A Bluffer’s Guide to Taking the Perfect Pictures for Your Business
Sunday, November 1st, 2015
Check out these DIY photo tips from award-winning picture experts
We are living in a visual age, so welcome to our essential five part guide on Visual Communications for business. Here in PART FIVE our experts offer a series of tips on how you can bluff your way in DIY photography, with nothing more than a smartphone.
BUSINESSES like yours are teeming with interesting stories – and great photos can help you tell them to the widest possible audience.
Maybe you’ve got a big event, product launch or other business milestone, but simply don’t have the time or the money to arrange a professional photographer. Don’t despair. With these helpful tips and insights you can still get great images.
We’d always encourage you to use the kind of award-winning professional photography services offered by our PR agency, because it is proven to make a positive impact on a business. However, we understand that isn’t always possible.
So we pulled together this easy-to-follow Bluffer’s Guide to make sure you still get the best possible images to interest the media, even if you’ve got nothing more than the camera built into your smartphone.
PHOTO TIP 1 – Who needs to be in the picture?
Wherever possible, the focus of your photo should be a real person.
Of course pictures of buildings, products, signs, streetscapes and other inanimate objects have their place – but nine times out of 10 such pictures should be supporting images.
So, think carefully about the message you’re trying to get across – and who in your business is best placed to help illustrate that.
If it’s a story about the business performance and stellar results, it may well be that the managing director, chief executive or other high heid yins should be included.
If it’s a story about an element of great customer service or a new product launch, then it may be far better to have someone from the relevant team involved.
Likewise, it is entirely possible that the best way to tell your story is with a photo of a client, customer, beneficiary or other third party.
Whoever the right people are, try to keep the numbers limited. At its worst, PR photography consists of five or six people standing awkwardly in a line in front of the company logo.
We’ve all been there and it’s an easy mistake to make but, as is so often the case, less is usually more.
The fewer people in your image, the fewer egos to manage, the fewer retakes are required and the less time it will take to capture the perfect shot.
Remember, whoever is in your image, even the smallest element of creativity can elevate your pictures.
It may be tempting to have your subjects sitting at a cluttered desk or in front of a plain, cream wall. But give some thought to other interesting backdrops, whether a colourful mural, an interesting streetscape, a well-known location or beauty spot or just some regular brickwork.
For example, click on the picture, above, to see how we made a visually interesting photoshoot for four directors of the workplace planning company, Space Solutions.
Finally, remember that no-one wants to be photographed with windblown hair across their face or spinach stuck in their teeth. so offer your subjects the chance to check out your pictures and esnure hey are happy with their appearance BEFORE you call it a wrap.
PHOTO TIP 2 – What needs to be in the picture?
The classic example of PR photography gone wrong is the infamous giant cheque snap.
For one thing photographing someone holding an outsized cheque rather ruins the excitement of whatever activity went into the fundraising in the first place.
Afterall it does nothing to convey the fear involved in an abseil from a building, or a leap from a plane and certainly doesn’t capture the buzz, colour and fun of a coffee morning, knit-a-thon or sponsored baked bean bath.
For another thing, most of the media are unlikely to carry your cheque presentation. It might appear in a small town weekly newspapers. But when was the last time you saw a cheque presentation in a daily newspaper, a big name news website or in the biggest name and most credible trade titles?
So, try to get them to do something that illustrates the story. Creativity is key. Perhaps you could incorporate an element of how they raised the money with some props?
For example a coil of rope and a hardhat for an abseiler, a colourful teapot and mugs for a coffee morning, a pile of colourful socks and scarves for a knit-a-thon, or a pyramid of baked bean tins for someone who sat in a bath of beans. With just a wee bit of forethougth, you’ll be amazed at the simple ideas you can come up with.
Finally, you may be tempted to have a giant company logo in your photos – or to fill the picture with lots of branded clothing or materials. STOP!
If you are hoping for media exposure then remember this crucial point – newspapers, news sites, blogs and other outlets are less likely to use your image if it is overdosed with your branding. In fact most credible media will immediately bin any pictures which are clearly stuffed with your business logos or messages.
Why? Because if you want an advert, you have to pay for it. If you want to earn a mention in the media, you can’t treat it like a free ad for your products and services.
Trust us – an eyecatching, colourful and visually interesting image that helps tell a story is far more likely to get used in the media and the bigger that picture is used, the more likely people are to read about your busienss.
PHOTO TIP 3 – Composition and lighting
The number of people in the photo isn’t only thing to worry about. Composition is another essential element to get right.
Try to keep the composition quite ‘tight’ – make sure people stand closely together and lean slightly towards each other – if one person’s position is off it becomes the focus point of the picture.
A top tip is to use the “rule of thirds” – if the horizon (or the focal point) of your shot is in the middle of the photo, it can look boring.
So, mentally, divide the viewfinder into thirds. Put the horizon in line with the top or bottom third and do the same for any features (people, products, etc), by putting them in line with the left- or right-hand third of the picture.
