PR TECHNIQUE: PHOTOGRAPHERS - Smile! The art of working with professional shutterbugs. A picture is worth a thousand words - unless you screw it up. Claire Atkinson explains how to find and work with photographers

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 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, and 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 and

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

a consideration.

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.



1. Negotiate terms of the contract in advance of the shoot to avoid

surprise costs.

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

you can.

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

group shots.

2. Use overly posed shots for products.

3. Leave it all to the photographer. Make sure you are on hand to get

everyone together.

4. Be too overbearing; you’re hiring the photographer for his expertise.

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