Category Opinions

A Picture’s Worth – The Importance of Photography in PR


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Matt Austin and The Rusty Bike in Ex Magazine

We all know the saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’, but we don’t have enough fingers to count the times that we witness businesses going against these wise words – and the wise advice of their PR adviser – to use a photograph that is less than a thousand words and more like a short statement such as ‘holiday snap’, ‘circa 1980’, ‘no flash’, ‘on the cheap’, ‘I hate myself in pictures’ or ‘here’s a picture similar to what the product looks like if you were to view it on the slant with your eyes half shut’.

In fact we’ve had people who have said “yes, I have a great profile photograph of me that can be used in the business press”. The picture arrives and turns out to be a cropped holiday snap with the remnant of some poor unfortunate friend’s arm creeping in over their shoulder; it may be a flattering picture, but it will not best represent the brand, the message or the business.

When we take on a client, our first job is to establish what their photography is like. Do they have a wide variety of pictures to represent the areas of the business that they would like to promote? For example, with the many hotel and tourism clients that we represent we like to have images of the rooms and interiors, the food, the manager or GM, their Chef in action; a whole collection of imagery that we can access at the touch of a button. Why waste a great story or PR opportunity by submitting a photograph that doesn’t live up to the story and will limit the amount of coverage you then get?

If our client doesn’t have this database available then our first recommendation would be to invest in a photography shoot with a photographer familiar with PR pictures and what the newspapers or magazines will be looking for.
You don’t just need to take our word for it! Here is a selection of some of the great PR shots we have done for clients recently and a selection of industry professionals that have sent us their own advice based on years of experience.

Food for thought. PR photography

PR and  Photography: Those in the Know

Anna Turns, formerly Assistant Editor of Devon Life Magazine and now Freelance Food Writer (devonfreelancefeatures@gmail.com)
“Great photography is absolutely key in getting your message across – whether it is a small news-in-brief item or a fabulous feature with full page pics. Low quality photography will let you down – or even deter the editor from including your feature altogether. I often feel disappointed when I spot a great story but the photos accompanying it are not good enough to publish, such a shame and a missed opportunity for both parties involved! Providing beautiful photos on the other hand might result in an editor spotting the potential and giving your story even more coverage and come back to you for more in the future because they can rely on your high standards.

Investing in a professional photographer is essential; worth its weight in gold. Choose a photographer who understands your subject area and the message you are hoping to get across. Food photography, for example, is notoriously difficult to get right unless you are a professional – bad food photography leaves a horrible taste in my mouth and would put me off eating at that restaurant or buying from that producer. Think of these photos as your shop window!

Su Carroll, Executive Features Editor, Western Morning News
“They are often unkindly referred to in newspaper circles as “the firing squad shot”. You know the kind of thing – a group of people all in a row, grinning inanely and often grabbing a massive cheque or some inflatable prop. They will end up straight in the digital waste paper basket. Now imagine the incredible things you’ve seen in a newspaper – the good, the bad and the ugly. Now think of them without that iconic picture. Photography is vitally important to the presentation of a story, especially if that’s the only thing that separates you from the competition.

We have featured stories or given them greater prominence purely on the basis of a great picture. If it catches our eye, it catches the reader’s eye.

And with digital publication, there are opportunities to use more pictures online than we could ever fit on the pages of a newspaper…if they make the grade…”

Photographer, Matt Austin www.mattaustinimages.wordpress.com
“Usually the biggest space you will get when an article/advert is being published is the picture space and let’s face it only a few people actually bother to read the accompanying text unless photograph/image catches the eye in the first instance.

The marriage of PR and photography

Too many times people think “oh that will do for the picture”; this is a great mistake. Without the combination of good photography paired with good writing, the piece will have little chance of attracting the desired attention.
Many times you can get across the point with good creative photography needing only a few words to complement the picture. It could be the best article in the world but be totally let down by poor or mediocre imagery.

We are now in an age when everything is instant and people’s attention spans are short and the only way to grab that fleeting attention is with quality images whether in printed or online media.

William Telford, Business Editor. Plymouth Herald
“How does the expression go? A picture paints a thousand words? Well, it’s true. As a wordsmith I obviously try to tell stories using language. But some things can be explained so much better by a photo. And a great picture can add value to a written story too. In fact, some stories aren’t complete without an accompanying image. So, please, think pics, and as a picture editor colleague of mine used to say: “Paint with light and you’ll be all right.”

Bracken Jelier – PR Account Director


  • Portia Crossley

    Fabulous blog, so true, one of the reasons it is so good to work with you as a photographer and no doubt partly why you are now the largest independent advertising and marketing agency in the South West!

  • john Russell

    Great article and totally agree with everything said. Companies that see good photography as an investment in their business and future will always do better than those that just see it as an expense. Of course photography is not alone here – the same applies to great graphic design, good PR etc –