I was recently asked by a client to write a small article on how to take pictures for press use. So, my blog post today is that article. I hope you enjoy.
Taking Pictures for the Press
As more and more newspapers are reducing the number of staff photographers they employ, it is becoming more important for event organisers to have their own photographers present. It is, therefore, also important to understand the type of images that the newspapers are likely to use or likely to reject.
Here are some of my tips for taking press images.
Fill the Frame
This is one of the first photography techniques I teach my students. Before you take the image, have a good look all around the view finder. Make sure your main subject fills the frame. Our brain cuts off anything we don’t feel is relevant, but unfortunately our camera doesn’t. Therefore, when we see the image we’ve taken we suddenly find that the main subject is tiny and surrounded by a lot of space.
Get the Eyes
If you are photographing people, make sure the eyes are in focus and are looking at you. If the eyes are sharp other areas of the image that are not quite in focus will be overlooked. Obviously, aim to get the whole image in focus, but you absolutely must have the eyes in focus.
Make sure the eyes are looking at you and are open! When taking a group shot at an event it is highly likely that someone will be distracted by what is going on around them and will look away just at the point you take the picture. Make a lot of noise. Keep telling the group that you need their attention and keep checking through the viewfinder.
Also, people blink. They do it all the time. When you have a group of people posing for a photograph the chances of one of them blinking just when you take the picture are multiplied. A blink only lasts a fraction of a second. Therefore, take several shots in rapid succession and before the group disassembles check the back of your camera to make sure you have all eyes open.
Tell the Story
Once upon a time photographs were used to support the text in a newspaper article. Then, in the 1940’s, that all changed and the picture became the story with the text supporting the picture.
In these current times of instant everything, the average attention span is dramatically reducing. When you think about the shots you take, assume that nobody will read the text unless the image first grabs their attention. Make sure people can look at the image and immediately understand what is going on.
Think About the Background
It does matter what is behind the subject in the image. If the background is too cluttered it will become a distraction. Also, keep an eye out for objects that might look odd in the image – poles growing out of people’s heads etc.
Where possible get some distance between your subject and the background. This will give your image more impact and make your subject more noticeable. If you must use a wall as a background get your subjects to stand at least 2 metres away from it (unless the wall is important to the story). That way the wall is likely to be thrown out of focus. If you are taking your image at an event and there is likely to be a lot of people in the background, pull your subject as far away from the rest of the people as possible. Again, this will give your subject some separation from the surroundings and make them more noticeable rather than being lost in a crowd.
Get Some Activity in the Shot
If the event includes lots of activity, capture some in your shot. There’s nothing worse than seeing an image of a group of people standing still when the event had lots of excitement and movement. If it’s a sponsored run get pictures of people running, if it’s a netball match get pictures of people shooting for the net. They don’t have to be live pictures. You can separate a group of people, give them instructions and then shoot away.
Don’t Forget the Cute Factor
Everybody loves cute pictures. OK, not quite everybody, but the newspapers do. A cute picture of a child will almost certainly get in the papers. It adds the ‘aww’ factor – the human interest factor. Local papers love images of local children.
Call in the Professionals
If you are staging an event and want some publicity in the media, now is not the time for someone to pull out a phone-camera and snap away thinking that the Nationals will beat a path to your door wanting to print the images. Neither is it the time for someone with a half-decent camera and good intentions. Make sure that whoever has the responsibility for taking pictures at your event really understands what they are doing, how to create pictures that the press will use and how to use the equipment properly.
The key word in the above sentence is ‘create’. The images from your event should be created and not just snapshots of opportunities that present themselves. Carefully plan and stage each image.
Your organisation’s reputation hangs on the quality of the images submitted to the press. Thousands (if not millions) of people will see them. If in doubt, call in a professional photographer with experience of submitting images to the press. The cost may not be as high as you think and the benefits will be endless.
Terry McNamara is a Manchester based freelance and commercial photographer and photography tutor. Here you can keep up to date with the projects Terry is working on and whatever he may be currently thinking about.