As we’ve already mentioned, where possible, avoid clothing which has an emblazoned brand name or logo – unless it’s a relevant to the story.
It pays to make sure no one has a pole, plant or signpost sticking out of their head or anything that will make them look silly. While this sounds obvious, trust me it still happens often.
Finally, natural daylight will always give you the best results – not too dark but also avoding direct, bright sunlight. So try to pick a time and place where you will have plenty of daylight for your photoshoot. Another couple of pointers are not to shoot directly into the sun, while also avoiding angles that create long or strong shadows – simple!
PHOTO TIP 4 – Don’t just take one photo.
You may think you’ve got it in one shot but chances are you’re kidding yourself.
There may have been days or even weeks of planning that have gone into your photo event and getting everyone in the right place at the right time.
So once the photoshoot is over, the chances are there is no going back for a retake. So do yourself a favour and take plent of pictures to improve your chances of getting the right shot.
Plenty of would-be photographers have called an end to the photoshoot convinced they have a killer image – only to find out later that one of the subjects had their eyes closed!
The internet is full of photo fails and each and everyone of us has a hard drive full of family pictures and holiday snaps that will never be shared on Facebook.
Take your lead from professional photographers, who usually take multiple versions of the same shot, increasing the chance that at least one image will be ideal.
Nor will accomplished photographers rely on just one set up. Instead they will always take plenty of different photos, varying the angle, the type of image and the composition.
For example, take some portrait and some landscape; take close-up shots and some that are further away; and take the background into consideration.
As a guide, check out the photo gallery included here (click on the link to see the full-sized gallery), which were taken on behalf of our client, Bield and show a wide variety of ways to make images of staff more visually interesting.
Ultimately, if you can take a variety of different pictures, the better chance you have of taking the perfect PR shot.
Here’s the thing. If you take lots of photos, they will help tell your story – and that can include the cheque presentation image we mentioned earlier. When the cheque handovers is just one image among a selection telling your story it makes perfect sense, especially as part of a series of pictures on your website or Facebook page.
Likewise, many online news outlets will actually carry a gallery of images related to a single story. Once you have nailed the picture of the people involved, if you have time take a few supporting images – products, signs, location setting shots, such as buildings and office views.
In fact, if you get plenty of images, there is no reason you can’t turn them into a slideshow, even making a YouTube video from your series of images.
PHOTO TIP 5 – Fake it ‘Til You Make it.
Now that we are in the world of smart phones there’s really no excuse for ever letting your business milestone pass without having photos taken.
However, if you think someone in the team has an eye for an image and you’re likely to be taking photos on a regular basis, then it’s worth investing in a reasonable quality, basic digital camera – you don’t need anything too fancy.
In either case, you’ll have a much better chance of capturing all of the moments that may once have been missed.
For print, the digital image needs to be high resolution or a newspaper or magazine may not be able to use it so a digital camera/smart phone of at least five megapixels or more is always recommended.
Don’t forget, even if your latest photo masterpiece doesn’t make it onto the pages of a newspaper or trade magazine, there are still plenty of other ways to get value from it.
Decent images can be used on your website and your Facebook page and might also be perfect for email newsletters or updates for your customers.
In fact smart phones – whether Apple, Android, Windows or Blackberry, all have simple ways to share your pictures directly to social media platforms, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, so don’t by shy about getting snap happy.
If you want to go even further testing out what’s possible, look at other social media platforms, including Instagram and Pinterest.
PHOTO TIP 6 – Don’t Forget Your Captions
Just whenyou thought you were done it could all have been for nothing.
Without captions you may risk the chance of media outlet – wheter online or in print – deciding not to use the picture you have spent so long perfecting.
People want to know who is in a picture, so be sure to include captions when sharing the images on your website or on other digital platforms.
For example, think how many more comments and shares you receive for your personal pictures on Facebook, when other people in those images are tagged. The same thinking should apply to any business photos you are taking.
With that in mind, for every person you take a photo of, write down their first name, surname and, if appropriate, their job title – and most importantly of all make sure you double check the spelling of their names.
Where possible always list the names and other details of the photo subjects from left to right.
It’s tempting to think that there is only one way to spell John Smith. But never assume – it could just as easily be Jon Smith, or John Smythe.
It is also helpul to include the age of anyone in a photo – particulalry children. Speaking of which, if you are photographing children, please make sure you have permission from their parents or guardian.
In short, the more details you include, the better.
Never worry about quality photography again – by working with our award-winning PR agency
We hope this bluffer’s guide to photography will help you to get started on discovering how the power of pictures can unlock amazing business potential.
If you want to find out more about the award-winning PR photography services offered by Holyrood PR, don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat. We’d love the chance to discuss what could be possible for your business.
You can contact us any time on 0131 561 2244 or by taking a few seconds to fill in the simple form below – and we’ll get straight back to you.
Private: Ainsley Piggott
Ainsley Piggott joined award winning Holyrood PR in Scotland with three years industry knowledge behind her having previously worked on well known consumer PR accounts such as Asda, Greggs and DFSView Private:'s Profile
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