In this image-sodden era, the trusty still photograph continues to serve its lofty purpose. As one fashion publicist neatly puts it, ’People don’t have time to read. They are just sucking up pictures and captions.’
In this image-sodden era, the trusty still photograph continues to
serve its lofty purpose. As one fashion publicist neatly puts it,
’People don’t have time to read. They are just sucking up pictures and
Even business desks are crying out for imaginative material. If you have
exciting images, there’s a good chance they’ll create some space for
your client. That’s why working with the right photographer is
Finding one is not unlike tracking down a good hairdresser - when you
hit on someone who understands your needs, you’ll follow him around
First of all, you want one who is responsible and professional. One
publicist tells of a photographer who never showed to cover an event. He
claimed he had turned up but couldn’t find the agency contact - and he
sent in a bill. Because the publicist was stationed at the door during
the event, she knew he’d failed to show.
Most important is finding someone who understands both PR and media.
’You need someone who walks both sides of the fence,’ advises Jim
Sulley, who runs WirePix, the Medialink-owned photo agency. ’A lot of
press photographers look at it from a press, not a PR, standpoint, while
the PR photographer doesn’t always know what gets used.’ So hire someone
who’s got experience working for both masters.
To find a shutterbug, photo agencies often have contacts with
There are also two national associations for photographers, the American
Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and Advertising Photographers of
America (APA), both of which have chapters throughout the country.
Members’ work can be seen at their respective Web sites, asmp.org and
apanational.com. There is also a photography section at the PR pros
resource, Webcom. Or try sites that bring freelance operators together.
There are photographers listed at Guru.com and UScreative.com.
If you’re working with celebrities, it helps to hire well-known
Society shutterbugs Patrick McMullan and Dave Allocca from photo agency
DMI are popular with agencies like Lizzie Grubman Public Relations.
Cost is a subject best discussed before, rather than after, the
Get a written estimate and a breakdown of potential expenses if you’re
working with a tight budget. Cost structures vary. Day rates for the
better-known picture snappers range from between dollars 300 to dollars
400 to around dollars 1,000.
Most independent studio-less photographers charge around dollars 250 for
the first hour and dollars 150 for subsequent hours.
WirePix does an all-inclusive package for around dollars 3,600, which
includes the consultation, the actual shots, packaging and distribution
to around 1,000 media outlets (if using the shots for a billboard or
advertising campaign, you’ll pay significantly more).
Once you’ve decided who to hire, you need to convey some basic
information to ensure the job runs smoothly. For example, tell the
photographer about the nature of the location and how much time she is
likely to have with the client. ’There has to be a clear understanding
of what the needs are,’ says Steve Napolitano, a White Plains, NY-based
photographer. ’I always ask for key points on a fax. Then I’ll often go
early to the assignment to get my sea legs.’
Often the things to set straight depend on what type of picture you’re
after. Many photographers advise clients that for a product shot, a
less-posed photograph has a better chance of a pick-up, so think about
getting access to the factory or a working environment. Backdrop is also
Pictures of people in dark clothes near dark backgrounds use too much
black ink for many newspapers. Napolitano warns that huge group shots
are unlikely to see the light of day in the national papers.
Another factor that might influence the photographer’s image is the
media outlet. Trade magazines are often happy to take so-called ’grip
and grins’ because they are industry specific, while national newspapers
want something more imaginative. For Colgate’s recent earnings
announcement, Marc Greene, Burson-Marsteller’s director of media
relations, worked with a photographer who got a shot of a drugstore
assistant stocking shelves with toothpaste.
For a Japanese manufacturer, Sulley had a shot of toilet bowls being
inspected that got picked up during the Super Bowl.
Getting the most out of photographers can depend on how you treat
Lizzie Grubman says she makes sure that photographers who work with her
are fed. Allocca feels that the best publicists are the ones who make
the shots happen by politely maneuvering everyone into position.
Allocca says the press is looking for shots of pretty women and
celebrities with their children but warns that some stars are so
ubiquitous they are no longer a selling point for picture desks. He
recently shot Woody Allen giving a talk to film students about his
latest movie, Small Time Crooks.
’We didn’t want to set up the shot,’ comments Allocca, who adds that his
assignment was to emphasize the students.
When your shots are done, new technology can enable you to get images to
hundreds of outlets within minutes. Burson-Marsteller’s Greene says he
worked with a photographer to select, crop and caption a photograph that
was then sent out to hundreds of online and print publications.
Most photographers send their pictures through the paid-for newswire AP
Photo Express, which distributes material rather like PR Newswire.
There is no point, however, in sending any kind of photo if it’s going
to miss the deadlines, so hiring someone with the ability to send
pictures digitally is a must.
One thing worth thinking about is how your photos might be used once bad
news comes your way. Once you’ve distributed the pics, the media are
free to use them in whatever way they please. That quirky CEO head shot
could come back to haunt you.
DOs AND DON’Ts
1. Negotiate terms of the contract in advance of the shoot to avoid
2. Look at the previous work of photographers you are considering and
make sure they have a track record of professionalism.
3. Give the photographer as much information about your intended use as
4. Be prepared: make sure security knows to expect your photographer and
have a camera at the office as a backup.
1. Forget the basics: no dark backgrounds with dark clothes; no huge
2. Use overly posed shots for products.
3. Leave it all to the photographer. Make sure you are on hand to get
4. Be too overbearing; you’re hiring the photographer for his expertise.