says he has seen some pretty bad ones. He has very generously offered up some tips to help ensure your photo will help, and not harm, your efforts.

Dave has been a photog—as they say—with the Republican since 1984 and was shooting for the Holyoke Transcript and the Beaufort Gazettte in Beaufort, South Carolina, before that. Through a reciprocal agreement the Republican has with other print media, Dave’s images also appear with stories that get picked up by the Associated Press, the Boston Herald, Boston Globe, and Daily Hampshire Gazette. His photos are also on, a partner of the Republican.

Here are his tips.

Fill the frame. Whether you’re using a cell phone or a digital camera, if you’re taking a head shot, make sure only the head is in your viewfinder. “Take a couple of steps closer,” Dave says. “Fill the frame with the person’s head and shoulders.” If the person’s whole body appears in the image, it’s very likely there is not enough detail to make the photo worth its while.

Watch the background. “Have whoever takes the photo watch the background. Again, you cannot believe how many photos we get with things sticking out of people’s heads,” Dave says. As you frame the photo, notice what’s behind the person you are photographing and move your subject away from exit signs, telephone poles, other people, posts, etc. Use a blank wall as a background if you can.

Watch the light. “Don’t put people in front of windows. They end up becoming silhouettes,” Dave says. Turn your subject around and use the light coming in from the window to your advantage. Conversely, of course, too little light, or red eyes from a flash, are also on the “no” list.

How to send your photo. Send your photo as a JPG file, attached to an email. Don’t insert the photo into your press release. “It can be a pain to try to get the photo out of the release,” Dave says. Photos embedded in a Word document are also apt to be low-resolution, once extracted.

No captions as file names. Recently, with a press release from a well-known chain store, Dave received two head shots of two different employees—one sideways—and neither were labeled. “We had no idea who was who,” he says. “I had to call them.” When naming a photo file, use the person’s name only. If you send more than one image of the same person to offer a choice, call them “Janice 1,” “Janice 2,” and “Janice 3.”

When you’re getting ready to send out a press release, remember that the photo isn’t a throw-away. It has to be professional, or it won’t make the cut.

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