Is it easy to get a picture published in the media? This is a question I am often asked by companies with a news item they wish to send out as a press release. The quick answer is no it isn't. However, that isn't to say it is impossible.
We have pictures published in the national and regional media as well as the trade press on a regular basis and your chances dramatically increase if you follow a simple set of instructions. As a general rule of thumb, the nationals are the hardest in which to have a photo published while the regional dailies, weeklies and trade press offer a far easier target.
The first and foremost thing to consider is whether your ‘news’ is in fact newsworthy. The fact that you have a new director or a new product is probably very important to you, but will it be of interest to the readers of all the publications you send it to?
Look very carefully at the audience you think will be interested and the publications they are likely to read. Having established this, take a look at those publications and analyse the style of articles and pictures they use. The closer you can match their style, the increased likelihood of your article being used. Is is often worthwhile using the services of a professional copywriter to do this for you.
When analysing the style and type of pictures used, especially in trade publications, be aware they are only too often sent a boring head and shoulders shot and a bog standard product picture. Because that is all they are sent, that is what they end up having to use. If you can offer them a picture that breaks this mould and still meets their house style, they will probably be only too happy to receive it from you.
Now you know what type of picture you need, choose a photographer to shoot it for you. Just because you have always used a particular photographer to shoot your product shots for you, that does not mean he is necessarily the right photographer to take this picture for you. If he has a proven track record in having pictures published in the media, that's great. But if he hasn't, maybe it is time to look for someone who does media work on a regular basis. If he doesn't know what an IPTC field is then you should be looking elsewhere.
On the subject of IPTC fields, they are simply hidden fields embedded in an image which hold amongst other things, caption and image title information. Recent research, (source: Pixmedia Picturedesk report, Q1, 2005 - http://www.pixmedia.co.uk) has shown that 75% of images submitted to the media fail to have completed IPTC fields and are regularly rejected because they lack them.
These fields are easily completed using PhotoShop. The File/File information menu will take you to the required fields. If you do not have a copy of PhotoShop, simply ask your photographer to fill the fields for you.
The format of the photo is equally as important as the content of the photo itself. Send it in the incorrect format and it will rejected out of hand, or bounced by the server. (This probably doesn't need saying, but do not send prints or transparencies by snail mail. )
The ‘print size’ or dimensions of your photo should be large enough to allow the publication to use it at a decent size, but not so large it causes the file to crash the journalist's mailbox. (This guarantees your article will not be used!) I recommend the longest side of the image should be 8 inches at 300dpi or 2400 pixels.
Save your image in RGB JPEG format. This is a whole other topic which I will try to cover succinctly. The JPEG format is a lossy format. This means it discards image information to decrease the file size using a complicated algorithm. You do not want to throw away so much information, the image quality is degraded to such a degree it cannot be used. But if you leave it on the highest setting the file will probably be too large for the email address of the publication to accept. So you need to find a compromise. I recommend a high quality/low compression setting of 10 or 11.
As you can see there is more to preparing an image to send to the media than you might have originally thought. If you are briefing a photographer, say you want your ‘final high res images to be 8" longest side x pro at 300dpi, RGB JPEGS saved at JPEG 11 compression with completed IPTC fields’.
You should always telephone the publications in which you want your article to appear before you email the release and photo. Give them the bare bones of your story and ask if they want more information. Tell them you have a photo/photos available. Ask what email address you should send it to. The address for the photos will usually be different for national newspapers, so it is especially important those IPTC fields are filled in! Without them your photo and copy will never meet again.
Given that your photo meets all the right technical criteria, all you have to worry about now is how important your story is compared to the others competing for the space on the day, in the view of the editorial staff. If your ‘news’ is not rated highly enough then no matter how good your photo is, it has little chance of being used.
Supposing your news angle is good enough and they want to use your copy, they will then look at the picture. It needs to run a separate gauntlet against all the other photos the publication has available for that page. They are extremely unlikely to run a photo for every story so you really want your photo to beat the competition in the creative photography stakes.
This is where all the aspects of the photo have to come together. The publication will probably be looking for a main photo for the page and then one or more smaller supplementary ones for other stories. The lead story nearly always goes ‘above the fold’ or at the top of the page and that's where you want to be. It is entirely possible your story may qualify as the lead, but if the photo is lacking, your story will be knocked back to a lower, less desirable position or not make the page at all.
In conclusion, if your ‘news’ is good enough to be published you should always send an imaginative photo with the article which meets all the technical specifications.
Written by Simon Apps, ex-staff press photographer and founder of Professional Images, http://www.professional-images.com. Professional Images provide PR and editorial photography and a full photographic service to the business sector.
This article may be used freely provided a live URL link is provided to http://www.professional-images.com. Used without the link, you will be breaching copyright.
Simon Apps is an ex-staff press photographer and founder of Professional Images, http://www.professional-images.com
Professional Images provide PR and editorial photography and a full photographic service to the business sector.