A (good) picture is worth a thousand words

by Ken McEwen, Ken McEwen Public Relations

Digital cameras and phone cameras are great, aren’t they? As a keen amateur photographer, I love the way I can snap away without worrying about wasting film and I can see the results without waiting for processing.

But, now that just about every office has easy access to a digital pocket camera or smart phone, the marketing world seems to be overrun with lacklustre photography in brochures, newsletters, websites and in PR.

With such a strong business focus on reducing costs, it is perhaps not surprising. After all, a professional photographer can cost upwards of £100 per hour.

Scan 7

This updated version of a previous blog appeared in IoD Scotland’s Magazine for Spring 2012

Instead, with admirable optimism but less-admirable judgement, the marketing director will open his desk drawer and with a gruff “you take the photos”, thrust the office digital camera into the hands of an unsuspecting employee who was once seen snapping colleagues at the office Christmas party.

The truth is that most people (with very rare exceptions) simply cannot produce the quality of pictures needed for marketing or public relation purposes.
I have seen some horror stories in my time. Out-of-focus shots. Low-resolution images of 20k or less. Self-conscious “firing squad” line-ups. Photographs where you need a magnifying glass to see the subject. Ones that look like they were taken in the coal cellar on a dark night, or startled faces completely bleached out by a powerful flash.

I am not alone. Ask a newspaper or trade magazine pictures editor about digital camera photos and they probably groan and roll their eyes with a pained expression.

In marketing terms, a good photograph can make the difference between enhancing your image, or leaving your reputation at the mercy of the slippery slope. It can also mean the difference between your story getting into the business pages of your daily paper, or being consigned to the ‘recycling bin’.

In the same way as words scribbled on the back of the metaphorical fag packet are unlikely to represent a call to action. A poor photograph will detract from, rather than enhance your presentation.

The secret to good photography is not just recognising that your new marketing assistant will not produce the goods. You need to consider who is the right photographer for the job.

There are specialists out there.

A portrait photographer is probably not going to be the best person to take photos of your latest engineering gizmo. Equally a good studio photographer, may completely flounder when trying to capture the moment at a live event – particularly something like a Royal Visit, where protocol precludes posing the subjects.

So, just as you employ communication professionals to craft the words for your communication (you do, don’t you?), make sure you plan and budget for good photography to present your business story in pictures.

Your image depends on it.
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